As Director of Fan Strategy and Marketing at the National Football League (NFL), Marissa Fernandez is employed in a dream corporate job that many would love to attain while also working in a key position that will help the league expand interest in the sport.

"I lead the league's Hispanic marketing efforts and that includes everything that we do for Hispanic Heritage Month, also our year-round engagement of Hispanic fans and growing our Hispanic fanbase," said Fernandez in a recent interview with Latin Post.

With the Hispanic population growing exponentially in this country each year, the NFL, much like any other business entity in this country, has seen the need to attract some of those numbers into their fold to help expand revenue and customers. Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. total population, currently standing at 53 million Hispanics living in the U.S. By 2060, the Hispanic population will make up 31 percent of the U.S. population estimated to explode to 128.8 million people in the country.

Hispanics are certainly consuming more football, especially with television showing more games on Spanish-language networks. The entire 17-game schedule for the 2013 NFL "Monday Night Football" season drew 68,000 Hispanic viewers, averaging 45,000 Hispanic households for ESPN Deportes. Fox Deportes aired Super Bowl XLVIII last year, the first time a U.S. Spanish-language network televised the championship game, drawing an average of 561,000 viewers.

This season's ESPN Deportes coverage of "Monday Night Football" has thus far averaged 82,000 viewers, drawing 51,000 Hispanic households--a 70 percent increase from last season--while mun2 aired the New Orleans Saints-Dallas Cowboys "Sunday Night Football" and will broadcast NFL's Thanksgiving Night game between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

The network, owned by Comcast, will also broadcast a Wild Card playoff game, a Divisional Playoffs game and owns exclusive Spanish-language rights to this year's Super Bowl XLIX.

"If you look at the viewership numbers for Hispanics, they continue to accelerate at a rapid pace year after year. The Super Bowl, for example, every year continues to break its own record for the most-watched event on TV among U.S. Hispanics, either in English or in Spanish," said Fernandez. "We continue to expand our media partnership to have more games available in Spanish. Currently, we're the only league that has all our games in Spanish language, either via SAP or unique broadcast partners like ESPN Deportes. So I think we are doing our part to make the game more accessible, as well as continuing our community efforts."

Activities like the fourth annual NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Awards go a long way towards welcoming a fanbase that is learning the game as they assimilate into American culture. Partnering up with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Verizon, the NFL celebrated National Hispanic Heritage Month during Weeks 3 and 4 of the season by recognizing the accomplishments of prominent Hispanics in each of the 32 NFL team markets.

"NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Awards is one of the linchpins of our Hispanic Heritage celebration, where we honor and recognize one Hispanic leader in all of the 32 club markets," said Fernandez. "Each team picks one winner who has really made a positive impact in their community. We make a $2,000 donation for them to give to their organization of their choice to continue to make that positive impact. Reading all the bios of all these people who won the award has been truly incredible."

"They are making such a huge difference and so to call them out and to recognize them and to walk out with them in the stadium, but also give them that donation and keep the positivity going, I think it's a great way to make sure that we're just not putting on a commercial and hoping that fans just come and that we're being genuine in helping to improve Hispanic communities across the country," Fernandez added.

Hiring executives like Fernandez who understand the Hispanic experience in America and can talk to the community is another key element for leagues like the NFL. Fernandez, whose father is Cuban, was born in Long Island, New York and attended Cornell University, where she studied communications. Fernandez went on to work for companies like Procter & Gamble, where she handled brand management, and the Latinum Network -- where she worked as a consultant doing research, analytics and sharing her knowledge to helping her clients build multi-cultural strategies before being hired by the NFL.

Through her own experience, Fernandez believes that sports is a great way for people to connect, as it's a place where differences in culture are put aside and fans can bond as one rooting for their favorite team and favorite players.

"The NFL especially is the topic of conversation on Monday morning," says Fernandez. "You want to be a part of it, you want to know what happened on that weekend because that's going to be what the buzz is. I remember that from when I was in college and it continues into my professional career. I certainly feel like it's a connector. It's been fun to come into the league and see that validated. And the research that we do with fans, we have a lot of our Hispanic fans saying that it connects them to the Americana culture, bringing their Latino flavor to the tailgate and to the game."