McALLEN — Promoting the city and a healthy lifestyle seems to come naturally for local blogger Robert Lopez.
The McAllen native is becoming known throughout the area for his Nine to Five Guy blog but has also worked for the McAllen Chamber of Commerce for six years with the Convention & Visitors Bureau division where he is the director of sales and sports tourism.
“My job is to bring conferences or conventions or sports tournaments that will bring visitors from out of the area to McAllen,” Lopez said. “So that they sleep in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores; that will generate an economic impact with money coming outside the valley inject into our community.”
Some of the sporting events that have been attracted to McAllen were Games of Texas and more recently the Texas Youth Football Association Spring Bowl that was held at the McAllen Sports Complex. He is also in charge of recruiting associations and organizations that host annual conferences.
In 2015, Lopez was swept into local media frenzy after signing up for the Ultimate Guy Search Contest by Men’s Health Magazine. That was the beginning of a rollercoaster ride that would lead him into what he does now.
“So, part of my job is to promote the city and market the city as a great destination for visitors to come,” Lopez said. “At that time, McAllen was the fattest city in the United States and I was like that’s not really who we are as community and doesn’t paint the best picture of us.”
So, with the assistance of his friends Zar Castillo and Manny Rodriguez at BRNDhub, a local creative agency in McAllen, Lopez signed up for the Ultimate Guy Search contest and after completing a questionnaire and a photo submission, his name was entered.
“This was very uncomfortable. You’re putting yourself out there and ask people to vote,” Lopez said. “I was in good shape, but I was doing it for me not to look good on the beach.”
After The Monitor wrote an article about his candidacy, “that’s when it really took off and my social media started getting crazy — my personal page and then I did TV interviews and that’s when it really took off unexpectedly,” he said.
Once the news of the contest spread, all of the Rio Grande Valley and especially McAllen was supporting him and eventually Lopez was ranked second on the list amongst 900 other contestants that year.
The contest wrapped in late summer and although he didn’t win, Lopez then had a following on social media, so through conversation with Castillo, founder of BRNDhub, the decision was what the next step would be. Castillo suggested to Lopez a blog about health and fitness.
“Health and fitness is something that is important to me, but I’m not qualified to be giving advice to anybody and that’s just something that interests me,” he said. “I’m just a regular nine-to-five guy, who happens to work fitness into his lifestyle.”
The Nine to Five Guy blog followed suit where he wrote 100 articles — one a week over a two-year period — offering a unique local take on eateries, drinks, lifestyle and health and fitness.
The blog ties in easily with his day job.
“I was promoting the city and it’s supplementing my efforts here at the job because I was putting out information about McAllen and it helped promote the area not only locally, but outside of the area,” Lopez said.
After two years, he decided to switch over to do interviews because he wanted to expand his skill set and that’s when Facebook began with videos, so it was the perfect timing.
“I wanted to do it to as a service to the community and highlight these awesome places that we have — it wasn’t about getting rich and making money and promoting the local business,” Lopez said about writing the articles. “They loved and appreciated it and them being grateful and appreciative was rewarding enough and good enough for me.”
After the popularity of the Nine to Five Guy blog, readers wanted him to go to Brownsville or Mission or San Antonio to write about their cities, but in order for him to do that, he would have to work around his job at the Chamber.
“I wanted to expand my audience, but in order to do that, I needed to do something different and I said you know what, I can’t go to San Antonio and write a story because I’m not an expert in San Antonio, but I can go and interview someone from there and come back home and edit and put the story out and start growing a fan base in San Antonio, Houston, Corpus,” he said about starting this new video project.
While Lopez wants to stand out among bloggers and be able to attract an audience, he says he keeps in mind the videos be something that his mother or boss can watch without being offended.
A cultural tie-in was also needed, so in consultation with his friends at BRNDhub, they began tossing around ideas and eventually decided on the tequila-inspired videos “3 shots, 3 questions.”
“You can break bread and have a meal or you can have a beer and be even closer, but when you take a shot of tequila with someone that’s even closer,” the 36-year-old said. “It’s not about getting drunk on the show; it’s about bringing in the culture and using tequila as the tool to do it.”
Lopez graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American with a degree in broadcast journalism, but knew being on television wasn’t for him.
“I was at 3,000 or 3,500 after writing a bunch of stories, but also when people can see my face on camera and see my mannerisms and see how I am and get a vibe from my personality that’s when people connect,” Lopez said about 3 shots, 3 questions. “I didn’t know it at the time and that’s when after a couple of episodes I was gaining a lot of followers and lots of traction.”
Some of the musicians he has interviewed include Latin Grammy-nominated DJ/Producer El Dusty, guitarist, singer and producer Gio Chamba and the singer/accordionist for the Tex-Mex punk rock band Piñata Protest, Alvaro Del Norte.
He has also interviewed some ordinary citizens, such as Ruben Cavazos from Ruben’s Grocery, Isaac Guerra, owner of The Centennial Club, and Kirk Clark, owner of Clark Chevrolet.
“Since the beginning of the writing and now with the interviews, my goal is to tell positive stories about people doing amazing things or businesses doing amazing things,” Lopez said. “Never once ever have I ever wanted to tell a negative story and that formula seems to be well received.”