The iconography of major corporations has crept into nearly every unclaimed physical nook that exists in American sports. Take the basketball arena: Toyota’s name is painted on the hardwood, Geico’s on the basket’s framework, and Verizon shrouds the underbelly of the scoreboard. Recently, the Philadelphia 76ers announced the NBA’s first deal to put a sponsor’s patch on their uniforms, practically weaving corporations into the fabric of the game.
But even the most jaded of American sports fans would likely be surprised at just how deeply corporations are embedded into the Philippine Basketball Association, a league as popular in its home country as it is unheard of in the U.S. There, a small corporate patch—a headline-earning development in the U.S.—would barely attract attention. In the Philippines, corporations don’t just sponsor teams. They effectively are the teams.
Teams in the PBA are controlled by corporations, and nearly every facet of them exists to serve those companies’ marketing needs. A couple years ago, there was a team called Kia Sorento, named, yes, for the car. The following season, its name was changed to that of another model, the Kia Carnival.
In fact, in the same way that companies roll out new ad campaigns, teams’ names change relatively frequently, depending on the products its owners want to push at any given time. The Purefoods Star Hotshots—the latter two words of whose name sound untouched by commerce but are in fact references to Star brand margarine and mass-market hotdogs—have played under a parade of zany names during the past three decades. At various times, the team has been known as the Purefoods Hotdogs, the Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdogs, the Purefoods Carne Norte Beefies, the Purefoods Chunkee Giants, and the Purefoods Tender Juicy Giants. During the brief period in the ‘90s when the team was called the Purefoods Corned Beef Cowboys, its jerseys simply consisted of an illustration of a cowboy hat and the text “Corned Beef.”