RUMOR: Chooks-to-Go's bid acquire a PBA franchise was nipped in the bud by a confluence of events, most of all a soured relationship with some major blocs in the pro league.
FACTS: Back in 2017, there were reports that a Chooks-To-Go takeover of the NLEX Road Warriors franchise in the PBA was possible. At that time, the Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc (BAVI) company had a strong partnership with the MVP Group as chief backer of the Gilas Pilipinas squad.
Different sources told Spin.ph then that since the Manny V. Pangilinan-led conglomerate already has multiple teams in the league, letting go of its third squad in NLEX, which, unlike TNT, is not being used as a marketing tool for a consumer-based product, was considered dispensable by the group.
Did Chook-to-Go big boss Ronald Mascariñas make a serious bid to buy a PBA franchise, new or existing?
"Talagang we were brainstorming on the idea," BAVI marketing head and sports director Mel Macasaquit said. “There were meetings pero hanggang dun lang kami. We had parang ano lang, parang kwentuhan lang, but it never led to signing anything, . And then a year after, it led us to 3x3.”
Macasaquit added: "I think it was 2 or 3 years ago when were interested dun in the idea. Several times may nag-offer pero we understand that our interest is mainly for 3x3."
Regardless of how serious Chooks-to-Go was about joining the PBA or how close it got, any bid was soon nipped in the bud. first by San Miguel Corp.'s decision to rename the Purefoods franchise after Magnolia (as direct competitor of Chooks, it would've enjoyed veto power on its PBA application, if any).
Secondly, the relationship between the MVP Group and Chooks-to-Go soon soured, to the point that the Gilas partnership between the two ended and their 3x3 collaboration was left in an awkward position - with Chooks having the players qualified to play for the Philippines in the Fiba qualifiers and the MVP holding the sanctioning power by extension because of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
With the PBA door shut, Chooks-to-Go focused its attention on bankrolling the Philippine men’s 3x3 team's Olympic quest. What started as a sponsorship soon turned into a calling for businessman/sportsman Mascariñas.
Macasaquit did not hide the fact that there were groups which approached them regarding the possibility of a PBA franchise, but he insisted that it was all in the past as Chooks-to-Go has shifted direction.
“Since we started the OQT (Olympic Qualifying tournament) campaign, nagbago ang lahat. Parang naniniwala kami na once you focused on something, we’ll get somewhere. So ito nga yun, nakarating tayo sa OQT,” he said, taking pride in the country’s entry into the 20-nation battle for last three tickets to the Tokyo Games which was reset to next year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
With the success of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 professional league at the Inspire Academy in Calamba, Laguna, Macasaquit said the company is convinced more than ever that this is the right direction for the group.
“Our intention is really to open doors to other athletes, para may iba pa silang venue na paglalaruan, he said.
“And we will invite even other countries to compete here kung matuloy man ang next conference, and if the borders will open up, makakapag-invite tayo ng foreigners to play here,” revealed the owner of the MelMac Sports Management company.
And with Chooks-to-Go now establishing a league of its own, Macasquit is also thankful for the partnership with cellular service brand TM, ironically the chief rival of TNT Tropang Giga and Smart of the MVP Group.
The Chooks-Globe partnership has inevitably put the 3x3 pro league in direct collision course with the PBA and its member teams - two versions of the game that Filipinos love, competing for their attention.
A new rivalry born? Macasaquit said all they want is to provide a new platform for the Filipino athlete to excel in.
“Let’s just say, we are happy to be a catalyst for bigger venue and job opportunities for players and others who work in the league," he said. "We are very, very grateful to TM because without them I don’t mangyayari ito.
"I’d like to believe this partnership will be long term. Ang TM at Chooks-to-Go parang match made in heaven and we will do everything to make a league na mamahalin ng mga Pilipino,” he added.