Business of winning: San Miguel Brewery head says historic PBA win brings invaluable boost to its brand
“When you are talking about the Beermen, you are already talking about San Miguel Beer. We don’t want to be very commercial about it. It’s more about our participation in the PBA because being one of the largest companies in the Philippines, I think it’s also our duty to contribute to the uplifting of the spirit of the Filipinos by way of participation in the PBA,” says San Miguel Brewery head Bobby Huang. Jerome Ascano

WINNING is good for any business. Just ask San Miguel Beer.

Roberto 'Bobby' Huang, president of San Miguel Brewery, said the recent championship runs of the company's PBA ballclub bring an invaluable long-term boost to the SMB brand, even if such contributions are not exactly quantifiable.

“We cannot quantify the effect because it is not short-term, it’s going to be on a long-term [basis]. The good thing about winning is it contributes to the increasing awareness of the product and the brand. Not only that, we have loyal fans and they are also becoming loyal to our products,” Huang said.

In illustrating the power of winning as an effective marketing tool, Rafe Bartholomew noted in his book on Philippine basketball, Pacific Rims, described PBA teams as “marketing vehicles for their owners' primary businesses.”

This helps explain why organizations like San Miguel put together the strongest squads possible to have the best chance at winning. And in recent years, the Beermen may have found the right formula, as their current lineup has been formidable enough to win three of the last four conferences in the pro league. 

Their latest conquest, a historic Philippine Cup Finals comeback from a 0-3 deficit against the Alaska Aces, has even instantly produced a catchy marketing slogan: 'From Zero to Hero.'

“We have started using (the slogan) already. It [just] so happened that it’s our 125th year anniversary for San Miguel Pale Pilsen and San Miguel Beer at that,” Huang said.

Huang, though, is quick to point out that all this isn’t just for the company’s gain. The dedication they put into forming a winning team, he added, is the company’s contribution to the growth of the sport. It’s also their way of repaying fans and consumers for their loyalty.

“’San Miguel’ (and) ‘the Beermen’ have become bywords. [Our] beer is dominant in the country and we are the dominant player [as] we practically own the industry. We have more than 97 percent market share. Then it contributes to the awareness of the total beer industry,” he said.

Huang also noted that to many Filipinos (including those too young to drink alcohol), stars such as June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot are San Miguel and vice versa. And with such stature comes great responsibility when it comes to being ambassadors not only of the brand but what the company stands for.

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“When you are talking about the Beermen, you are already talking about San Miguel Beer. We don’t want to be very commercial about it. It’s more about our participation in the PBA because being one of the largest companies in the Philippines, I think it’s also our duty to contribute to the uplifting of the spirit of the Filipinos by way of participation in the PBA.”

“We don’t want them to be unruly every time there is an affair or an event. For company-sponsored events, they are also there to grace the occasion. We want them to make our fans and employees happy because a lot of people idolize these players ‘di ba? Malaki tulong, malaki tulong,” Huang added.

An official with San Miguel for the past 18 years, Huang clarified that there are a lot more in play behind the success of a business, not just the winning track record of their PBA team. But he’s not going to deny the huge boost an epic achievement like what the Beermen pulled off in the Philippine Cup can bring.

“It so happened that we were given the chance to come up with a very epic and historic event like this. No one in the world, I guess, has come back from 0-3 and end up a winner. This will stay for long,” added the San Miguel executive.       

“Maraming natutuwa. Maski yung hindi nagchi-cheer sa amin natutuwa din sa nakita nila ‘di ba? 'From Zero to Hero,'” he punctuated with a laugh.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @rhoelfernandez