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Game Ready Gear. Orders: (202) 677-5801 / gamereadygear@gmail.com » Pacquiao Stakes Brand to Hope, Handywork and Homeland

Pacquiao Stakes Brand to Hope, Handywork and Homeland

A new jacket by Nike — which will be worn by boxer Manny Pacquiao in the leadup to his pay-per-view fight this weekend against Juan Manuel Marquez — takes sport apparel branding in an interesting direction.

For Pacquiao, who is both sportsman and politican these days, it’s a natural progression from what other U.S. sport stars might choose for their brands. Sure, he has the MP logo (two versions that I’ve seen). That mark quickly connects and appeals to the throngs of new fans he’s adding around the world. It has the look of something that isn’t native without isolating. Those who’ve watched Manny through his ascent these last few years have also seen the intense loyalty to his homeland, The Philippines. Whereas others might race to the mainstream and dilute authenticity along the way, Manny’s on a different path. He remains Filipino front and center. His brand reflects that.

The Nike jacket features a patch on the right sleeve that reads “Pambansang Kamao” — an unexpected detail. Even without knowing what it means, the graphic looks different than what other athletes might endorse. The closest reference point I can think of is the South Carolina or Texas flags, which some from these states brand with them to show their roots. The patch introduces one of Pacquiao’s nicknames — National Fist — in his native language of tagalog. It’s even the title of a rap song, written by a fellow countryman in his honor (D-Coy from the Filipino group, Beatmathics).

Manny wants to perform at the highest level he can — like any athlete does. The difference is that he also bears the burden of serious civic responsibility. He’s the hero of an impoverished country. He represents hope. That gives you a little extra to think about when your back’s to the corner and your face is being punched. I’m willing to bet it’s the chief driver behind his meteoritic rise to fame and fortune.

Pacquiao has a greater purpose than vanity. Egos and wills can be broken. The fact that more is at stake for him makes watching his fights that much more fascinating. It’s beyond sporting spectacle. The more he succeeds, the more he earns, the more attention he can turn to his people, the more he can give back — the more he can lift a nation.

That’s branding on a whole different level.