When 42-year-old Manny Pacquiao announced he’d be hanging up his gloves in September in a video on his official Facebook account, the former eight-division champion didn’t mention his pursuit of an entirely different fight.
In a press conference just days before, Senator Pacquiao announced that he accepted the nomination of his affiliated party as a candidate for president of the Republic of the Philippines. Today, true to PacMan fashion, he delivered a shot no one saw coming. In an official live-streamed press conference, a brand new gaming and esports brand was unveiled to thousands of viewers — Team Pacquiao GG (TPGG).
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While the news sinks in that the multiple-world-record-holder, former-boxer-cum-politician is throwing his hat in the ring of competitive video gaming, it should come as no surprise to those with eyes on the region.
According to July 2021 data shared with Esports Insider from Newzoo, Southeast Asia boasts 42.5m esports fans, with 6.4m of those reporting from the Philippines. For context, only Indonesia and Vietnam are ahead of the Philippines when it comes to market size.
With a regional market value estimated at $39.2m (~£29.5m) — plus an ever-growing mobile esports scene — organisations like Immortals, NRG, and FaZe Clan have already begun making moves into Asia makes sense.
The Team Pacquiao esports brand and content team is a joint venture business with UK-based Veloce Group — responsible for esports brand Veloce Esports, operator and platform Veloce Racing, an Extreme E simulation racing team, as well as Quadrant, an esports joint venture with McLaren F1 Driver Lando Norris. The venture marks Veloce’s first expansion outside of the UK for the organisation.
Outside of its own branded competitive teams, Veloce also operates esports teams for Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, McLaren, and the Abu Dhabi government alongside partnerships with the likes of EA, Formula 1, and William Morris Endeavor.
Speaking to Esports Insider, Rupert Svendsen-Cook, CEO of Veloce, said: “This is a key strategic move for Veloce as we look to build out our joint-venture and shared ownership gaming entities off the back of our success with Quadrant with Lando Norris.
“Team Pacquiao represents our first joint-venture entity in Asia and we’re honoured to be creating something that raises the bar within the region alongside an incredible team of creator talent as well as the man himself, Manny Pacquiao.”
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Perhaps a precedent set by its namesake, long lists of successes seem to be a requirement to be involved with TPGG: the founding team of Filipino creators under the brand are no exception. The selection of representative creators will position the brand in front of a combined pre-launch total of 43m followers across the team’s network of channels, according to documents shared with Esports Insider.
Each of TPGG’s founding content creators will have multi-hyphenate roles within the company. The goal is for each creator to flex and leverage their own personalities, platforms of choice, and communities to enhance and embody the TPGG brand revolving around pillars of community, content, and competition.
YouTube giant, gaming and lifestyle streamer, Gian Lois ‘GLOCO’ Concepcion will lead on the brand’s lifestyle content. Een Mercado, the Philippines’ first female esports pro-turned-VALORANT-streaming-ace will be the pro team ambassador and lead the brand’s female empowerment initiatives. Filipino esports legend and one of the country’s top gaming personalities, Elyson ‘GHOST Wrecker’ Caranza will lead the brand’s charity activations.
Kimberlee ‘superkimbie’ Arcillas, Facebook Gaming sensation, national TV personality and the brand’s leading female creator, will team up with Ghost Wrecker to tackle Team Pacquiao’s Mobile Legends division. And finally, Shin Boo “sh1nboo” Ponferrada, the resident shoutcaster, tournament host and SEA esports insider, has been tasked as the brand’s content host.
The brand construction and timeline has been thoughtfully crafted to resemble Pacquiao’s storied ascent, Cam Royal, Head of Talent at Veloce told Esports Insider in a September interview. The brand is part of a long-term strategy to build the national gaming team of the Philippines that will compete across all of Asia. “But at the same time,” added Royal, “we want to be able to use the Team Pacquiao brand as a springboard for upcoming talent, through its multiple platforms and overall image.”
With the exclusive image and likeness rights to Pacquiao within the gaming and esports space, the team behind Team Pacquiao have high hopes to introduce the content-led company to the region, with an ambitious strategy of key milestones over the next year. Moreover, per the agreement with Pacquiao and his management, the brand will have access to the former boxer’s official social channels.
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From the start, the Team Pacquiao brand won’t be launching with a pro roster, nor will they be actively looking for one any time soon. The long-term strategy is to build the brand and community around events and content, a curious strategy not often seen at high-profile launches in the space.
Sh1nboo’s inclusion in the brand has brought with him his famous SEA tournament series, Wild Rift Underground, which will be relaunching under the Team Pacquiao banner. Charity invitationals will likely make a debut before the year’s end, followed by the launch of community-based events if everything goes according to plan. Royal hinted at a cooperation with a well-known community platform to deliver on large scale, hyped up, third-party tournaments, outside of the in-house community events the team will be regularly hosting.
Fans won’t have to wait long for TPGG merch either. The first line could be available as early as Q1 2022, with nods to The People’s Champ’s storied athletic career to be expected. The brand hopes to have its first pro roster in place by the end of summer next year — VALORANT, Wild Rift, and Mobile Legends hinted at during the press conference — which will likely come complete with a pro jersey apparel drops and new angles for content.
Team Pacquiao is the latest entry of former professional athletes spearheading esports organisations, most famously, David Beckham-backed Guild Esports. If taking an influencer-led content-first approach in esports sounds novel, it’s because it is — most organisations make their unveiling announcements by also revealing their first rosters or titles they plan on entering.
Creating a gaming and esports namesake brand from one of boxing’s greatest legends and signing an all-star cast of creators positions the brand well for prospective partnership opportunities as well. From inevitable jersey placement to bespoke tournament & event sponsorships to talent activations and more, just like the former champion, Team Pacquiao isn’t pulling any punches and plans on making a show of it.