The Union have just announced that sponsor Bimbo Bakeries will be signing on for another five years. Bimbo Bakeries is the American branch of the Mexican conglomerate Grupo Bimbo, the largest bakery in Mexico and the United States. While you may not be familiar with their brand, Bimbo owns Arnold, Entenmann’s, Sara Lee, Stroehmann’s, and Thomas’s among several other brands. Yes, a Mexican company makes English muffins for American consumers.
Let’s break down the deal and the controversy surrounding Bimbo.
The Bimbo Family
The great Jonathon Tannenwald revealed the sponsorship extension in a writeup on Philly.com. The new 5 year, $11 million deal looks to be a decrease from the 4 year, $12 million deal signed in 2011 on the surface. However, Tannenwald explains that the previous deal was split between the Union and MLS. In reality, the Union will be making more money each year through this deal.
The Zolos are one of eight teams sponsored by Bimbo. In their home country, the company sponsors the two most successful Mexican teams – Chivas Guadalajara and Club America – as well as Monterrey. Latin American clubs Isidro Metapan (El Salvador), San Francisco (Panama), and Saprissa (Costa Rica) are also part of the family. Here in the States, the USL club Rochester Rhinos is also sponsored by the bakery.
What’s in a name?
Here’s the real meat of this article. The team has taken flak for the sponsorship ever since Bimbo signed on in 2011. As you have likely thought by this point in the article, “bimbo” is also a derogatory slur used to refer to dumb but attractive women. This heteronym (fancy grammar word of the day) has met with hostile disdain from a minority of Union fans. Some accuse the team of promoting a sexist term while others state that they do not want to wear a shirt with a slur pasted on it. Bimbo explains that the name derives either from the Italian word bambino (little boy) or a fusion of the words bingo and Bambi. Either way, the company’s name is an interesting example of the diversity of language.
Personally, I think the sexist claims are a load of shit. First of all, promoting the company Bimbo would allow a shift in the word’s meaning. As Bimbo grows in visibility in this country, people will soon begin to associate the word “bimbo” with bread instead of women. The Union play a big part in this linguistic shift by displaying the company’s name on their shirt.
Second, several people often cite Wawa, TastyKake, or Yuengling as companies they want on the shirt instead. None of those companies would be able to come close to offering a deal comparable to Bimbo’s sponsorship. In particular, Flower Foods – the owners of TastyKakes – have failed to meet financial expectations this year and have far bigger concerns than sponsoring a sports team. Quite frankly, it is unrealistic to expect regional brands to be able to sponsor a top-flight professional sports team. While a Wawa jersey would look awesome, I would have the extra million or two available from Bimbo to buy players or continue to invest in the club’s infrastructure.
Finally, people need to remember Bimbo is a name. We are sponsored by a bakery that makes bread and delicious snacks. Let’s look at the rest of the league.
LA, Dallas, and Salt Lake City are sponsored by pyramid schemes (Herbalife, Advocare, and LifeVantage respectively).
Houston’s sponsor BHP Billiton is a major mining and petroleum company whose product releases greenhouse emissions that contribute to climate change. Further, BHP has lobbied against carbon pricing in Australia.
D.C. United used to be sponsored by a company literally formed by Hitler (V.W.). Their current sponsor, Leidos, is a defense contractor. The company has been in bed with the NSA (National Security Agency) since 2002 when -under the name SAIC– Leidos was one of the companies working on the Trailblazer Project – an early program meant to analyze communication data such as cell phone and email records. In other words, Leidos’s work contributed to the spying system Edward Snowden revealed.
This is a very brief glance at MLS team sponsors. Several other sponsors like New England’s United Healthcare and SKC’s Ivy Funds have been sued or investigated for sketchy business practices. Looking at these teams, is Bimbo really that bad of a sponsor?