This Korean Basketball League (KBL) season will see a plethora of top Filipino basketball players. The league aims to elevate the level of Asian basketball through the exchange of players with different leagues. Therefore, the KBL opened its doors to the Filipino players to come and play for the KBL teams under the Asian Quota Player program.
The originof their nickname, “Samgyeop Gang,” is from “Samgyeop-sal(삼겹살)”which is a famous Korean dish. The dish is a renowned type of meat (pork belly)that people often enjoy with Korean BBQ. Filipino fans gave the players who took their talents to Korea this nickname because that is the first food they conjure up in their minds when thinking about Korea (surprisingly it wasn’t the Kimchi Gang)!
Most of “Samgyeop Gang” has already showcased what their skills during the 2022 KBL Cup, a pre-season tournament. The Korean teams have not been shy when it comes to their excitement about the new Filipino talent, “RJ is a type of player who understands the game and knows what and how to play at any certain moment. He inspired me to get better on the court and I am looking forward to learning more from him,” Lee Woo Seok from Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus commented on what it meant for him to have RJ Abarrientos as his teammate (source: SPOTV).
As much as the KBL fans are expecting the Filipino players to bring more diversity on the court, the teams and the league are anticipating better marketing performance off the court with these Asian quota players. There are around 46K Filipinos living in Korea according to the Korea immigration service. KBL games will not only be limited to the people in Korea. SPOTV, the rights-holder for broadcasting of the KBL content in Korea, made a distribution deal in the Philippines with satellite broadcaster Cignal TV in June 2022. According to Nike, there are nearly 40 million people playing or have played basketball in the Philippines. Therefore, there is a strong expectation for growth of KBL amongst global fans.
There is also a strong benchmarking case that KBL teams can take as a reference: Ansan Greeners FC with its Southeast Asian quota player, Asnawi Mangkualam. Asnawi is an Indonesian defender who joined Ansan FC, a second division team in the Korean professional football league (K League). Ansan FC had around 5,000 Instagram followers before having Asnawi on their roster, and now they have around 140,000 followers. According to Ansan FC, the ticketing sales increased by three times more than the average when the team held “Indonesian Fan Day” during one of their regular season matches.
Of course, it is not guaranteed to replicate such a successful story like Asnawi’s with the Filipino players in KBL. There were other Southeast Asian footballers in the different K League teams, but they did not receive such a strong impact for their teams, because the players weren’t as influential. Asnawi’s case was successful because he played as a marquee player for his team. The same logic will apply for the Filipino players in KBL. If they do not bring their best performance on the court, there will be fewer marketing incentives that the KBL teams will be able to leverage.
Don’t worry when it comes to what the “Samgyeop Gang” can do on the court. The following are the stat line averages for the three Filipino players that stood out during the 2022 KBL cup:
l Ethan Alvano (Wonju DB Promy) –12.5 pts 4.0 rebs 6.5 asts
l Rhenz Abando (Anyang KGC) –10.5 pts 2.0 rebs 1.0 asts (Source: KBL official website)
The 22-23 KBL regular season will tip off on October 15. As the hub for basketball in Asia, EASL will produce and aggregate on and off the court content with the Filipino players in KBL. So, make sure you follow our social media channels to stay tuned for the further news about “Samgyeop Gang.”