Nathanael Green's Blog

An advertising copywriter, novelist, and freelance writer's brain goo.

“Bimbo” Lost in Translation?

with 4 comments

Hennes the billy goat loves 1. FC Köln!

So, I like soccer. When I lived in Germany, I lived near Cologne, and naturally my Bundesliga team was the local 1. FC Köln. Even now, I’m still a fan of die Geißböcke, though games are hard to catch on TV.

(Left is Hennes, their mascot. As if you needed another reason to love Cologne.)

Here in the States, though, soccer is much less prominent, but despite that, I recently got a local team of my own to cheer for. And that, dear friends is Philadelphia Union.

But today, the team announced that Philly has a new sponsor, whose logo will feature prominently on the new jerseys:

OK, so according to the article, plus a little additional research, Bimbo is a Mexican-owned bakery whose name is pronounced beem-bo. But to most of us English-speakers in the States? It’s something else.

Is this an instance of simply taking $12 million in sponsorship, regardless of the lost-in-translation logo and a possible hit to sales of ladies’ jerseys?

Or is this a gamble that Latino viewers, who may be more prone to watch (and spend money on) soccer will  support the team? Maybe a smart marketing move, considering well-known Chivas de Guadalajara already features the Bimbo logo prominently on their own jerseys?

Can a corporation brand itself well enough in a new country and language to overcome a pejorative meaning of its own name?

As a white guy who grew up in the country, bimbo just has one meaning for me. But let’s be clear: I’ll probably still wear the jersey, even if it is partly to be funny.


Written by Nathanael Green

January 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm

4 Responses

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  1. It’s funny that the word apparently derives from the Italian ‘bambino’, and really just means male baby or young child. How it crossed the gender divide was unexplained, at least in that Wikipedia article.


    January 14, 2011 at 9:43 am

    • Language works in mysterious ways. Crossing that gender divide is always curious to me, like girls now calling one another “dude.” But just as interesting to me is that it’s changed so much from the original definition to apply almost exclusively to women that there’s a modified version to change it back for men – “himbo.”

      Nathanael Green

      January 17, 2011 at 10:47 pm

      • Right. ‘Dude’ is at least applied more generally, kind of like ‘guys’ in ‘hey, you guys!’ But the way bimbo has completely made the leap, at least in English is rather baffling.


        January 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm

  2. Actually, Bimbo – as the company is formed (on research of my own) is a combination of the Bambi (movie was popular when founded) and Bingo. It’s a company name, so how the name comes about shouldn’t really make any sense… which it doesn’t.

    On further research, the company itself owns Stroehman’s, Entemann’s, and was a possible buyer for the failing TastyKake, which we’ll see if their deferrment on loans helps any. So as you say, a possible market to the Latino culture… that may or may not know the company whatsoever, and a team partner with a local company (US Headquarters in Horsham…who knew) that just made a deal with the entire MLS, sponsor our team, will make their US push in 2011, and have a Union player as a team sponsor. Brand marketing out the wazoo is what’s happening here for Union and Bimbo.

    I don’t like the name nor the logo, but I’m ok with the company (see my beligerrent post cursing the name of bimbo)


    January 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm

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