SBD/May 17, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Will David Beckham's Retirement Affect His Marketing Appeal?

Beckham could become a $500M brand thanks to off the field commercial activities
David Beckham announced his retirement from soccer on Thursday at the conclusion of Paris Saint-Germain's season later this month, but his decision “will have little impact on the marketability and profits of Beckham Inc.,” according to Roger Blitz of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Beckham’s earnings ability “has never wavered” during his career, and marketing experts “expect that to continue under the careful husbandry” of his agent, XIX Entertainment Founder Simon Fuller. Synergy CEO Tim Crow said, “We won’t see the last of him as an endorser.” There is a “risk of Brand Beckham becoming Boring, Same Old Beckham through overexposure.” But brandRapport Sports Marketing Dir Nigel Currie said that Fuller is “too wily an operator to allow that to happen.” Still, some modification in Beckham’s profile is “inevitable.” IEG Senior VP/Content Strategy Jim Andrews said that the end of Beckham’s playing days “will affect his ability to sell products for the companies he represents” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/17). MARKETING WEEK’s Sebastian Joseph noted long-time Beckham sponsor adidas “took to Twitter to mark the news with a tactical tweet.” adidas tweeted, “David Beckham -- always #allin.” The post links to a “close-up of the star’s Predator football boots” with the brand’s global slogan. Fellow sponsors Sainsbury’s and Samsung said that there were “no immediate plans to follow in Adidas’ footsteps and run tactical campaigns, while H&M declined to comment.” Goal.com's '13 Rich List found that Beckham topped La Liga club FC Barcelona F Lionel Messi to be “crowned the richest player in the world in March.” Beckham's “personal fortune” is reportedly worth US$267M. Recent deals with Sainsbury’s and BSkyB are “set to see his commercial wealth swell further over the next year” (MARKETINGWEEK.co.uk, 5/16).

POUND FOR POUND: Brand valuation firm Brand Finance estimates Beckham could become a $500M brand now that he can turn his attention to commercial activities off the field. Beckham generated more than $46M of income last year from his commercial deals and endorsements (Brand Finance). M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment CEO Steve Martin said, "His appeal is so enduring and that won't change. From a brand perspective he is unique. He has an appeal that will go on for the next 15-20 years.” He added Beckham "conservatively" could  earn $23-30M a year. There are so many dimensions to him -- family man, football, health and fitness, fashion, style -- that is why his appeal is so broad and his sponsorship partners are so broad. That will not suddenly go away” (London INDEPENDENT, 5/17). REUTERS’ Keith Weir noted Beckham has been “carefully planning for life after soccer.” Octagon VP/Strategy Joel Seymour-Hyde said, "It's fair to say that Beckham has not been selling himself as a footballer for some time" (REUTERS, 5/16).

CULTURAL PHENOM: In N.Y., Longman & Borden in a front-page piece note Beckham was “never the best player in the world but unsurpassed in his era as a cultural phenomenon.” He was the athlete with the “most crossover appeal at the moment when everyone could watch together, online or via satellite.” Beckham was “an international brand that smartly fused a handsomeness that bordered on beauty with athleticism, marketing savvy and an eager embrace of the role of pop idol.” Beckham’s brand, perhaps “more than any other athlete, was himself.” While Basketball HOFer Michael Jordan will “always be linked with Nike, Beckham’s business associations ran a spectacularly wide gamut” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/17). In San Diego, Mark Zeigler writes, “Beckham didn’t need to be committed to soccer. He was bigger than that. He epitomized the modern celebrity athlete.” Fans will “debate how good he really was” on the field, but there will be no debate “about his popularity or his relevance” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/17). In N.Y., Stefan Bondy writes Beckham’s “greatest feat, or perhaps it was the accomplishment of his handlers, was getting people to know his name and face without ever watching him play” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/17).
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