Has Adverse Publicity Affected Beckham's Sponsorship Potential?

Article excerpt

Abstract

Global icon David Beckham was alleged by the tabloid media in April/May 2004 to have had an extra-marital affair. Given his carefully nurtured image as a family man and model father, would the adverse publicity damage that image and affect his lucrative sponsorship endorsements? Research undertaken in the UK by IJSM & S suggests that there has been some negative impact, but it is probably not enough to make him a sponsorship liability. The findings also demonstrate very high levels of prompted and unprompted awareness for his endorsements.

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Executive summary

David Beckham, the world's most famous football player, was the focus of a series of media allegations in April 2004 relating to extra-marital affairs. Beckham and his wife Victoria (Posh Spice) had nurtured an image as the perfect superstar couple. This was further enhanced following the birth of their two children, with David Beckham being portrayed in the media as the ideal father.

With his good looks, penchant for designer clothing and celebrity lifestyle, the Real Madrid star is one of the hottest commercial properties in sport. He has signed a series of very lucrative personal endorsements with Adidas, Vodafone, Pepsi, Police and high street retailer Marks & Spencer. In late May 2004 Beckham agreed the biggest deal ever for a football player, at a reported [pounds sterling]40 million, to endorse Gillette.

The research hypothesis focuses on two issues. First, it questions the level of awareness among the UK population of the player's key sponsors. Then it asks whether or not Beckham's image has been harmed by the media allegations and whether this would lead to consumers being less likely to buy the associated products.

In terms of awareness of his commercial endorsements, Beckham has achieved very high levels in both unprompted and prompted categories. Unprompted awareness of brands that he endorses peaked at 43 percent for his association with Pepsi. When prompted, this figure rose to 67 percent. Awareness rates for Marks & Spencer were the lowest among his sponsors, with public recognition running at only 7 percent unprompted and 16 percent when prompted. Presented with the statement suggesting that Beckham's image has been harmed, 29 percent of respondents agreed. However, only 1 percent agreed strongly; 51 percent disagreed and 3 percent disagreed strongly. The remaining 16 percent had no opinion.

As to whether the effect on his image would make people less likely to buy products that he endorses, 12 percent agreed that it would, of which 2 percent agreed strongly; 64 percent disagreed with the statement, and a further 9 percent disagreed strongly.

The results of the survey suggest that damage to his image has not been serious and only a small proportion of those interviewed would be less likely to buy the products that he endorses. Given that the survey was conducted at the height of the adverse reports, the negative reactions are likely to fall even further over time, suggesting that in the long term, Beckham's sponsors might not suffer significantly from the reports.

Introduction

Since his recent reported [pounds sterling]40 million personal endorsement deal with Gillette, David Beckham has topped the league for football (soccer) player commercial earnings. The Gillette deal, signed in late May 2004, put him ahead of Real Madrid team-mate, Luis Figo, who is thought to earn in the region of [pounds sterling]30 million per year from endorsements. Beckham's other major deals include contracts with Vodafone ([pounds sterling]1m), Adidas ([pounds sterling]3m), Pepsi ([pounds sterling]5m), Marks & Spencer ([pounds sterling]1m) and Police ([pounds sterling]1m). There has been speculation that such earnings could be under threat following press allegations in April 2004 that Beckham had an affair with business adviser Rebecca Loos. …