Athlete Endorsement in the International Sports Industry: A Case Study of David Beckham

Article excerpt

Abstract

As the world becomes a global village, sports organisations have begun to extend their markets and fan bases to different groups of customers. David Beckham, a British soccer star with a high profile marriage and much media attention, has endorsed numerous products, thereby becoming an excellent case study for the current trend of athlete endorsement in the international sports industry. The results of this case study provide insights into factors that may influence the success of athlete endorsement.

**********

Executive summary

To reach the global community effectively, corporations have begun using sports marketing opportunities such as sponsorship of sporting events, naming rights of stadiums and endorsement of products by athletes more extensively in their marketing mix. Athlete endorsement in particular is a popular format to enhance brand awareness (Cornwell, Roy & Steinhard, 2001; Gwinner, 1997; Johar & Pham, 1999; Stipp, 1998) or to improve brand image (Becker-Olsen, 2003; Cornwell, Roy & Steinhard, 2001; Gwinner, 1997).

David Beckham, a well known British soccer star and captain of the England national team, has endorsed products including sports cars, airlines, chocolate and electronics for international companies. In contrast to other elite athletes, Beckham's great popularity also comes from his high profile marriage to former Spice Girl Victoria Adams and their celebrity life. In Europe, Beckham fashion, body art and haircuts have become a trend among college students. In Asia too, a high proportion of people recognise the soccer star. His personal brand value was recently estimated at more than $370 million. However, there are now rumours about Beckham's affair with his former assistant which might jeopardise his endorsement deals and positive public image.

The major purpose of this paper is to discuss the current trend of athlete endorsement in the international sports industry and the various factors that might influence the success of athlete endorsement. David Beckham was chosen for this case study because he is unique in terms of his endorsements, his vast popularity around the world and his successful sports career. In addition, although Beckham has a successful fan base and endorsements in Europe and Asia, he is now trying to break into the North American market.

The findings of this case study indicate the increasing trend of sports organisations and sponsors to use elite athletes to reach global fans and customers. The results of this case study also provide specific suggestions on what it takes for athletes to enter well established foreign markets and how this phenomenon in turn will affect the growing trend toward sports globalisation.

Introduction

With the development of new technology, customers and fans now receive numerous advertising messages each day through mediums such as television, newspapers, magazines, radio, outdoor billboards and websites. Marketers have to create innovative marketing strategies to reach their target market effectively. The increased use of sports marketing in the marketing mix is one of the methods used by corporations to break through the clutter.

According to an IEG Sponsorship Report, sports sponsorship spending in North America was approximately $7.9 billion in 2004--an increase of 8.6% over 2003 (Warren, 2004). Of all the sponsorships reported worldwide during 2003, sports sponsorships accounted for 77%, while arts, culture and broadcast sponsorships accounted for only 6% and 9% respectively (Applebaum, 2004).

Several studies have indicated that the primary purposes for corporations becoming involved in sports marketing were to enhance brand awareness (Cornwell, Roy & Steinhard, 2001; Gwinner, 1997; Johar & Pham, 1999; Stipp, 1998) and improve brand image (Becker-Olsen, 2003; Cornwell, Roy & Steinhard, 2001; Gwinner, 1997). …