The Multiple Brand Personalities of David Beckham: A Case Study of the Beckham Brand

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The Rise, Fall, and Re-Ascension of Brand Beckham

The career of David Beckham, celebrity soccer player, has had its highs and lows. But through it all, one thing has remained constant, David Beckham has rarely ventured out of the media or the public eye. For a decade, from his 1995 debut for Manchester United, his career went from strength to strength, his on-field brilliance matched only by his soaring marketing appeal in a sport that massively commercialized in the 1990s (Cashmore & Parker, 2003).

But as he hit his thirties, the Beckham star began to fade, and from 2006, his career has experienced turbulence. After resigning the England captaincy in the aftermath of England's disappointing exit at the quarterfinal stage of the 2006 World Cup, Beckham was subsequently dropped from the England national team squad in August 2006. In 2003 he moved from Manchester United to join famed Spanish soccer club, Real Madrid. By the end of 2006, he could not hold on to his first team place and it seemed that Beckham's fabled soccer career was declining (Wahl, 2007). As he fell from footballing (soccer) grace, Beckham's commercial celebrity appeal also eroded as he lost several lucrative endorsement contracts, most notably as the face man for Police sunglasses and the brand ambassador for Gillette (Leonard, 2006).

However, just as everyone was writing him off, Beckham, not for the first time in his fabled career, reinvented himself. The soccer and entertainment world was stunned in January 2007, when he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States, and the next phase of Brand Beckham was launched. It began in sensational style. In a sports world unfazed by gargantuan sports contracts, Beckham signed a contract that amazed even the most hardened of sports commentators. Worth an estimated $250 million over five years (Wahl, 2007), Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy contract was signed only after the passing of a new MLS rule, the "designated player rule" (subsequently dubbed the "Beckham rule"), which permitted MLS teams to pay above the salary cap for two players. The contract was stunning, but fully reflected Beckham's global soccer notoriety and his Hollywood good looks. Carefully crafted by Simon Fuller, the architect of American Idol and former manager of the Spice Girls, Beckham's MLS deal dwarfed that of marquee athletes in the traditionally mainstream American sports of football, baseball, and basketball. Beckham's contract was thought to be justified by his popular and global appeal. It enabled him to benefit financially from all his image rights, related sponsorships and endorsements, as well as sharing in team replica shirt and club ticket sales. In effect Beckham's contract made him a partner with the Los Angeles Galaxy's owners, the Anschultz Entertainment group, which had previously partnered with Beckham in developing his soccer academy in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, California, and Greenwich, close to Beckham's birthplace in London (Patrick, Weinbach, & Johnson, 2007).

The Beckham signing was deemed a watershed moment for U.S. soccer. Don Garber, the MLS Commissioner declared that "David Beckham is a global sports icon who will transcend the sport of soccer in America" ("Beckham to leave Real Madrid for LA Galaxy," 2007, n.p.). The combination of Beckham's persona, English, tall, lean, good looking, with glittering athletic skills, and a celebrity wife, Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, was tailor-made for Hollywood, Los Angeles, and the MLS. It provided Beckham with new opportunities to generate excitement in U.S. soccer, reignite his soccer career and also to ply his looks and commercial skills in the world's most lucrative marketplace-Hollywood.

Beckham: On the Pitch

Beckham's distinguished playing career has been spent mainly with two of the most recognizable professional soccer teams in the world, Manchester United and Real Madrid. …