Monday, 17 December 2012

Brand Beckham (How David Beckham’s Brand is successful)

Brand Beckham (How David Beckham’s Brand is successful): by Jason Li 2012 ©

These days we all love brand Beckham...

Whether you’re based in USA, England or China...

But why is Beckham a global icon when there are millions of sports people?...

And how does Beckham appeal to such a wide audience?...

(How does he keep his hair in place all the time?)

David Beckham Brand in development

As a football fan, in the early days I only saw Beckham as a Manchester United player who was the best crosser of the ball in the world.

(I’m not a Man Utd fan, but I do enjoy watching them play attacking football.)

One of the main features of a wide midfield player or winger is to have great acceleration and dribbling skills, plus a cross at the end of it. If you’ve ever watched Man Utd play, all their wide players had exceptional pace from Best, Giggs, Kanchelskis to Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Beckham; he had no pace, cannot dribble, cannot beat a man. In fact, he’s useless at this. You could watch him for 90 minutes and still be waiting for him to break into a sprint.

So did the ruthless football manager guru Sir Alex Ferguson play Beckham because he wanted to play with ten men (Liverpool had given up winning league titles recently – only joking, it’s just a matter of getting the best out of Stuart Downing right?).


What you have in Beckham is a player who is average at running with the ball, but over average for a wide player in terms of accuracy when distributing the ball. Beckham was the best person in the world at curling the ball from the wide right position into the path of a striker to nod one in. Put it this way, if a Hobbit was marked by Alessandro Nesta the great AC Milan centre back, Beckham could cross the ball in from 30 yards into the space between defender and Keeper and make the Hobbit look like he out jumped Nesta. Yep, that’s pretty good.

So why run and cross, when you can simply just... cross the ball from where you’re stood?

Witness the balls Beckham put in the box in the Champions League on route to winning it against Inter Milan and Juventus in 1998- 1999.

The second differentiator from other football players are his free kicks. David Beckham became the most famous free kick taker in the world. He consistently bent the ball around the wall.

So in football circles, he became known as exceptional at the delivery of the ball.

Victoria Beckham

So David Beckham went on to meet Victoria, get married and have babies... we all know this story.

We also know Victoria and advisors helped him develop his brand, and get sponsorship deals.

At the time of meeting, Beckham was one of the pin-up boys in the English league, Victoria a worldwide known singer for the Spice Girls.

If you remember the early chat shows, David was a nervous wreck on the shows and Victoria did all the talking. When he spoke, it was a bit of a quiet mumble and she took over the difficult questions.

But hey, slowly but surely non-football fans got to get to know the shy David Beckham who had no opinion while Victoria was his spokes person.

David Beckham is Golden Balls

And then David went from shy to an under wear model.

The first time I learnt about these shots in the Daily Mail, as a football fan, I didn’t really take much notice. I thought it was just a nice way for him to earn a bit more money on the side and learn a new trade... why not?

But then everyone was talking about the pictures... so I had to sneak a look. Come on guys, how many of you sneaked a look too?

I’m not talking in a sexual way (nothing wrong with it if he turns you on), but out of curiosity. And before you say it, just reading this may make you think otherwise, I promise you it’s not. And all these defensive arguments do not mean anything either.

In fact I have to declare, I saw a TV show where the ladies were really quizzing the pictures and if some parts were photo shopped. Of course I had a good look... who didn’t?

But you know what... I don’t think any man in the world who is heterosexual did not for the first time have a proper look at another man. And it was both unnerving and acceptable because it was everyone’s acceptable football icon... David Beckham, not Beckham the model... even though it was a model shoot for underwear.

(Now I can wipe my brow after thinking of those nervy moments because I was looking at another man’s CROTCH.)

David Beckham & Diego Simeone

Football has a lot of controversial moments. I would say the sending off of David Beckham against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup for a foul on Diego Simeone will be one I will remember.

It’s not just because he got sent off. It’s because he got sent off for something that was absolutely rubbish and ruined England’s chances of going through. Beckham got sent off for the most delicate petulant trip. So minor it was almost not a foul. I think it went down as the most frustrating foul in England’s history!

Did you see it? Can you remember either shouting at the screen, or been curled up and sucking in your stomach in silence, arms folded as your teeth clenched and eyes fixed on the screen? Or looking across the room and amidst all the shouting  there was one fellow who was emotionless and staring at the screen with big eye balls...  that was the one that made you remember the moment. Ooooh it hurt. And that team... Seaman, Shearer, Owen, Tony Adams, Paul Ince, Paul Scholes... and so on.

From hero to zero in one second.

David Beckham Marketing

But you know what... that’s what made Brand Beckham even stronger. As much as we talk about and like a good role model... the world needs a bad guy.

At that time, Beckham was it. Then to play the game, he shaved his golden locks off, and WENT SKINHEAD.

Beckham lost a few sponsors and was on parole.

But hey... the bad moody looking boy in rehab appeals to a lot of people.

Nobody is perfect, and over time people did forgive. Those that made mistakes or liked the bad boy got to know Beckham and gave millions of people around the world a new role model.

David Beckham England Captain

Being the England captain and that free kick against Greece to book a World Cup place was the tonic. Having given the Argentineans an advantage in the 2008 World Cup, now he was the hero as the outstanding player who scores the winner in the final qualifying game to take England to the next World Cup.

Rehab sealed.

David Beckham the ambassador for English Sport

Now Beckham has ambassadorial roles such as a role in the Olympics 2012, meeting Nelson Mandela and David Beckham academy.

These days David Beckham is a polished English export who represents what is good for the country.

Brand Halo

But remember this; first and foremost Beckham won trophies as a football player. Doing what he did, he was absolutely the best at putting the ball on a plate for strikers.

As a take away, Beckham initially became a brand built on his ability to fulfil expectations as a footballer in almost every game he played. If he could not, then he would never have played for Manchester United over so many seasons and games

The brand has evolved over many years, from the haircuts to his personality which is now stronger as an ambassador and spokes person who everyone listens to.

Mum and dads like him as a clean role model, girls who like a bad boy like him, and people who want to identify with a person who makes mistakes in the general public will learn from his recovery to the straight and narrow. In fact, even if you hate David Beckham... it means you will secretly grow to forgive and love David Beckham. It’s complex. It’s Beckham the master psychologist.

If Beckham initially started investing his focus on his image and brand first, then there’s no way he could have been an exceptional footballer.

As you can see, you can be an exceptional brand and differentiated based on how good you are without focusing from the start on trying to artificially create a brand identity. So focus on marketing strategy, be known as being the best at what you do for your target market first, and the brand will develop a halo afterwards.

If you’re not the best at satisfying customers, then worrying about your brand image and changing your logos is very unlikely to solve your long-term problems. As one football coach said to me whilst we were watching some new players on trial: “You can’t polish a turd!”

Further Reading:

Charlie Sheen sex tweets: Why you must appeal to psychological control
MacDonald’s Hidden Hypnotic Brand Marketing Tactics Revealed (and its copy able!)

Brand Beckham: Where next for pioneer David? (Opens BBC website)
Brand Beckham: Will the LA Galaxy exit change Becks' sponsorship appeal? (Opens Marketing Magazine website)
Romeo Beckham to appear in Burberry ads (Opens Marketing Magazine website)
David Beckham suspicious full bulge shooting ad with Guy Ritchie for H&M Bodywear brand underwear (Opens Daily Mail website)

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