Brand Beckham is back in town

John Davidson Roar Rookie

By John Davidson, John Davidson is a Roar Rookie

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    The David Beckham show has hit Australia, and three years after his last visit with LA Galaxy, little has changed.

    Brand Beckham is in town to play against the Newcastle Jets in an exhibition match, and three years ago his team faced Sydney FC in an exhibition game at Telstra Stadium.

    That match in 2007 attracted around 80,000 spectators, was won by Sydney FC 5-3 and was a solid ratings success for broadcaster Network Ten. It received around 1.7 million viewers over a three-hour broadcast period.

    This Saturday’s match will take place at Energy Australia Stadium and will be broadcast by Fox Sports.

    Three years on, little seems to have changed as a lot of the focus of Beckham’s visit hasn’t been football but on other things – why his wife Victoria didn’t come too, why he didn’t wave to a woman at Newcastle Airport and the Daily Telegraph’s “paparazzi chase” of him through the streets of Newcastle.

    Putting this contribution together, I revisited an opinion piece I wrote for the advertising and marketing magazine AdNews back in November 2007 titled, ‘The great marketing hoax”. At the time I wrote that Beckham was in Australia to play against Sydney FC, but that was the trivial detail.

    Here’s part of it: “The interesting part is the humungous public interest Beckham generates wherever he goes. Brand Beckham has long superseded Beckham the footballer.

    In fact, as any knowledgeable soccer fan will tell you, Beckham ain’t that special as a footballer. Never has been. Sure, in his Manchester United days and England prime he put in some impressive performances. He won a string of English Premier League and FA Cup titles, and captured the European Champions League in 1999.

    He’s also scored some phenomenal goals in his time, like this free-kick against Greece. No one can deny that Beckham is a very good footballer, and has been great at times in the past.

    However, no one can honestly say that Beckham is the best footballer in the world.

    Or ever has been, even in his absolute prime. And right now, as yesterday’s England international showed, his powers are definitely on the wane.

    But Beckham has probably gathered more popularity and advertiser support than any other sportsperson, let alone any footballer, in the world. Beckham is the perfect example of how successful marketing can create and perpetuate a brand message, which is far at odds with actual reality.

    Style over substance. Fiction over fact.

    Like Pele and Michael Jordan before him, Beckham has become a global sporting phenomenon. Unlike Pele and Michael Jordan, he has never been the best in the world in his chosen game, or able to justify the column inches he generates.

    But this hasn’t stopped companies falling over themselves to throw money at Beckham to get him to plug their brands. Among them, Adidas, in this ad, and the likes of Motorola, ESPN, Pepsi, Gilette and Walt Disney. Beckham has had films made about him, launched his own perfume range and has had his own TV series.

    He is a fashion icon, the pioneer of the metrosexuality fad and has appeared on everything from Jay Leno to the cover of Vogue.”

    The piece does on to say that the Sydney FC game is meaningless in itself, but all that doesn’t matter as Australia will go Beckham- mad and media outlets and sponsors will get their pound of flesh out of him.

    “But here’s my prediction: The game will be a dud. Sydney FC to win by two goals. In the 1995 film The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey says: ‘The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist’. I’d say in this case, it was marketers convincing the world David Beckham is the greatest footballer on the planet.”

    Now, to the present day. I must say I fluked predicting that Sydney FC would win by two goals, and I won’t be making any bold guesses for the Jets game.

    But three years on and it’s true very little has changed. Beckham no longer plays for England, and surely can’t have more than a season left in his tired legs. This game is arguably a bigger stunt that the Sydney FC one. However, from a marketing and PR point of view, I applaud it. It has been great for the Jets, a club on the up, and great for the NSW Government and NSW Tourism.

    The NSW Premier Kristina Keneally may be under fire at the moment, the same as Qantas, but both her and representatives of the airline were at the airport when Beckham arrived to ensure they got a great photo-op. To get that valuable Beckham association. Sponsors have fallen over backwards to get involved.

    This game will also attract a lot of people who probably never watch football, or who have never attended an A-League game. So for that reason, it’s a great idea.

    It may help to spread the football message to the non-believers and convert some of them.

    But as a long-time football fan and a Jets supporter, I see this match as a farce and merely a novelty. Wednesday’s night match against the Mariners, where the Jets scraped home with a late goal to secure a point, was more important. So was last Saturday’s game against the Phoenix where the Jets got a 1-0 win.

    That’s why I’ve passed up an $86 ticket for Saturday’s game. And that’s why I’ll be more interested in the Jets next game against the Fury on December 4, when three A-League points are up for grabs.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • November 27th 2010 @ 3:57pm
      Puhleeassee! said | November 27th 2010 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

      You are wasting your time with writing a long article degrading Beckham. Whether you like it or not, or accepting the fact or not, he is/was one the GREAT footballers in his time. Maybe he was not the greatest, but the FACT that he was FIFA’s Best Footballer of the year Runner Up TWICE says a lot about his abilities and skills in football. Only HATERS would say Beckham is not a great footballer at all. Tell me, who else can do what he does constantly in every game?? NO other footballers yet. And if you are comparing him with today young footballers, then you are simply denying facts. I believe the words of Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Kaka and other great footballers than your words who are not even a football player! It would be more accepting if you just admit that you HATE David Beckham in your article, coz it is so obvious!

    • November 28th 2010 @ 7:03am
      MVDave said | November 28th 2010 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      Beckham’s visit was a win win for all concerned…where’s the problem? Who was holding the gun to the head of each of the 23,000plus sell out crowd to force them, against their will, to the game? Get over it man. Although having never met the man Beckham seems a decent person in the interviews l’ve seen and l’m sure the amount of money he’s raised for various charities around the world is well into the tens of $millions. Beckham was one of the best players in the world at his prime and has played for probably the 3 biggest clubs in the world…ManU, AC Milan and Real Madrid. He has been fortunate enough to have been blessed with good looks as well as his football ability…shame on the man. He has made success of these traits…shame on him.
      If Galaxy had been playing in Melbourne myself and my family would have gone to watch…nuff said.

    • Roar Guru

      November 29th 2010 @ 5:13pm
      peeeko said | November 29th 2010 @ 5:13pm | ! Report

      good article, Beckham mania is a sign of the times. no one ever talks about his football ability anymore just about how famous he is. our celebrity obsessed culture needs to have people like Beckham to idolise. at least he still plays unlike his wife, what does she actually do?

    • Roar Guru

      November 29th 2010 @ 9:44pm
      John Davidson said | November 29th 2010 @ 9:44pm | ! Report

      Just to clarify, I don’t hate Beckham at all. I admire his achievements in the game and his dedication to the clubs he has played for and his country. I was merely commenting that Beckham the brand – the face and body image that sells shoes, aftershave, LA Galaxy shirts etc etc (even the England World Cup bid this Friday) – has long outstripped Beckham the football and what he can do on the pitch. The Galaxy-Jets match was a successful from a marketing/tourism point of view, generating loads of PR and almost a sellout. But we do also need to look at it from a football point of view. While the game itself was entertaining, it was not as if Barcelona, Real Madrid or Manchester United were playing the Jets. The Galaxy are the equivalent of a Roar or an Adelaide United, albeit with the most famous sportsman in the team. I hope somehow the Jets can capitalise on the game and all the new fans that attended the game. But like Sydney’s 80,000 three years ago, the large majority were there to see Beckham and won’t return again. It was an enjoybale one-off, but a one-off all the same. Sydney now averages around 7000-8000 a game. As a longtime Newcastle fan and supporter of football in the region, I know the way to attract consistent large crowds to EnergyAustralia is to have the Jets playing entertaining football, and to be successful.

    • Roar Guru

      November 29th 2010 @ 10:04pm
      jimbo said | November 29th 2010 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

      David Beckham is first and foremost a great footballer.

      He wouldn’t have got to where he is just because of his model looks.

      He was captain of Manchester United, England and LA Galaxy.

      As much as you treat him like a commodity to be ridiculed, he is one of the great footballers of the turn of the century and a fantastic bloke to boot.

    • Roar Guru

      November 30th 2010 @ 10:47am
      John Davidson said | November 30th 2010 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      Jimbo, I think you’re missing my point. I am not treating him like a commodity to be ridiculed, I am merely analysing the impact of his visit and his feats on the field, away from all the marketing hype. This was an analysis from a marketing point of view, and just my humble opinion. The fact is Beckham has been a commodity for many years, strengthened by the fact (although its still a rumour) that part of the reason Real Madrid signed him was to sell more replica shirts. Which they did, many millions of them. I don’t throw down the adjective of great very often, like a lot of people. I think there has very few really great footballers in the past 20 years, and I would put the likes of Zidane, Maradona, Maldini, Romario, Ronaldo (Brazilian) and a few others in that bracket. For me, Beckham would be in a tier just under that. Obviously its too early to determine if the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi are great, as they still have long careers ahead of them. In saying that Beckham is a global football icon, a good role model and in his prime was better than probably 98% of all other professional footballers. He has won a serious amount of trophies, and contributed a huge amount to English football, and deserves repsect. He seems like a fantastic bloke, but having never met him, I couldn’t say if he is.

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