David Beckham is nearly 50 years old and hasn’t played professional soccer since 2013, and yet Brand Beckham is very much alive and (excuse the pun) kicking.
The Netflix series Beckham is the most-watched show on Netflix in Australia this week; Beckham boasts 84.5 million Instagram followers and more than 20 million likes on TikTok.
As well as this, he continues to call in sponsorship from brands including H&M, Adidas, Diageo, and L’Oreal.
Back in 2015, Brand Beckham (which includes earnings from the entire family) was estimated to be worth more than half a billion pounds ($771 million) with the DailyMail sensationally claiming the family was richer than the Queen.
With his best soccer moments largely occurring in the ’90s and 2000s, why are we all still so obsessed with David Beckham?
Well, despite his reputation of being somewhat lacking in the intelligence department, when it comes to growing and cultivating his personal brand, Beckham is somewhat of a genius.
Of course, there have been some PR disasters such as his alleged affair with Rebecca Loos (who is now speaking out about the Netflix documentary) and those emails in response to him being snubbed for a knighthood, yet generally, the brand has been strong for nearly 30 years.
So what can marketers and advertisers learn from brand Becks?
Be Part Of Mass Cultural Moments
The Netflix series begins with some of Beckham’s biggest career moments to date – his goal from the halfway line in August 1996 as well as his red card against Argentina in 1998.
Whilst not all of these moments are good (he was largely crucified for the card against Argentina) they do cement Beckham as a key player in modern culture.
Those old enough to be alive then will remember how they felt in those moments, whilst younger viewers will be familiar with them.
They are also highly emotional moments, you don’t need to be a soccer fan to appreciate the euphoria of a 21-year-old achieving something that has never been achieved before (the halfway line goal, not the red card).
Now we are not suggesting that brands and marketers need to take up sports, practice to a world-class level, and achieve something never done before – but brand Beckham gives us an important reminder about the power of connecting to consumers’ memories and emotions.
For example, there’s not an Aussie in this country that doesn’t feel something when they see that Sam Kerr goal.
2. Don’t Just Target One Gender
We live in an age where society is increasingly polarised by gender with many brands specifically targeting either men or women.
There is certainly a place for this – for example, there have (in recent times) been many powerful campaigns targeted at women such as the Dove body image campaign.
However, one of the biggest appeals of David Beckham is his ability to transcend the male-dominated world of soccer and also have a place in the world of entertainment and fashion (marrying a Spice Girl helps).
As he says in the documentary, he wanted to be more than just a footballer.
Even in his early career, he was something many of his colleagues were not – image-conscious. He was famously known for always looking stylish, changing his hair, and playing up to the press – all things that ensured he was never just limited to the sports pages of the newspaper.
Even now he can regularly be seen hanging out and doing more traditionally-feminine things such as contouring with his daughter Harper.
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3. Be Relatable (Within reason)
Whilst Beckham might be ridiculously wealthy now, we are never allowed to forget his largely working-class roots.
He frequently shares pictures of himself as a child and his parents are regularly in the press. Far from being born into wealth, brand Beckham has always been keen to remind viewers that Beckham’s success is the result of hard work and talent. In the age of the nepo baby, this is highly likable.
He also opens up about some of the big events that garnered mass media within his career such as the Argentinian red card and what it was like to become captain of the England team.
All of this creates the feeling that Beckham really is very much human. He reminds brands of the importance of showing that they are within reach and connecting to the consumer on a personal level.
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4. But also be aspirational
There’s one thing that has helped Becks that not everyone has, and that is his looks. Say what you want about him, Becks is a handsome man.
Whilst Becks is indeed relatable (as mentioned above) he has kept his physique and created many advertising moments that have left many open-mouthed, such as those underwear ads.
Before Becks stripped off for underwear commercials, men’s underwear was mainly limited to briefs, boxers, and whatever their partners or mum picked up for them.
Following the ad, men’s underwear became a movement, with British shop Selfridges seeing sales for men’s bodywear jump 28 per cent.
It’s important to be relatable, but Becks reminds us all of the importance of being inspirational if we want to inspire people to buy.
5. Get Involved In Causes Bigger Than Yourself
In recent years Becks has gone beyond simply being a celebrity and has become something of a statesman.
Not only is he a goodwill ambassador for Unicef, a role he took up in 2005 – but he also holds an OBE and has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Prince William and ex-UK prime minister David Cameron during a number of unsuccessful bids to host the world cup.
Rather than his brand just being focused on his own soccer success, Becks is now known for helping some of the poorest children in the world reach their potential.
Not only is this a good thing to do, but it also keeps him relevant.
In 2023 it is no longer simply enough to be a brand, brands now have to show what their values are and what they are doing to make the world a better place.
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