Friday, 17 May 2013

David Beckham - master of the PR stunt

Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance?

Henry IV, 3.4.283

Goodbye, David Beckham, master of the PR stunt and first modern global English sporting brand. From Goldenballs to golden locks, tattoos to missed penalties, you will be missed on the pitch. Yet, off the green grass, things will be strange only for their familiarity.

Brand Beckham is well publicised and SFX, then Simon Fuller, have helped the Beckhams create a niche market in happy family sporting icons; a brand not reliant on sporting success but shrewd endorsements, CSR and choosing the right moment, be it the 2012 Olympics or when not to put your name to a doomed musical.

This will undoubtedly be Beckham's epitaph, his gift not to the game but to the individuals who followed him, From Wayne Rooney to the next big thing, he has made English footballers a market force again, something not seen even with players of a higher quality, such as Gazza.

So why has Beckham's PR been so successful? Firstly, he understood the power of pictures to move around the globe faster than words. Not one for naval gazing interviews, his team knew when and where to ensure the right picture was taken. The finest example of this was when a local Manchester photographer who had always been respectful to Beckham was, allegedly, given a tip-off to be at a certain place and time one deserted Sunday morning. There he happened to get the shot of Becks with a rather large plaster on his forehead, following a heated row with Sir Alex. The photographer was rewarded with a shot that would be sold around the globe and Beckham said everything he needed to about his relationship with the manager, without ever uttering a disrespectful word.

One gets the sense Alex Ferguson would somehow have appreciated the gesture, he himself often using the silent but deadly approach to getting his point across - most recently demonstrated with Wayne Rooney being benched against Real Madrid.

Beckham never relied on this understanding and marketing team, though, he always worked hard. Gary Neville, his closest ally, often commented on his after hours practice and relentless approach to self-improvement.

What he showed was that even though his performances had long deserted him, Beckham was able to sustain a place at the top of world football for ten extra years through sheer desire. A desire to win, to build his image, to be remembered.

In the end, it was this lofty ambition was marked him apart. A gentleman, a fine sportsman and a good-looking man with an eye for a PR opportunity.

David Beckham won his place at court by seducing those who mattered. He gained glory in battles, despite not actually winning the fights himself, such as his 'redemptive' penalty against Argentina in the 2002 World Cup.

Yet desire is more than most can apply to their careers and it carried him through to win the game almost single-handedly against Greece in 2001. It was a performance fitting of the man, through its drama through to the conclusion.

People mock Beckham, they are foolish to do so. He has opened the door for many young men from poorer backgrounds to market their modest abilities and achieve superstardom in modern pop culture.

For all this is good, bad, and indifferent, it could not have been achieved without a unique desire.

Goldenballs always had balls.

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