Jeremy Bullmore was the first to point out how well Victoria Adams understood brands.
As a little girl she said to her mum “I want to be as famous as Persil Automatic”.
Not a princess, not a film star, not a pop star.
A brand.
Before most of us even knew what a brand was.

That was highlighted recently in Alex Ferguson’s book.
Ferguson said David Beckham could have been a truly great footballer.
But he fell in love with Posh Spice and that changed everything.
“David was the only player I ever managed who chose to be famous, who made it his mission to be known outside the game.”
Although he didn’t know it, he’s referring to her building a brand.
Suddenly, while the rest of the team were being photographed in jeans, Beckham would be wearing a sarong.
And it would be all over the front pages of the national press.
On the front pages, unlike Ferguson and the team.
While the back pages would feature Manchester United’s European Cup results, the front pages would feature David Beckham’s new Mohican haircut.
He became the first metrosexual.
The papers couldn’t get enough news about the couple, they became known simply as Posh and Becks.
Their house was labelled ‘Beckingham Palace’.
And it drove Ferguson mad.
While Man Utd was playing in a cold wet night in Manchester, a supposedly injured Beckham was posing at a movie premier in London with Hollywood celebrities.
David Beckham became bigger than football.
People in America and South East Asia, who didn’t know anything about the game, knew David Beckham.
Victoria Beckham had him launch a range of male fragrances and pose seductively like a male model, oiled up and wearing next to nothing.
The opportunity she spotted was to sell a man’s fragrance to women, to buy for their men.
Women wanted their men to smell like this gorgeous hunk, men didn’t mind because he was a great footballer.
But then Beckham had a final row with Ferguson and had to move to another club.
The problem for the Beckham brand was that any club was a step down from Man Utd.
Almost any club.
The Beckhams arranged a transfer to Real Madrid, the most famous club in the world.
It looked like a massive step up for brand Beckham.
In truth it was no risk for Real Madrid, because whatever he cost they would more than make up for it in Beckham shirt sales alone.
Then, when Beckham became too old to play at the top level in Europe, Victoria had him move to LA Galaxy in California.
To be seen to be part of the glitter and glamour of Hollywood.
To be photographed while celebrities like Tom Cruise watched him play.
Now David Beckham’s football career is over, but brand Beckham is bigger than ever.
They are jointly worth around a quarter of a billion dollars.
I hadn’t realised how truly international brand-Beckham is until I saw this irate tweet from a Chinese Man Utd fan with 9,000 followers:

Alex Ferguson understands football, but Victoria Beckham understands marketing a brand.

  • dropthebeatonit

    that guy can’t be chinese, no way

  • timlarkin73

    Luckily I read this well before my lunch…. The thought of Fergie in his own range of pants, amusing, scary and vomit inducing all in equal measure.

    You have to take your hat off to the Beckham’s for all they’ve achieved – proof that hard work pays off!

  • john p woods

    SAF at the helm of the bigger brand would be fully aware of the George Best effect and the Peter Principle that awaited the wretch that had the misfortune to forget what he was good at. Swanning off all over the world might have been good enough for others but that’s a different kettle of fish.

  • Irfan

    SAF & Becks had different priorities, both are brilliant.
    For SAF footie is everything, for Becks footie is a means.
    I think SAF was hurt to learn that his everything was just a means for Becks.

    • davetrott

      Absolutely Irfan.
      He didn’t understand they had different agendas.

      • john p woods

        IMHO SAF fully understood the different agenda of Planet Beckham, it’s just that he wasn’t having any of it. I’m thinking he was probably protecting the global brand of Manchester United by ensuring that the only players playing for them were 100% dedicated towards playing football at the very highest level. I hate to disagree here but like I said before the powers that be were not interested in another George Best end scenario for themselves or for Beckham.

  • Harry

    Beckham had one of his feet inside the door of show business when he started dating Vic. He’s too pretty to play football for the rest of his life. Sports stars going into show business is actually quite usual in China, Tian Liang, ex Olympic diving champion, is now seen frequently in TV programs and entertainment events. They all have one thing common–an unusually nice looking face.
    Harry from China

    • Dave Trott

      Hi Harry,
      I guess the big difference over here is that no one had actually marketed themselves before Posh marketed Beckham.
      Good looking guys like Bobby Moore or Kevin Keegan did the occasional aftershave ad, but they waited to be approached, so they didn’t do much.
      She used the media aggressively, to market Beckham like a product, like a male model or film star and, what was really new, to women

      • john p woods

        Beckham was already being marketed by Manchester United and to a global audience of at least 600 million. One question, Dave, do you think that Posh diversified his appeal at the expense of his core offering and did she achieve greater market share? One thing is for sure though, she certainly improved her profit margin by cutting out the middle man(chester united).

  • john p woods

    Have I got this right?
    Beckham was the #1 product at the #1 brand.
    Posh then went for brand share, trial, brand with him?

    • dave trott

      She saw a bigger world of people who don’t know or care about football.
      Cantona has done a beer ad based on him being a footballer.
      Raul has done an ad based on being a footballer.
      Keegan did the same, so did Gascoigne, so did George Best.
      Lots of footballers have done that in lots of countries.
      But they only appeal to men who care about football.

      VB has built an image for DB that is nothing to do with football.
      That appeals to women, Americans, the Chinese, everyone (billions) who don’t know or care who what or where Man Utd or SAF are.
      In that world DB is obviously much bigger than either.
      That’s what she did.
      She sold him like a sex object, a good father, a fashion icon, a role model for children, everything women want.
      So that’s market growth (outside football), trial, branding.

      • john p woods

        Am I hearing you right? A bigger world of people who don’t know or care about football? I know not of this world!
        I take your point although I have an inkling that she lost many advocates of his previous brand. All I see is that she cut out the previous middle man and made herself the new management. Predatory Thinking of the highest order no doubt but I still didn’t like it. But like you say you don’t have to like it to appreciate it.

  • john p woods

    Pound to a penny, SAF’s book will out sell DB’s. BTW Dave, Bex was all of those things when he was at MUFC. 650 million Manchester United fans. 1.5 billion premier league fans. I’d say he lost brand share. Same telescope just different ends?

Campaign Jobs