The David Beckham Effect

If Shakespeare had written a play about David Beckham it would have been filled with thoughtful speeches about his glory days as captain of England’s football team, his valiant attempts to bring the 2018 World Cup to Britain’s shores and his heroic and extremely photogenic contribution to the magnificent spectacle that was the London Olympics. In actual fact, it is unlikely that the bard himself could have done much to further enhance the icon’s stature as a national treasure, or his value as a brand: he is already in a class of his own.

Conversely, William Shakespeare did write a play about Richard III. He included the famous line about a kingdom for a horse but from the comfort of the Elizabethan era a century after the events, he portrayed his reigning queen’s grandfather, Henry VII as a stalwart soldier who was completely justified in usurping the hunchbacked nephew-murdering interloper, last of the Plantagenet kings. In terms of political hatchet jobs, Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard was devastating and the misconceptions about this much maligned monarch linger to this day. Out went the reputation as a visionary reformer, darling of the North of England and brilliant administrator (qualities that were never likely to have made his name memorable) and in came national notoriety. Yet Leicester, where his battle-scarred remains have been found, is delighted with the association and is cashing in. The city’s Guildhall is hosting a special exhibition about Richard, which opens on 8 February. There is also a 45-minute walking tour, and even King Richard III short breaks which were launched today. And not to be outdone by David Beckham, there is also a Richard III Facebook page.

Currently Paris St-Germain only has King David of Leytonstone on a five month contract, but it is expected that this will be extended if everyone is happy. Beckham’s PR machine certainly is because the golden boy of football is donating his salary from PSG to a children’s charity and, although cynics have pointed out that this enables him to keep his huge personal fortune out of the grasp of the French tax system with a top rate of 75%, it still looks good to the adoring public.

In reality the deal he has struck for shares of merchandise sold in his name will prove to be infinitely more lucrative. When he blessed Los Angeles Galaxy with his presence, sales of shirts and memorabilia, together with an interest in US soccer, soared. Within 48 hours of his signing, LA Galaxy sold more than 5,000 season tickets.The financially savvy Quatari-owned Paris club will hope Beckham brings some of that magic with him, whether he plays a fully regular role in the team or not.

Undoubtedly personality sells product, a fact that marketers have known for a long time. Whether it is a short break in Leicester or a pair of tight-fitting underpants, the endorsement of celebrity is a Unique Selling Proposition. A bed and breakfast in the Midlands or a pair of white Y-fronts just do not have the same allure.