U.K. frenzy shows power of Beckham brand


LONDON -- Already a football star, tabloid king and husband to former Spice Girl Victoria "Posh" Beckham, David Beckham's new multimillion-dollar deal has projected him into an entirely different galaxy.

Last week's announcement of Beckham's $250 million, five-year pact with U.S. Major League Soccer team the L.A. Galaxy was splashed all over the British press and showed no signs of fading as the weekend drew to a close.

Should anyone have been in doubt about the power of the Beckham brand, the press and media frenzy that followed his announcement quickly dispelled such thoughts.

In perhaps the biggest showing of Beckham's power to attract media and press attention, bitter British tabloid rivals, the Sun and the Mirror, used exactly the same splash headline on the front page -- "Posh And Bucks" -- to flag the story Friday.

With the tabloids all enjoying a Beckham bonanza that saw the story run from the front across several inside news pages while dominating the sports' sections in all the papers, radio and television bulletins also carried the footballer's move.

His rich deal to quit Spain's Real Madrid to join the L.A. Galaxy even made the Financial Times, albeit on an inside page. The financial heavyweight daily labeled the deal as one "thought to be the most lucrative in the history of professional sport."

Simon Fuller, who owns 19 Entertainment, which brokered the deal alongside CAA Sports, a division of Creative Artists Agency, described the ex-England captain as "an extraordinary sporting icon." He's certainly a rich one.

Much of the British press reaction agreed that Beckham's move signals the end of the player's career in top-flight soccer, a view borne out after his soon-to-be ex Real Madrid boss Fabio Capello declared he would not play for the Spanish club again, despite Beckham's promise to stay on through the end of the regular season.

But the reams of newsprint and television time devoted to the story suggest the move is more than about soccer.

After all, a quick snapshot of Beckham's recent achievements on the field reveal a slide in fortunes. In six months, Beckham has resembled a cracked Adonis. Having been stripped of the captaincy of England before being dropped from the squad altogether, the man dubbed "golden balls" has failed to land any medals during his three-and-a-half years at Real Madrid.

Off the field, however, Beckham has been hobnobbing with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes as well as Brit popstar Robbie Williams, who now resides in Los Angeles. Brand Beckham, as his earnings and marketing potential is dubbed, is very much on the up.

"He'll definitely make it in Hollywood," one observer said. "They'll teach him to talk and act and, because he's a good-looking boy with so much wealth around him, he'll definitely be successful. He has everything Hollywood loves."

Aside from being the former chairman and CEO of United International Pictures and current U.K. Film Council chairman, Stewart Till also has extensive knowledge of soccer and is currently chairman of Millwall Football Club here in London.

Said Till: "I think it is a really exciting day for Britain that America has turned to a British icon to solve their soccer woes." Till said the combination of the Beckham brand and the potential for soccer in the U.S. just might be a winning combination.

But it might make interesting reading for deal backer and billionaire financier-turned-entertainment mogul Phil Anschutz that much of the speculation in the U.K. and mainland Europe isn't centered on whether Beckham will be able to make soccer interesting to anyone older than 16 in the States. Rather, it's about whether or not he can make it in mainstream entertainment.

Only time, and money, will tell. But given his extraordinary marketing so far, the galaxy's the limit.