Bend It, Spend It. Beckham’s Here
By most accounts, David Beckham’s soccer (football, if you prefer) skills have deteriorated. That appears to be of little concern for the Los Angeles Galaxy franchise and Major League Soccer that plan to showcase Mr. Beckham in yet another bid to bring the sport to the American masses.
The question is whether what amounts to a $250 million gamble (Mr. Beckham’s deal) will work?
“It’s risky. But there’s always a risk when so much is riding on an individual, when everything is centered around the brand of one person,” Lisa Bolton, marketing professor at Wharton told Knowledge@Wharton. “But the thing about Beckham is that he can cut through the clutter. The team doesn’t have to feature him with its own advertisements in order to raise awareness of soccer. And he is already making headlines in entertainment news. It’s a good fit for sports as entertainment, particularly L.A. entertainment.”
Wharton marketing professor David J. Reibstein said, “We have been talking about soccer exploding since Pele. It didn’t happen. Then came the Olympics; they are on the map for a week and then the Olympics end. So this is a bet: If we get the most visible and attractive player in the sport, maybe, just maybe this will catapult soccer into something huge.”
Kenneth L. Shropshire, Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics, expressed some skepticism, but added, “These are very savvy people leading the MLS. I’m certain it’s a strategic move, but one – and this is from the commissioner – that is not meant to be the magic bullet that turns things around and makes soccer as popular in the U.S. as it is in the rest of the world. It is part of an apparent strategy. And Beckham is probably the one global name in soccer. Even if you don’t know soccer, you know Beckham.”
Dave Checketts, the owner of Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer (MLS), told Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo on WFAN in New York earlier this month that soccer’s popularity in the U.S. will be aided by Mr. Beckham, but is not dependent on him.
“I think the fact that the country is changing as much as it is with so many international people emigrating and having children here, I think this sport is about to become a major part of American culture,” he said.
Mr. Checketts, who also owns the St. Louis Blues hockey team, referenced the PBS documentary Generation Next to further his argument.
“These are kids, 16 to 25 in the U.S., and guess what? One out of five have a parent that was born outside the U.S. And, one out of eight of this generation was himself or herself born outside the U.S. So, these are kids that love soccer.”
Discussion Questions: What will David Beckham mean to soccer in the U.S. and companies that use his image to promote products? What will be the associated opportunities be at retail? Will the Beckham phenomenon, if there is one, be limited to southern California or will it be national?
- Brand It Like Beckham: Can the Soccer Star Sustain the Hype? – Knowledge@Wharton
- 1/12 Dave Checketts – Mike and the Mad Dog/WFAN