HAS BECKS FALLEN OFF THE BRAND-WAGON?
Is Goldenballs slip-sliding into a brand pariah? Until recently David Beckham�s seductive face could re brand and save the planet (and, had they been quick, Dasani too). But today it�s looking like Goldenballs can�t even flog Golden Syrup.
Let�s play that again in slow-motion. Last week, in front of millions of human flags watching Euro 2004 (with a further 17 million fans in Asia), Becks, one of the world�s greatest living footballers, slipped badly on the olive oiled Portuguese turf. This, after allegedly slipping some months earlier into the burly arms of tabloid textaholic, Rebecca Loos.
Then, yesterday, Becks� trademark image was relegated from leftfield Loos to �You Loosers!� (sic), when his sexy FIFA photo was cruelly defaced at London�s Royal Academy of Art. A tsunami backlash? Or art prone hooligan blip?
With no previous convictions (apart from that Bali Hai fashion felony) has England�s captain, the nation�s favourite family man and surrogate boyfriend, and everyone�s best mate, lost his golden glow? For the marketeers, is Fergie�s once golden boy become merely fools� gold?
No. The answer is more disturbing. Becks, the man – and a man he is, not a god – has bought into the ultimate commodity: himself. He now believes his own publicity, and in Beck�s astroturfed brandscape he believes he really is a god, albeit a sloppy one.
With more haste than a Kabbalah collection plate, Becks� advisors are stifling the man and the player, at the expense of his personality brand. It looks like he�s trapped in a celestial-haven for footie�s celebrity burn outs, and he doesn�t deserve this. Oi, Ref! Blow your whistle and take his managers� names. Becks must come back down to earth, to the centre spot, to trounce any future penalty shoot-outs.
But after the team�s under-but-mostly-off-the-radar performance in Euro 2004, will England be seeking a new golden hero? Increasingly, for the bereft fans, as well as for Sven�s branding svengalis in the VIP (and UKIP) enclosures, it looks like they�ve found one. Yes! As the King is almost dead, it�s off with Becks� Brylcreemed head, and Long Live The King! All hail, His Royal Rooniness!
Yet before flighty investors flat-line the share performances of Beckham�s input for Adidas, Gillette, Vodafone, Pepsi, Police sunglasses, and the DB07 range of tots� tight-T�s in the ever-ailing M&S, consider this.
Beckham is an original, versatile brand who lives out his values in public. Apart from this freaky, disastrous fortnight, he remains a creatively-driven player and revered skipper, and for the brand-doctors, Becks is a commercial warrior with innate style.
Style: something you�re born with even if you are from Leytonstone. And even with a wardrobe of page-boy knickerbockers, the pubic Mohican, the black nail varnish, the burgeoning Gothic tattoos and a penchant for sharing Posh�s thongs, Becks is still a physically beautiful athlete. There�s a visceral appeal which sparks and sustains desire.
So he�s neither brand pariah nor fools� gold. Today he�s real gold at Real Madrid: they�ve found El Dorado.
But last week, under the kind of pressure he�s supposed to withstand easily, Beck�s artistry and magic deserted him. So what�s to be done?
TACTICS FROM THE BORKOWSKI CHANGING ROOM
Time waits for no brand, and a stellar footballer�s career is even shorter. In the celebrity-universe, all stars go super nova. Most collapse with breathtaking dignity; a precious few do not. To succeed, Beckham must be prised from the teats of Mammon while turning his back on the lucrative media circuit. He must focus on reviving his astonishing talent. Above all, he must serve the game.
At 29, he must now blaze for his last, professional challenge: the World Cup 2006. Equally, he must invigorate and satisfy the millions who avidly purchase his sensual brand.
More contentious – emotionally and legally – is the need to separate Becks� career from that of Posh. They may be loving partners, but on the pitch they�re not conjoined by hip and handbag: Becks must take control.
Perhaps the Beckhams� new publicist, Paul Bloch, an old-school Hollywood agent who builds substantial, classy celebrities, will factor-in the indefinable, yet missing father-figure that Becks needs (and certainly needed last week).
A national catastrophe is brewing if Beckham neglects his core, his roots. This is the vital sap which thrust him from his childhood team, through Manchester United, to the searing 5-1 victory over Germany in the 2002 World Cup qualifying round. Without well-tended roots we face renewed fits of caprice as he lurches from serial burn-out to corrosive ignominy.
Last week, Becks snarled �I LOVE football!� as he berated reporters at the post-match press call. That�s fine. But make us love you. Spray us with the high-octane professionalism that fuels this infuriating yet marvellous game.
Focus on the game: command respect. Becks must retrieve and dazzle us with the thudding, thumping heart of his once-in-a-generation talent. Anyone can flog sports goods. We need a sports god.