Friday, July 20, 2007

Brand it Like Beckham

By now, regardless if you like sports or haven't observed anything competitive since the First Annual Basket Weaving Finals at your local VFW, you've heard about a man named David Beckham. If you haven't, well now you have. And trust me, it's only going to happen again and again and again.

Arguably one of the biggest sports figures on the planet, if not the biggest, Beckham is a soccer (football, futbol, footy, etc.) star who has played for some of the most successful European teams and has made his share of World Cup moments. He's inspired films (Bend it Like Beckham), had a statue of his likeness erected in chocolate in Japan, and he even boasts a pop star wife who has taken a second career in reality TV (Victoria Beckham: Coming to America). According to millions of fans around the world, he's handsome, charming, unassuming, and just happens to be very close friends with Tom Cruise.

He may be the biggest brand in the history of the world.

Why do I say that? Well, last night I was watching the MLS (Major League Soccer, America's finally establishing and expanding answer to the big soccer leagues around the world) All-Stars play Celtic FC, a football club that boasts possibly the most supporters in the world and who once attracted over 92,000 fans to a single game. But when I tell you that the night was all about David Beckham and his migration to America to play for the Los Angeles MLS squad, I mean to say that the sport itself, sports itself, couldn't get a press ticket to shake the man's hand. There was fawning that would have embarrassed the King himself, Elvis Presley. And I haven't seen flirting between men like that since Bill Clinton did the rounds at the 1992 Democratic convention. It was, quite honestly, shameless. Even for American celebrity culture.

But does that make it a bad thing?

Not for American soccer. In fact, it's just the opposite. Beckham agreed to join the Los Angeles Galaxy for a widely reported $250 million (one dollar for each fan, no doubt), that with endorsements, will earn him up to $50 million per year. Within 48 hours of following the announcement of his contract, over 250,000 Galaxy jerseys were sold with his name on the back, including one to Los Angeles mayor himself, Antonio Villaraigosa. With so many American youths playing the sport, and millions more every year, U.S. soccer has finally found its branded saint to lead them to the promise land. What Tiger Woods did for golf will soon be considered, as the British like to put it, "quaint".

The British Invasion is upon us again, but this time it's one man. Hold on to something sturdy, and get ready to shout "Goal!"

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