1. To be a great brand, you must have a great product in the first place: not necessarily a better product, but something that is different, that you are dedicated to and that you constantly strive to improve. Brands are like footballers in this respect: play off your past and you will soon be out of the team. Beckham was never rated alongside football greats such as Charlton or Best.
He wasn’t even a teenage wonder like Rooney, Giggs or Whiteside, but ask Alex Ferguson what makes Beckham so great and he’ll tell you that he worked harder than anyone else on the field. He got to training first and left last. That’s how you build a great reputation/brand.
2. Managing a brand is a systematic process covering a multiplicity of factors. Celebrities are no longer just endorsers of other people’s products: they are brands in their own right, and are learning to manage themselves as such. After all, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are made in the mind”. Many people don’t care what some people say about them, but celebrity brands like Beckham need to worry about what everyone says about them.
The downside of mis-managing this part of your brand is ending up like glamour model Jordan. She once had the world at her feet and now seems to annoy everyone no matter what she does. A quick look at Tiger Woods also highlights just how quickly brands jump ship if your personal brand suddenly fails to deliver.
3. Brands are built on core values that people admire, and are communicated through a personality that people like. Celebrity brands are just the same; they have to be clear about their purpose and values, and act accordingly. As Jeff Benzos, CEO of Amazon says, “A brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”.
4. A celebrity manages his or her identity with the same meticulous attention to detail and awareness of its impact as a typical brand. Every look, every syllable of your name, every stitch of your clothes and every follicle of your hair is part of your brand identity and needs to be treated with care. Whatever your view of the Beckham Mohican, two things it did do was create even more interest in him as an icon and it established him as his own man, with his own sense of style.
5. The best brands set out to do what they say. So it is with personalities as brands. Have a clear goal, stay true to yourself and make sure you get the maximum amount of credit for what you have done. For more information see;
- That goal against Wimbledon from behind the half way line
- Scoring his trademark freekick against Greece as England captain in 2002
- The penalty against Diego Simeoe’s Argentina
- His dream €6million a year move to Real Madrid
- $120m from the LA Galaxy Deal for bringing soccer to the US masses
6. Commercialising a personality as a brand requires you to think not only about how much you can earn right now, but also about how any deal is going to help you achieve your brand goals and sustain your revenues in the long term. Beckham’s first major endorsement deal netted him £1million for acting as the modern face of the Brylcream brand. Sales shot up by 50% by the end the campaign when he acted as its spokesman.
7. Managing relationships with clubs, other celebrities and even national teams is all part of brand building. You have to choose your partners with care, and manage them with even more care. (As an adidas sponsored athlete was it really a co-incidence that both of Beckham’s epic deals with Real and Galaxy were both to adidas sponsored teams? There is a reason he’s called the Michael Jordan of soccer…)
8. Protecting your brand is not about firing letters off from lawyers; rather it is a complex proactive process. The owner of legal rights has to understand the language of brand protection every bit as well as the traditional brand owner, and be every bit as aggressive. This was never more evident with Beckham than in 2004 when he was confronted with a string of alleged affairs. Regardless of whether the allegations where true or false, it is a credit to his great PR and good brand management that his marriage is still as strong as ever and he is widely recognised as good husband and a great father.
9. Having a strong brand gives you options to develop in the future, but you need to think quickly, plan carefully and move as swiftly as you can while you have the advantage of a lot of good will. You can not live on your reputation for very long. Recognising this, David managed to be even more visible on the sidelines than Fabio Capello at this years World Cup, despite being ruled out of the team by injury. He even secured his ‘brand visibility’ long after England were dismissed by Germany in his capacity as ambassador for the London Olympics 2010 and representative of England’s 2018 World Cup bid.
Don’t be fooled by the squeaky voice. David knows exactly what he is doing and like Michael Jordan, his brand will be around long after he stops playing. Brand owners looking for longevity from their portfolio could do worse than follow the example of David Beckham.
[Extracts taken from ‘Brand It Like Beckham’ by Interbrand’s Andy Milligan]