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David Beckham Hangs Up Boots But Not His Marketability

Financial Times, May 16, 2013

David Beckham may never play professional football again but his decision, announced yesterday, to retire at the end of the season will have little impact on the marketability and profits of Beckham Inc.

Bowing out 21 years after making his debut for Manchester United, a man whoseendorsements have sold millions of products worldwide will end his playing career at the conclusion of his five-month contract with Paris Saint Germain, recently crowned French league champions for 2013.

“Now is the right time to finish my career, playing at the highest level,” the 38 year-old said yesterday.

As a player, the heights of Mr Beckham’s powers lasted until 2007 when, after four seasons at Real Madrid, he left to play for Los Angeles Galaxy in the US.

But Mr Beckham’s earnings ability has never wavered. Marketing experts expect that to continue under the careful husbandry of Simon Fuller, his agent.

“We won’t see the last of him as an endorser,” said Tim Crow, chief executive of sponsorship agency Synergy.

A winner of 19 trophies and 115 England caps, Mr Beckham said he was “genuinely excited about what lies ahead.”

With time on his hands, there is a risk of Brand Beckham becoming Boring, Same Old Beckham through overexposure.

However, according to Nigel Currie of consultants BrandRapport, Mr Fuller is too wily an operator to allow that to happen.

Mr Currie said: “His management has been very good at limiting his appearances. They will be very wary of him being Mr Available.”

Some modification in Mr Beckham’s profile is inevitable. According to Jim Andrews of Chicago-based sponsorship group IEG, the end of Mr Beckham’s playing days will affect his ability to sell products for the companies he represents.

Mr Andrews said: “The biggest change will be in his relationship with Adidas. The sporting aspect goes away. It changes the game.”

Punditry seems the least likely of Mr Beckham’s potential subsequent career paths. However much Mr Beckham worked on his media presentation in the US, he is “not the greatest in front of a microphone”, Mr Crow said.

Ambassadorial work is a far better prospect. Mr Beckham offered unstinting help to London’s plan to host the 2012 Olympics and then to promote the games. Last month, he began his role as global ambassador to the Chinese Super League. “There will be no shortage of ambassadorial offers”, Mr Crow added.

Then, of course, he could simply choose to remain a celebrity. “There are lots of people, women in particular, who think of him more as a celebrity than as a sports star,” Mr Andrews said.