Opinion: Beginning of a new era for Brand

So, the country's agonising over England's lacklustre performance is over, and David – Golden Balls – Beckham has fallen on his sword.

Of course, media pundits are already out in force debating what Beckham's decision to resign his captaincy will mean for his long-term brand value. And the fact that they fail to agree – whether Sunday's press conference marks the end of a lucrative career in endorsement or only the beginning of a new era for the man with an ability to turn everything he touches into gold – shows the real uncertainty of his commercial future.

It's no wonder that he was on the brink of tears as he faced the media in his moment of truth.

I did, however, find it particularly interesting how the media reported the delivery of what must have been a painful announcement. When it came, Beckham's public stand-down was brief and obviously heartfelt – a fact that seemed to touch the hard hearts of the gathered journalists, who broke into a spontaneous round of applause in response.

Yet, as a popular cultural icon with a pop-star wife, and an eclectic variety of sponsorship deals, he has for years been fair game – over everything from his (or probably Victoria's) appalling taste in interior décor to his inability to help with his son's maths homework. In fact, it has been taken as read by a cross-section of media that Beckham is more than a few GCSEs short of a rocket scientist.

The fact that he is not known for being particularly eloquent probably explains the way in which reporters homed in on the fact that Beckham's speech appeared to be self-penned on two pieces of A4 paper. I was particularly struck by The Independent's theory that the former captain's apparent inarticulateness came from an oversensitivity to his position and a desire to avoid controversy, to the extent that ‘so much of what he says is rendered meaningless'.

The intimation being we now have a ‘rawer' Beckham, untrammelled by the PR complexities of his former station.
I couldn't help but think about the way in which the media have tended to soften and become quite nostalgic about various politicians after they have finally agreed to throw in the towel. It's a classic case of tall poppy syndrome, and perhaps the only way to win the hearts of the media is to allow yourself to be cut down.

But if I was Beckham, far from being pleased by this development in approach, I would have been rather alarmed by the tone of much of the coverage, which read uncomfortably like an obituary.

kate.nicholas@haynet.com

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