Soccer's PR efforts in LA fail to score despite Beckham's visit"Who you waiting on?" I asked the autograph seeker standing outside the Marina del Rey Ritz-Carlton hotel, pen and paper in hand.
Actor? Rock star? Paris Hilton? "Ronaldo," the excited 20-something told me before bolting toward a crowd of people approaching a bus parked in the circular driveway. Another gal I spoke to had her sights set on David Beckham - perhaps the top prize of all in the big-game sport of celebrity hunting.
Go ahead and scoff, but in far-off places of the globe where Cruise is only a boat ride and the name Hanks draws puzzled glances, the mention of Ronaldo and Beckham elicits knowing grins and clenched fists. Soccer, baby - the biggest thing on the planet. It puts me to sleep, but the global audience for soccer dwarfs that of the Oscars, the NFL, and Nathan's hot-dog eating contest on Coney Island put together. By a mile. Even Hollywood royalty takes a backseat when two athletes rivaled only by Tiger Woods and Mickey Mouse in name recognition come to town.
Ronaldo and Beckham were in LA recently playing for Real Madrid (that's a soccer club in Spain) against our very own LA Galaxy. I didn't even know we had a soccer team here, a common ignorance that Galaxy publicist Patrick Donnelly hoped to remedy with a visit from one of the world's most famed clubs.
"We only had a few days here with the Madrid players, and they left right after the game, so we had to focus on just a couple of key publicity events," Donnelly told me. That included a press conference at the Ritz the day before the match with Beckham, three other players, and a roundtable of sportswriters. "They're just like American athletes," one writer complained. "They have little personality off the field, and even less to say."
Well, whaddya expect? They make a living chasing a ball around the field. Their idea of artistic expression is ripping off their jerseys after a goal and running excitedly around the grass like a 3-year-old who just discovered he can outrun grandma.
The Galaxy "triumphantly" lost only 2-0, which is another strange thing about soccer: In what other sport can a failure to score be deemed a successful outing?
Donnelly was supposed to get back to me about the other press activities surrounding the Real Madrid visit, but never did. Perhaps that kind of PR shutout is another reason few folks know we have a team in LA.
Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer