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Brand it like Beckham

There was a time a long, long time ago when I cared very deeply about football (soccer, not American. Still don't care about real American football; love it in the movies though.) I knew the teams, the players, the transfer prices, the rules, the leagues, the cups etc., etc. My interest started to wane mid-way through college, and has gone downhill since then. I still read soccer news on the web occasionally, but I haven't been able to recite the standings at the top of each league, like I once used to, for quite a while.

But you don't need to be a soccer fan in the US to know that David Beckham has come to L.A., to play for the L.A Galaxy (a team in the MLS.) The Posh and Becks show has been playing relentlessly on the US news, reality TV and dozens and dozens of magazines.

Beckham is a pretty good football player (yeah, I'm going to call it football for the rest of this post.) There was a time when you could say he was the best footballer on the planet and keep a straight face. Those days, like his innocence, are long gone. Beckham ceased to be just a footballer and became a fashion icon as well, a development most people attribute to Victoria Beckham, cos.. y'know..she's so Posh. It was great for Beckham's popularity and his earnings. How, or if, it affected his game is anybody's guess and always up for debate.

I was pretty skeptical about this whole MLS experiment. Its not a a bad move/payday for Beckham at the end of his career (I love the $1million/week statistic), but was it worth giving up playing against the best players in the world to try and drive up the popularity of a sport.

But as I thought about it, is there a more perfect player to bring to the USA to help popularize football? Clearly, even though data shows that stars do help to popularize a sport, there are reasons to suspect that football in the US and Beckham are not the perfect fit:
  • he isn't anywhere near his best, and
  • he's always been the kind of player that needs others to truly excel. (There are only so many free kicks you get in a game.)
  • His game (except for the kicks) is really hard to appreciate if you don't already have a sense for the sport.
  • And at least the Sun seems to think his new team is really, really bad.
Is the number of wins, he gets the Galaxy going to be worth $250 million? I don't see how, but perhaps the owners do. Bigger picture though, his job is to get people in the US to care about soccer, if not get passionate about it. He and Posh have the star power to get people to care about them, and for their own reasons will continue to do so. For the MLS at this point, its not about getting the best players in the world at this point, or even increasing the quality of play. Either of these things will not immediately help the goal of getting more people to care.

Having someone that people already know about play for you might. And apparently nobody sells it like Beckham. If he does well, it could get people caring and thats probably what MLS officials are praying for.

My favorite Posh n Becks moment is the Ali G video below. Beckham comes across as a really nice, even shy guy, but its clear who the brains of the operation is, ain't it?


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