Soccer-Beckham brand built to withstand retirement

LONDON Thu May 16, 2013 2:05pm EDT

LONDON May 16 (Reuters) - David Beckham's easy charm and image as a family man will ensure the brand built up by Britain's richest sportsman will prosper long after the end of his playing days.

The former England captain, 38, said on Thursday he was retiring from professional soccer after a brief encore in Europe with Qatari-owned Paris St Germain, the French champions.

A study by the Sunday Times newspaper last month estimated Beckham's fortune at 165 million pounds ($253 million), not counting the sums earned by wife Victoria, a pop star turned fashion designer.

With his playing career winding down, Beckham has been striking new deals which have seen him take on more of an ambassadorial role, promoting soccer in China and encouraging people to play sports in a partnership with British pay TV company BSkyB.

His wealth has been built on a rare ability to strike a soccer ball and an unusual combination of celebrity and humility that has made him an adman's dream.

"For ordinary people, Beckham is an aspirational brand," said Simon Chadwick, professor of sports marketing at Coventry University in central England. "He comes across as a normal guy who has a stable family but has managed to combine it with glamour and a high profile career."

Beckham made his name at Manchester United under manager Alex Ferguson who too retired from soccer last week. The floppy-haired young midfielder's profile grew as the English Premier League acquired a huge global television audience.

His playing career took him to top European clubs Real Madrid and AC Milan. A five-year spell with LA Galaxy ensured that his fame spread across the Atlantic and helped build a fan base in North America.

LIFE AFTER SOCCER

Managed by the XIX Entertainment group that has British motor racing driver Lewis Hamilton and Olympic tennis champion Andy Murray on its books, Beckham has been carefully planning for life after soccer.

"It's fair to say that Beckham has not been selling himself as a footballer for some time," said Joel Seymour-Hyde, of sports marketing agency Octagon.

Beckham has capitalised on his film-star looks and athlete's body to market underwear for Swedish fashion chain H&M and luxury watches for Swiss manufacturer Breitling.

There are signs too that the younger Beckhams are following in their parents' footsteps on the catwalk and soccer pitch.

One of their sons, Romeo, got a job as a model for fashion chain Burberry last year aged only 10. Teenager Brooklyn Beckham has been pictured training with youth teams at Chelsea and PSG.

Some media reports have suggested Beckham senior might one day buy a stake in an MLS soccer team in the United States.

Seymour-Hyde said Beckham's sporting career showed he had the strength of character and ambition to broaden his business horizons beyond working as a frontman for others.

"The ambassadorial stuff is relatively straightforward for him. He might eventually look for something more hands-on, a product or an event," he said.

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