No one likes a show-off. Even if you’ve won 19 major trophies in a 20 year football career and have reinvented yourself into a $1bn empire spanning fashion, music and film, it isn’t a good look to cry out for recognition.
Yet any obituary of Brand Beckham in light of the email leak is staggeringly premature. If the brand were a publically listed company its share price would be having more a wobble than a tumble. David Beckham has constructed a vehicle infinitely bigger than himself. The revelation that not all of his charitable endeavours were a 100% motivated by self-flagellating altruism is embarrassing. But it’ll take a lot more to bring him down.
The combination of fat cat charities, liberal luuvies and royal gongs makes for Daily Mail fever pitch – but to most folk it’s all a bit so what. Maybe, some might say, he does deserve the knighthood, not least for his work to bring the Olympics to London.
Granted, the Team Beckham response could have been sharper. Pleas that the millionaire model and sportsman is just a “normal” guy getting frustrated could be the wittiest thing Becks has ever said had he been joking. The issue is one of messages that were written in the heat of the moment being taken out of context. This is something that anyone caught up in an email blunder will sympathise with. Attempts to spin that the messages were somehow doctored beggar belief and come straight from the book of “alternative facts”. Beckham doesn’t need to invalidate what is reported because for much of the public the media, from post-hacking to post-truth, has invalidated itself. The same goes for an honours system that desperately clings to fame and success in order to stay vaguely relevant. What do you need to do to get a gong… other than being a Tory party donor?
Any hit to the Beckham image will be easily absorbed by the global dimensions of the brand, stretching deep into South East Asia and the Americas. His dynasty has brought the family name across multiple channels and to new audiences for whom Beckham the footballer is a prehistoric event. A knighthood for David would be personal glory but hardly affect the million dollar revenue streams that the Beckham clan have accumulated.
The more concerning issue is that Beckham’s PR operation couldn’t see this story for what is –a minor parochial ripple. Instead there was a heavy-handed injunction the prevent The Sunday Times from publishing the leak. In the age of social media attempts to stifle “Free Speech” will only serve to inflate the story and further tarnish the brand. Better to let it die of natural causes. If there is one thing we can be sure of it’s that we will see more leaks of this kind as long as we continue to fight twenty-first centuries battles against cyber thieves with twentieth century tools. Let then Beckham’s blunder be a lesson to us all.
Mark Borkowski is the founder of Borkowski.do. He tweets @MarkBorkowski