Brand Beckham and the end of flawless brands

David and Victoria Beckham in leather for the 1999 Versace party
David and Victoria Beckham in leather for the 1999 Versace party

This weekend was a milestone for brands everywhere. One of the strongest – Brand Beckham – admitted they had made a mistake when they wore their matching leather suits to a Versace party in 1999. According to Vogue David  said “I look back on some stuff and think I can’t believe I actually wore that,” he said. “I have no regrets, though – I knew at the time it was good!”

This may not sound too significant at first glance, but I think it is. I really think it is.

In those days, long ago in the life of brands, when glossy and shiny was the norm over today’s more matt black world, brands needed to be flawless. In 2001, this song by The Ones confirmed it.

So what can we learn?

Well, according to, brands now need to show their flaws for their fans to continue to love them. Flawless is no more and brands, flaws and all are where it’s at.

So for me, this move by the Beckham’s only serves to show what a brilliant brand strategy they have been running for years and that it’s an early sign that brands with flaws win.

I’m not sure if I have seen such a seismic shift in brand thinking for years and I think it is so significant a change that it will affect every single brand in the developed world over the coming years.

It’s a big subject, so i’ll be adding more to it soon.

(Thankyou to HolyMoly for the use of the Beckham picture)

The difference between rugby and football as brands

I have loved this Rugby World Cup so far and have been getting up early on a Saturday and Sunday morning to watch the England games. Watching England at football World Cups’ is normally a pub based sport, so seeing the rugby without a drink opens up a whole new way of watching the game and is highlighting the difference between two of our national sports in exceptional clarity.

So what does the rugby brand have that football really needs, if it is to remain as our national sport of choice?

1. Respect. It’s being spoken a lot in the game of football, but never lived. The level of dissent in football is horrific and can be seen every saturday in kids games up and down the country.

2. Ref’s with authority. Related to the above, but the refs are exceptional, make very few mistakes, rely on their ‘fourth official’, have linesmen who help and do see things and manage a game beautifuly.

3. An advantage rule worth the name. In rugby, the advantage has time to work through, or it comes back to them. It’s a genuine advantage and penalises those who break the rules.

4. Players who care. The England Rugby players look and act like they are genuinely proud to be there. Name one player on the football side whose proudest moment is pulling on his England shirt, other than maybe David Beckham?

5. Players who think about the consequences. During a rugby game, there are fists and fights all over the place. At the end of the game, they are all hugs and hapiness. It’s incredible to see and wonderful. If football could breed better losers, they’d have better winners too.

6. They admit when they get it wrong. Tindall has been a proper fool. No doubt about it, but he did confess and not try and put a press gagging superinjunction, to try and hide it. Getting all the bad news out fast is always the best solution in the long run.

7. The management are more honest too. If their team have been dreadful, they say so. Who believes most of what the football managers say in their post match interviews? It was amusingly refreshing to see Neil Warnock after QPR’s 6-0 thrashing to say they were awful and got thrashed – But he is a rule unto himself and always has been.

So what does this say for the future of the rugby and football brands?

To me, it says that rugby is on the way up as it is a brand built on sustainable and real values. Football is built on money. when this stops rolling, or even slows down, there will be massive casualties and many fans walking away.

Looking at the number of kids on a rugby training pitch these days, i’d be very surprised indeed if it doesn’t become an even bigger participation sport than it is today, into the next generation.

The Tiger brand is well and truly tanked

Not one to kick a man when he’s down but some of the numbers that surround Tiger Woods’ sponsorship deals are starting to reach the public domain. So lets look at a few of them and see which ones have a chance of surviving.

1. Gatorade

The Pepsi owned gatorade brand is one of the biggest at with a multi year $100m deal. Gatorade is a drink that aims to promote sports, concentration and clean success. The drink they have created is Gatorade Tiger, which you can see here.

Gatorade Tiger - Put a Tiger in your tank next time you need to perform!

I would imagine, if it’s selling they’ll keep it in their line up anyway and one thing he isn’t short of is coverage at the moment, despite his being in total hiding for over two weeks now.

They announced on Wednesday last that they would be withdrawing it, but that this was nothing to do with his personal problems. It’s a bit of a coincidence though isn’t it.

The long term damage for Gatorade’s brand is to be established but with Pepsi, they will distance themselves very fact if they need to.

2. Accenture

These are the people that just escaped from the corporate clutches of Arthur Andersen that was brought down by the Enron scandal. They have it in their interest to both act and appear to be as clean as clean in a brand sense. Any sniff of a scandal will see them running for the hills.

They have just removed the Woods image that has been on rotation on their front page of their website. Oops.

3. Gillette

Thierry Henry is allowed to cheat and put France through to the World cup finals and deprive Ireland from their chance to progress and yet he still seems to be acceptable to the brand.

But infidelity runs deeper and hits harder. We become a prudy bunch in the uK and the US even more so, so Gillette may well drop him altogether.

Or will they?

When Thierry had his affair with celebrity make-up artist, Sadie Hewlett, they didn’t drop him then, so maybe Tiger will survive.

Gillette's Roger,  Thierry and Tiger - a really wholesome bunch of gents
Gillette's Roger, Thierry and Tiger - a really wholesome bunch of gents

I guess all eyes are on Roger Federer now to keep his end up (so to speak) and to see if they can make it a full house of cheats. Gillette hve aid they will be cutting back the role that Tiger plays in their promotional material.

4. Nike

Nike is obviously one of the names he’s most closely associated with and he appears to still be at least listed on their site.

It’s hard to say how high profile he was on this site before, but he’s now only listed under their athletes and even then he is last on the list. There are no other pictures of him on the front pages of the site at all.

That sounds expensive.

5. EA Sports

Tiger Woods golf for the Wii, is one of the only computer games I have ever played and I loved it. Its worth over $60m as a brand and I don’t believe this will take one tiny hint of damage. Maybe they’ll push him on the deal next time they renegotiate, but who else have they got in the game that is anywhere near as high profile?

6. Summary

There’s obviously others like Swiss watch maker TAG Heuer and AT&T who all help with his $100m a year sponsorship income, but for me, after this does down a little, most if not all will stick by him as a brand spokesperson if he continues to be good for their business.

He needs to realign his own brand a little. He can’t really claim the moral high ground anymore and he will struggle massively with some mainstream family brands, but if he adjusts his position to be a little more ‘laddy’ and works the media a little, he can possibly recover his status.

David Beckham did it by concentrating on being good at what he does and by being photographed everywhere with his kids, looking like he’s having fun.

Hot off the press

It’s just been announced that Accenture will be withdrawing from the deal with Tiger, stating that he is no longer the right representative for their brand. It looks like they are being as sensitive about any potential bad press as I thought they maybe. There will now be others following. Expect Gatorade to go more public pretty soon.