Public relations car crash that will wipe the smug smile off his face

ALISON BOSHOFF: After THAT speeding fine dodge, is it all over for brand Beckham?

Former football superstar David Beckham pictured arriving at Paris Gare du Nord in Paris yesterday

Once David Beckham was a hero; a football superstar known for his squeaky voice, love of fashion, ever-changing hairstyles and devotion to his young family.

Even then, there were signs of narcissism (those endless photoshoots of him in his underpants) and of his growing ego (the home-made ‘coat of arms’ on his and Victoria’s wedding invitations, and that first money-spinning endorsement deal with Adidas).

His old boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, never considered him world-class, but he and his Manchester United teammates persuaded us that he was a 24-carat superstar.

Yet who, now, could honestly say they even like David Beckham?

After a near 20-year wealth creation scheme that, thanks to his ever-expanding commercial deals, has enriched him and his family to the tune of £340 million, and a disastrous campaign to obtain a knighthood which ended with him calling the honours committee ‘unappreciative ****s’, comes a new low.

He was recorded pelting through West London on a dark January evening in a loaned Bentley supercar at 59 miles an hour in a 40mph zone.

Did this man, one of the wealthiest and most high-profile figures in the country, who enjoys his status as a role model, express regret that he had broken the law and potentially put other road users at risk? Of course not.

Instead, he employed the notorious ‘Mr Loophole’ to get him off the speeding charge on a technicality, by saying he hadn’t received paperwork on time.

Solicitor Nick Freeman, who specialises in clearing his famous clients of speeding charges, ended up arguing in court on Wednesday over whether a first or second-class stamp had been used on the ‘notice of prosecution’, such was his determination to get his client off.

The grubby evasion probably cost Beckham around £20,000 in fees. He may have felt it was good value to avoid getting up to six points on his licence and a fine.

However, the footballer, who left Chingford High school at 16 after failing his GCSEs, does not seem to have realised that the affair will almost certainly cost him the knighthood he craves.


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How else to explain his statement after the hearing — which, incidentally, he did not attend: ‘I am very relieved and very happy with my legal team.’

It seems Beckham’s PR team either did not expect the public backlash or were too feeble to tell him this course of action would be a public relations disaster.

The public reaction has been instant and overwhelmingly negative. Thousands of people have felt moved to express their incredulity at his reckless behaviour and failure to take any responsibility for it.

One wrote: ‘How to destroy your public image in one easy lesson. I wonder how much this will cost him in lost sponsorship and advertising revenue? Certainly no less than he deserves. What an idiot.’

Another posted: ‘Beckham relieved at avoiding a fine for speeding. The rest of us relieved that he didn’t hit a man, woman or child while driving at 59mph in a 40 mph zone.’

Indeed, Beckham’s lack of self-knowledge is such that he actually Instagrammed his 51.1 million followers to complain about slow London traffic on the day his lawyer was helping him to avoid responsibility.

By the time the hearing ended, Beckham was in Paris at the fashion shows with his wife. He was sporting a particularly smug expression, what seems to be a freshly dyed beard and a beanie hat over that peculiar looking head of hair.

Victoria Beckham posted an Instagram picture of a £1,300 bottle of wine the couple were sharing on ‘date night’ just hours after his hearing ended

Victoria later posted an Instagram picture of the bottle of wine the couple were sharing on ‘date night’. The Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits costs a staggering £1,300.

She, too, seems blind to the fact that such egregious boasting makes the couple look like a pair of grubby chancers rather than the global powerhouse of taste she would have us believe.

In all, the affair of Beckham and the bent rules almost beggars belief and will surely mark a souring point in people’s relationship with the couple.

As another member of the public posted: ‘David Beckham is happy to speed in urban areas, putting third parties at mortal risk, and allow his lawyers to get him off on a technicality. He then wonders in vulgar terms why a knighthood is not forthcoming. Boycott Beckham endorsements.’

Even Nick Freeman, who got him off the conviction, said yesterday it was clear that ‘from a moral standpoint’ the former footballer was in the wrong. Mr Freeman told the BBC’s Today programme yesterday: ‘It was made quite clear from the very start that Mr Beckham didn’t dispute that he was speeding.

‘Anyone who accepts that they were the driver and they were speeding, you would think in the normal course from a moral standpoint they should be convicted. But if the law of the land, the law laid down by our Government, says “no, actually”…’

In truth, though, the affair merely serves to highlight the most unpalatable parts of the Brand Beckham phenomenon.

This, after all, is a man so shameless that he took the occasion of his wife receiving an OBE last year to plug a brand of whisky he endorses. ‘Haig Club Clubman kind of night,’ he posted on Instagram as he took his family to dinner that evening, after meeting the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace.

This is a man so driven by money that he sought tax relief by investing in the Ingenious film scheme, and by claiming non-domiciled status. The tax scheme counted as a ‘red flag’ against him in the 2014 honours when he was put forward for a knighthood, but not given one.

This is a man who, as emails between him and his publicist Simon Oliveira, leaked in 2017, reveal, said he wouldn’t consider anything less than a knighthood from the honours committee. He raged: ‘Unless it’s a knighthood, **** off.’

This is also a man who privately poured scorn on a fellow celebrity who was awarded an honour by the Queen. He said, nastily: ‘Katherine Jenkins OBE for what? Singing at the rugby and going to see the troops, plus admitting to taking coke… ****ing joke and if you get asked we should think of a cutting remark.’

This is a man who demanded a private jet to fly him to watch his son play football after appearing on a chat show.

This is a man who couldn’t attend a charity event with the Queen because he was non-domiciled for tax reasons at the time.

Solicitor Nick Freeman, also known as Mr Loophole, arrives at The Court House, in Wimbledon, where he is representing former England captain David Beckham over a speeding offence

And this is a man who paid £250,000 in legal fees to settle a libel action against a newspaper that alleged an affair with his former PA.

Maybe the real wonder is that so many people fell for his superficial charm for so long.

The media played its part, of course. Publications such as GQ have long lionised him as the ultimate style icon and the acme of fashionable masculinity.

More recently, he has relentlessly hammered home his status as a loving family man by posting snaps of his four children.

 But ultimately, the building of his family’s £340 million personal fortune has only been possible because he has sold Brand Beckham so effectively. And make no mistake, it has been a money-spinning phenomenon.

Forbes magazine estimates that in one year Beckham earned £52 million just from lending his name, face and body to all sorts of commercial ventures.

Among his deals have been an endorsement with Rolex watches, and co-ventures with Kent & Curwen clothing and L’Oreal, who have backed his grooming line. He advertises many other products too, from the whisky to cars.

It remains to be seen what his sponsors will make of the public backlash following this week’s speeding case.

Critics have complained that his behaviour following his retirement from football in 2013 has amounted to a cynical cash-n-grab.

He spends much of his time flying around the globe to press the flesh with his sponsors.

At the start of this week he was in China, where he launched his grooming range. Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson said recently: ‘David Beckham is spreading himself thinly and incongruously across a contradictory range of different brands.’ Some of the endorsements have been baffling on every level except the financial one.

Beckham had never been seen with a whisky in his hand before drinks giant Diageo opened its wallet. In an interview, he explained: ‘It’s one of those things that when I sat down with the guys at Diageo, I said I really want to be a whisky drinker. I really want to be that person!’

His Haig Club and Haig Clubman whisky, blended to appeal to the massive Asian market and mix well in coca-cola, is said to earn him more than £5 million a year.

Along similar lines is his venture with Kent & Curwen, a venerable British country clothing brand which is now ultimately owned by the billionaire Fung family from Hong Kong.

Beckham has been happy to plug it as if it were as British as fish and chips. The deal gives him a slice of the action via his company Seven Global. He said: ‘I consider myself very English, I’m proud of being English and this is a brand that represents British heritage.’

He earns around £4 million a year for ambassadorial work for the Chinese company Luneng. He also is the face of Chinese football and of China’s biggest vehicle leasing company — and of Sands casinos in Singapore and Las Vegas.

Ruth Mortimer, content director for the magazine Marketing Week, said: ‘Brands see Beckham as the perfect vehicle. He brings together talent, good looks, family, celebrity status and likeability. Those elements mean he’s actually more valuable now than when he was on the pitch.’

Even Nick Freeman, who got him off the conviction, said yesterday it was clear that ‘from a moral standpoint’ the former footballer was in the wrong 

He is the global ambassador for L’Oreal’s Biotherm Homme line and has also developed grooming range 99 House with L’Oreal.

Throw in his lifetime Adidas deal, a new arrangement to wear Rolex watches and his long-running deal with Coty, who make his cheap and cheerful aftershaves, and you have a massive marketing career.

So far, so lucrative. But Beckham has gone a step further by allowing his oldest three children to join in the money-making.

Son Romeo has fronted Burberry’s Christmas advertising campaign, earning £45,000; Cruz has released a Christmas single, while eldest son Brooklyn, a drop-out from Parsons School of Design in New York, has worked as a model and released a book of photography.

The recent cover of Vogue magazine — which showed Victoria with her four children, minus David — was explained by some as a gift from Victoria to little Harper, who can now say that she, too, has been on the cover.

Talk about the state of the couple’s marriage reached fever pitch during the summer, though, and it is clear that they spend an awful lot of time apart.

The pair have been through several alleged scandals over the years. The first came in 2004 when Rebecca Loos, Beckham’s former PA, ‘told all’ about an alleged affair with him.

Subsequently, a beautician called Danielle Heath claimed to have had an affair with David, and the couple’s nanny, Abbie Gibson, sold her story, revealing the couple’s poisonous rows and saying Victoria had confided that she had considered separating. The Beckhams denied these allegations, too.

Beckham rolling in his flash Bentley with his son Brooklyn in Notting Hill

In recent years more denials have been required over friendships with the opera singer Katherine Jenkins and socialites Poppy Delevingne and Lady Mary Charteris.

At times, the Beckhams do a very good impression of two people who are miserable in each other’s company. He is strangely stony-faced in pictures of them together, and at times has seemed to mock her on social media.

When the couple attended the Royal Wedding in May, she was utterly sombre.

The night before, he and Victoria were at Soho Farmhouse. At some point in the evening he ended up buying shots for a stunning brunette, who took a selfie with David and tagged him in a post, writing ‘Thanks for the shots’.

At present, David is propping up his wife’s loss-making fashion business — recent accounts show that DB Ventures gave £8.5 million to Victoria Beckham Limited. As he rather pointedly said on Instagram: ‘I’m happy to be in a position to support her dreams.’

But, after this latest disgrace, you really have to wonder how much longer the public will continue buying into the tarnished Brand Beckham.

 

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