Brand Beckham in the Spotlight Again

Will His Reputation Survive the Leaked Emails?

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David Beckham is the latest celebrity to find his reputation compromised by a hack. Approximately 18.6 million emails were stolen - including the British football star’s personal accounts - and published by Football Leaks, a sport-centred equivalent of Wiki-Leaks. The alleged emails seem to show a petulant Beckham angry at the Honours Committee for their failure to grant him a knighthood and resentful of the money he gives to charity, in direct contrast to the global icon’s public personae which portrays him as a humble football star proud to use his success to support UNICEF.

Beckham’s publicity team has reacted quickly to counter the leak, claiming the emails were taken out of context and ‘doctored’ to present a false picture. One of London’s top cyber-security firms, Marclay Associates, has been engaged to help track down the hacker and Beckham’s publicist, Simon Oliveira, has allegedly discussed an investigation with the British police. Yet once a story like this finds its way onto the internet, reputation damage happens quickly and is difficult to undo. Whether or not the emails were authentically written by Beckham, once published they will undoubtedly detract from his personal-brand. At ReputationDefender, we work hard to detect privacy issues before a leak takes place so damaging material never makes its way onto the web.

Beckham’s Public Image

David Beckham is arguably the best-known football star in the world. He has played with clubs in Manchester, Madrid, Milan, Paris and Los Angeles, and earned national titles in four countries: England, Spain, France and the United States. He was captain of the English National Team for six years, during which time he played in three different FIFA World Cup tournaments and two UEFA European Championships.

Beckham’s appeal goes beyond sports. The 2002 film Bend it Like Beckham told a heart-warming story and highlighted his ability to score with a free-kick at the same time. Beckham himself made appearances in all three Goal! movies: a cameo in The Dream Begins and larger roles in Living the Dream and Taking on the World. In the 2003 movie Love Actually, David Beckham’s right foot was humorously mentioned as “one of Britain’s national treasures.”

Throughout his career Beckham has been known as a high earner. In 2013, he was listed among the best-paid sports players in the world with a total income of over $50 million throughout the previous year. However, he has continued to counter-balance personal profit by using his celebrity status in the service of charity. Beckham has been a UNICEF ambassador for the UK since 2005 and in 2015 he started his own foundation, The David Beckham UNICEF Fund.

The Emails Tell a Different Story

David Beckham’s retirement in 2013 did nothing to diminish his popularity. His documentary For the Love of the Game was released in 2016 to broad appeal. Many fans were confident he would receive the title of ‘Sir’ last year. However, despite having a 2/1 chance according to the bookies at the time, Beckham has not yet been awarded a knighthood.

The most damaging emails deal with this disappointment, including several expletive-laden tirades sent to Oliveira in which Beckham allegedly claimed he “would have got something like this 10 years ago” if he was American and berated the decision to award the classical Welsh singer, Kathryn Jenkins, OBE in 2013 (Beckham himself already received this title in 2003).

Another email undoes much of Beckham’s profile as a charity donor by railing against a suggestion that he give $1 million to a UNICEF fund dinner. “If there was no fund, the money would be for me” argues the writer of the email.

What Happens to the Beckham Brand?

Beckham’s team has reacted quickly on a variety of fronts. An investigation is under discussion with the British police and a probe has also been launched in Portugal, where Oliveira’s headquarters is located. By tracking down the hackers as soon as possible, Beckham may be able to prevent further releases which could expose more damaging material.

The official word from Beckham’s PR team is that the emails are altered to misrepresent the exchanges. A close friend supposedly told The Mirror that Beckham wasn’t as “vitriolic” as he appears in the emails, but may have made some negative comments “in the heat of the moment.” Overall, friends have claimed Beckham does not really care much about the title.

Unless these emails are fully discredited, it's likely they will detract from Beckham’s impressive record. Many diehard fans will, of course, remain loyal, but those beyond the sports-arena who have come to know him as an ambassador of goodwill through football may find the message tarnished.

However, regardless of the motive, Beckham’s charity foundation has already accomplished a lot. Since 2015, more than £4.3 million has gone to help children in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, it’s impossible to deny that Beckham’s talent for football has been a credit to his country on many different levels. Whether the leaked emails do affect his chances of achieving a knighthood in the future remains to be seen.

Image courtesy of  Àlex Roig Mangues

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Posted on 02 March 2017 by Christina Hamilton

Tagged reputation, brand