Jeremy Bullmore was the first to point out how well Victoria Adams understood brands.
As a little girl she said to her mum “I want to be as famous as Persil Automatic”.
Not a princess, not a film star, not a pop star.
Before most of us even knew what a brand was.
That was highlighted recently in Alex Ferguson’s book.
Ferguson said David Beckham could have been a truly great footballer.
But he fell in love with Posh Spice and that changed everything.
“David was the only player I ever managed who chose to be famous, who made it his mission to be known outside the game.”
Although he didn’t know it, he’s referring to her building a brand.
Suddenly, while the rest of the team were being photographed in jeans, Beckham would be wearing a sarong.
And it would be all over the front pages of the national press.
On the front pages, unlike Ferguson and the team.
While the back pages would feature Manchester United’s European Cup results, the front pages would feature David Beckham’s new Mohican haircut.
He became the first metrosexual.
The papers couldn’t get enough news about the couple, they became known simply as Posh and Becks.
Their house was labelled ‘Beckingham Palace’.
And it drove Ferguson mad.
While Man Utd was playing in a cold wet night in Manchester, a supposedly injured Beckham was posing at a movie premier in London with Hollywood celebrities.
David Beckham became bigger than football.
People in America and South East Asia, who didn’t know anything about the game, knew David Beckham.
Victoria Beckham had him launch a range of male fragrances and pose seductively like a male model, oiled up and wearing next to nothing.
The opportunity she spotted was to sell a man’s fragrance to women, to buy for their men.
Women wanted their men to smell like this gorgeous hunk, men didn’t mind because he was a great footballer.
But then Beckham had a final row with Ferguson and had to move to another club.
The problem for the Beckham brand was that any club was a step down from Man Utd.
Almost any club.
The Beckhams arranged a transfer to Real Madrid, the most famous club in the world.
It looked like a massive step up for brand Beckham.
In truth it was no risk for Real Madrid, because whatever he cost they would more than make up for it in Beckham shirt sales alone.
Then, when Beckham became too old to play at the top level in Europe, Victoria had him move to LA Galaxy in California.
To be seen to be part of the glitter and glamour of Hollywood.
To be photographed while celebrities like Tom Cruise watched him play.
Now David Beckham’s football career is over, but brand Beckham is bigger than ever.
They are jointly worth around a quarter of a billion dollars.
I hadn’t realised how truly international brand-Beckham is until I saw this irate tweet from a Chinese Man Utd fan with 9,000 followers:
@BeijingRed4Lyf: FERGIE PISS ME OFF TALKING BAD OF BECKHAM TO SELL BOOK MAYBE WHEN FERGIE HAS OWN FRAGRANCE & LINE OF UNDERPANTS THEN HE HAVE CHINA’S RESPECT
Alex Ferguson understands football, but Victoria Beckham understands marketing a brand.
Dave Trott is chairman, The Gate, London
The article first appeared on Campaignlive.co.uk