This week, Bloomberg Businessweek released its Power 100 ranking of the most prominent athletes in America. Only two football players made it: Landon Donovan came in at 40th — on the strength of his exposure from the World Cup — and David Beckham… of course.
Becks came in at 19th… which is not bad, but it’s not great. He came ahead of Derek Jeter (Mr. Yankee himself), Venus Williams, NFL photographer Brett Favre and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (America luuuuuvvvvvs its NASCAR!!!).
David Beckham the Brand has become bigger than David Beckham the Player ever was. The high-profile wife, the high-profile teams, the high-profile switch to the MLS. Becks is photogenic, scandal-free (lately) and is one of the few soccer players who will get stopped on the streets of North America. He’s a marketers dream… which is why the MLS inked a major deal to make him the poster boy for the LA Galaxy and, by proxy, the League itself.
Except it hasn’t exactly worked out that way. Becks hasn’t played nearly as much as he was supposed to, focusing more on his waning England career… and trying to get as much continental football to fight for his place on the Three Lions. That quixotic quest led him to infamously tear his Achilles tendon while playing for Milan… excluding him from the World Cup AND his MLS obligations. He tried to earn a temporary place back in England this winter… but the Galaxy are apparently getting fed up with his wantaway ways.
Becks’ signing with El Lay hasn’t exactly brought the intended stampede of Europeans to American airports either. Lots of fading players give lip service to wanting to end their careers here, but that’s all it’s been… lip service. And those who have come have become anonymous. Thierry Henry — the world’s greatest striker in his day — claims to take the New York subway to home games and practices, travelling unaccosted.
Becks’ ranking indeed shows his marketing power… and his marketing potential. But with only one other player on the list — an American who is a regular squad member in any big European club — it goes to show you how far football/soccer still has to go in the eyes of the North American consumer.