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Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
PARIS (AP) — David Beckham’s pecs are at least as much a part of his brand as his kick; his brand of shoes ultimately more lucrative than the game he’s giving up. Listed as the world’s highest-earning athlete for 2013, Beckham’s retirement from play still leaves him with valuable endorsements and unparalleled celebrity. The question is whether he can maintain it.
Only a few athletes, once their job is preceded by ‘ex,’ manage to maintain a connection with fans: Those who have carefully built up their image beforehand.
Michael Jordan retired from basketball for the third time in 2003 and turned 50 this year. His eponymous Nike brand — a partnership that dates back to the first days after he left the University of North Carolina for the Chicago Bulls — is still going strong. The Jordan brand makes up nearly 60 percent of the American basketball shoe market, and a significant part of the estimated $80 million that Jordan reportedly earns each year from ventures that also include deals with Hanes and Gatorade, according to Forbes magazine.
At the height of his popularity, Jordan “was just inescapable, and I think Beckham has had that kind of quality up to now,” said Ellis Cashmore, a British sociologist and author of the book “Beckham.”
Even having given up his salary at Paris Saint-Germain, the French soccer club where he’s ending his career, Beckham topped this year’s Sports Illustrated list of 20 highest-earning international athletes (his estimated $48 million in earnings — most from sponsorship — would rank third on the magazine’s list if American athletes are also included). He has deals with Adidas, Samsung and H&M and has his own cologne. The UK’s Sunday Times Sports Rich Lost puts his estimated wealth at some 165 million pounds ($250 million).
The question, Cashmore said, is whether his celebrity will last once he’s no longer on the field.
“Beckham was the first athlete to transcend sport,” he said. “Leaving soccer is a little bit of a gamble because they don’t know if Beckham decoupled from his sport is going to be as powerful as a brand.”
Tiger Woods, whose career arc looked a lot like Beckham’s until it imploded in marital scandals, is still having a hard time reconnecting with fans — and endorsements. The 37-year-old earned a reported $40 million, according to the Sports Illustrated tally this year, and Nike is using him in television ads again. But this year’s survey reported just $33 million in endorsements, down from $105 million in 2007.
Thanks to his years with the LA Galaxy, Beckham’s popularity is high even in the U.S., where soccer runs distinctly behind basketball, baseball and football, according to Henry Schafer, executive vice president Q Scores Company, which measures celebrity awareness and popularity.
But he’ll have a hard time matching the endurance of Jordan who — a decade after retirement — tops the Q Score list of all athletes, Schafer said. Woods was the only athlete to come close to surpassing the former Chicago Bull, Schafer said, and that’s no longer even a remote possibility.
As for Beckham, “I would put him in the category as having the right qualities to extend his playing days,” said Schafer, who said former NBA star Magic Johnson, NHL player Wayne Gretzky and boxing great Muhammad Ali among the other top retired athletes who’ve kept up their images.
Brand Beckham, however, isn’t just David. His wife Victoria runs a fashion house which is beginning to gain traction. And there’s a rising generation of Beckhams as well: eldest son Romeo features in ads for Burberry’s spring/summer 2013 collection.
Jean-Noel Kapferer, a marketing analyst at HEC, warned Beckham’s glow could fade unless he shows he’s putting in an effort.
“Up to now, the image of David Beckham balanced between the tangible — the presence on the field of an exceptional player with a magic touch — and the intangible — the handsome guy who imprints his style on modern man,” he told the French newspaper l’Equipe. “The risk for him is that he’s not doing anything but making money.”
If nothing else, Cashmore said, Beckham — who owns a company called Beckham Brand Ltd. — has inculcated a new generation of athletes to think far into their futures, beyond the actual game.
“Gone are the Chariots of Fire days of the 1920s,” he said. Now, in large part because of Beckham, the question even young teens with talent ask themselves is more calculating: “How am I going to monetize myself?”
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)