I’ve actually waited so long to post this that it has indeed become old news at this point, which goes along with what I had to say anyway. If you’ve kept up with the news last week, you probably heard about David Beckham’s emails and I know what you’re thinking: oh great, another email scandal. Backstory: emails were released as blackmail to show that David Beckham’s charitable acts haven’t been 100% for the feeling of doing good, rather they were to get a knighthood and other personal benefits. Beckham’s PR team first stated that the emails had been doctored and taken out of context, and then it was revealed that he was being blackmailed and upon refusing to pay, the emails were released. Along with being upset that his title hasn’t changed to Sir David Beckham, the former footballer also had some choice words to say about fellow celebs, which were not flattering for either party. Let me just start this post with my take: the media is hungry for a Beckham scandal and have really tried to drag this one out to make it seem bigger than it actually is. Also, it’s going to take a lot more than this to take down Brand Beckham.
Now, as a fan of the Beckham family, I must say the revelation that David Beckham isn’t a total angel didn’t strike me as shocking; I study celebs and know that celebrities preserve and build their brands by doing certain things they may not always be up for, so I always assume there’s more to every move than meets the eye. The remarks he made regarding other celebrities are a different story; when anyone talks ill of others, it is done to make themselves feel better and I personally see it as a form of jealousy and frustration with themselves. Think about the last time a coworker or friend complained that someone else got a promotion they didn’t deserve, or a love interest is dating someone terrible when your friend is so available. Yes, this is a different situation, but the basic idea remains the same: we talk down others to make ourselves feel better. Language is important here for Beckham because he chose to use a specific word that isn’t accepted in society for many reasons, and for that I understand the outrage. However, I also think a lot of people just get where he’s coming from or those who didn’t really care about him to begin with are going to use this as a reason to continue their disdain for him.
From a PR perspective, I think Mr. Beckham should have apologised from the beginning, stating his frustrations but ultimate desire to do better because of his position and the connections he has made over his career. I understand that what David Beckham wrote in those emails isn’t good for his image and frankly makes him look greedy and ungrateful, but the reality is that this isn’t the worst that can come out of Brand Beckham and that is why it won’t destroy the British family of six and their empire. The Beckhams and their children have their hands in so many different brand deals and arenas of entertainment that one email blemish like this will blow over soon (edit: I wrote this last week and yeah, it pretty much already blew over). Another good PR move was that UNICEF released a statement in support of Beckham and his charitable acts and donations. Although the statement was released quite early on and before all the colourful language came out, it shows that UNICEF appreciates the relationship they have with Beckham and that despite what the emails say, Beckham has actually done a lot to help the charity.
At the end of the day, these were private emails from a public figure expressing his frustration at not receiving better recognition for his work and while embarrassing, I think we can all understand what it’s like to air out your grievances via a keyboard in unpleasant ways with people you trust. I do think the media is blowing up the emails because we live in a world where somehow (and I will NEVER understand this, but that’s another story), Hillary Clinton’s emails cost her an election and where the Beckhams rarely ever have a hair out of place. The media is treading on the political coattails of 2016’s massive email news and trying to make us continue thinking that the release of someone’s personal emails should be our concern.
No, David Beckham shouldn’t have said these things and yes, he, and all public figures, must unfortunately be more careful of what they send into the digital sphere, but he’s human and it’s not the worst thing in the world. Brand Beckham has spanned decades of allowing each member to test new waters and flourish, all with the support of the entire clan behind them. Romeo lands a Burberry festive campaign and VB wears the brand to brunch the next day or Cruz sings a Christmas song for charity and David shares a recording of his son’s first radio listen. Certain words may not be the ideal choices for a “family man,” but the Beckhams are built on family unity and unwavering support for one another, so until an email is released that goes against that, the Beckhams are here to stay. A formal apology from David and a continued presence in charitable work will go a long way in preserving his image and maintaining the rest of the family’s, but I doubt this will even be news in two weeks (surprise: it’s not). While I think he should have given a formal apology, I also think he did a good job by just letting the story ride the media waves until it faded out and he could move on. This also came at a time when the whole family was in New York for VB’s fashion show, so personal Instagram snaps of him spending time with his children while VB prepared for the show coupled with media images of the family sitting front row did a lot to shift the narrative. This is an excellent learning point for someone like me who is interested in celel branding and PR because where there are celebs, there must also be crisis management.