As a general rule, a retired footballer – even an incredibly famous and successful one – has three or four options when they cease playing professionally these days.
After perhaps one season of marinating in their legacy and enjoying Saturday afternoon pints, they can either go into management (Zinedine Zidane, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Thierry Henry, Wayne Rooney), go into punditry (Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher, Rio Ferdinand), go a bit off the rails (Ronaldinho), disappear almost entirely (Andy Cole, Dennis Bergkamp), or begin hosting Homes Under the Hammer (Dion Dublin).
One thing they have to accept, though, is that they won’t be able to survive on their image and playing reputations forever. Unless, that is, they’re David Beckham. Then you can just make money out of your face forever, apparently.
The extent of Beckham’s personal cache was made plain this week. According to a Companies House filing, “profitable performance” at David Beckham Ventures (DBVL), the brand management company owned by David and Victoria Beckham, meant the couple received a £14.5m dividend in 2019, then a further £7.1m last year. DBVL manages, among other things, Beckham’s partnerships with Adidas and Haig Club whiskey.
In the same period, Victoria Beckham Holdings (VBHL), which manages Posh’s fashion label, saw a seventh straight year of losses, which widened from £12.5m to £16.6m in 2019. Auditors reportedly warned that its reliance on shareholders to prop it up had created a “material uncertainty that may cast doubt on the company’s ability to continue.”
The Beckhams are flush, then, but it appears to be David that’s bringing in the major cash. And for a 45-year-old, long-retired former footballer with few discernible talents outside of the game, that’s a curious thing – especially because the question of whether his massive investment in launching an entirely new football club, mid-pandemic, with Inter Miami will be a success won’t be answered for some time.
Compare DB to other A-list sporting moneymakers and a disparity emerges. Michael Jordan has Nike Air Jordans, which have helped him become a billionaire, and the world’s wealthiest athlete. Usain Bolt is making music in Jamaica, unbothered. Tiger Woods, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Tom Brady Lewis Hamilton – the kind of names you might consider up there with Beckham’s in terms of global recognition – are still competing. But Beckham? Haig Club whiskey, delicious as it probably is, is no Air Jordan.
For the secret to Brand Beckham’s longevity, you could do worse than scroll his Instagram page for clues, starting with the follower count. At 65.2m, he is the most-followed British account on Instagram – double that of Harry Styles, just ahead of Emma Watson and Dua Lipa, and the 39th most-followed page in the world.
At that level, the potential earnings from social media are mind-boggling. Kylie Jenner, the 5th most-followed account on Instagram (she has 211m), is estimated to be earning an average of $986,000 per sponsored post, while Dwayne Johnson, just ahead of her in follower count, gets more than $1m.
Beckham can’t quite compete in that league, but he’s no slouch. According to the estimates of social media analysts Hopper, he pockets $339,000 per post, making him the site’s 23rd highest-earner. And remember, this is a 45-year-old man who has retired from the job that made him famous. Either side of him in the rankings are Billie Eilish, Cardi B, Emma Watson and LeBron James – who are very much all working.
So let’s take a scroll through @davidbeckham. There is Beckham, wearing a chunky knit in his ‘sexy dad’ profile picture, with the simple bio of “Freedom to Dream”, presenting an immaculately curated feed that keeps all the different aspects of his personal brand ticking like a Tudor Black Bay. (Yes, he is a Tudor ambassador. And yes, he Instagrams about it.)
There is Beckham the Adidas man, doing a brief acting job in a paid partnership advert with Paul Pogba and NFL star Patrick Mahomes. There is Beckham the hands-on club owner, nutmegging Inter Miami players half his age in training last week.
There is his 18-year-old second son, Romeo, making his modelling debut on the cover of L’Uomo Vogue, Condé Nast’s quarterly English-Italian menswear magazine. David is “So proud.” There’s a thank-you to Ralph Lauren for the suits.
There is the rest of the family, clapping for the NHS, wearing matching silk Christmas pyjamas and larking about in the Cotswolds. There is Beckham working out topless (he “really hates tricep dips as a finisher”), below which Victoria has written “Wow Wow wow!!! My inspiration in the gym!!!! X kisses”, because they’re married, remember.
There is Beckham cooking. There is Beckham “out on my [his] bike” for a paid partnership with dbeyewear. There is Beckham marvelling at how he is back on the cover of Fifa 21 after all these years, a deal that reportedly earned him £30m merely for the rights to his name and image.
There is a Zoom call with David Attenborough, for some reason. There’s Captain Tom, because of course. And there is James Corden, because where David Beckham goes, James Corden is never far away. They’re good mates, you know.
I could go on, but spend enough time staring at the manicured lifestyle and endorsements of Brand Beckham in its rawest form, Instagram, and it becomes abundantly clear: eight years after retiring, David Beckham’s a 45-year-old influencer, even if he’d never admit it. What a way to make a living.