From the top · 30 March 2017

Entrepreneurial lessons from the business empire of David and Victoria Beckham

David and Victoria Beckham
David and Victoria Beckham are reported to have a combined wealth greater than the Royal Family

Arguably Britain’s most recognisable living couple, David and Victoria Beckham built an enviable business empire outside of the football and pop stardom that made them famous.

Alongside a 20-year career in top football leagues around the world, David became the face of marketing campaigns for brands such as Adidas and Coca-Cola, before adding his own aftershave and clothing lines to his portfolio.

Meanwhile, Victoria created a fashion label after the Spice Girls disbanded that is now recognised globally. Victoria’s personal success saw her recently receive an OBE for services to UK fashion, recognition awarded to David in 2003.

Experts have estimated that the Beckhams’ joint business ventures bring in revenue worth £30m and £40m a year. In September 2015, analysts put a figure of £508m on the couple’s shared wealth.

“What is also interesting is that the family name is almost as influential as any individual family member. The Beckham name has the Midas touch,” explained Anton Dominique of the London School of Marketing, attempting to pin down the power of the couple’s unique personal brand.

We’ve taken a look at the lessons ambitious entrepreneurs can apply to their own companies from the ventures of Posh and Becks.

Go international

David Beckham’s career as a footballer saw him win major honours in England, Spain, the United States and France – the first Englishman to win league titles in four different countries. His international success set him apart from his peers and this visibility helped him establish his brand globally.

Victoria Beckham’s determination for international business success has seen her launch products as far afield as Tokyo, and her clothing label is a regular fixture at New York’s Fashion Week. She also used her expertise to guest-edit an edition of Vogue in France and has spoken at design schools in New York.

The growing capabilities of ecommerce, mobility and technology mean doing business on a global scale is now more accessible than ever and achievable for businesses of any size.

Well-oiled PR machine

The reputation of a business is intrinsically tied to its success, and “brand Beckham” has experienced its fair share of press attention.

A strong PR machine and positive public appearance has seen David and Victoria Beckham shrug off potentially damaging press scandals. In 2004, David dismissed one infamous story as “ludicrous”, and the allegation failed to land a blow on the pair’s public image.

A good PR game is vital for any small business owner. DIY PR can be just as effective as the powerful team behind the Beckham empire, if managed correctly.

Work ethic

The careers of David and Victoria Beckham are a masterclass in strong work ethic. By 2003, David had already signed a lifetime contract with Adidas worth $130m, but his desire to compete at the top level saw him continue his professional football career for another decade. 

Victoria, meanwhile, oversaw the operations of her London-based fashion company while moving around the world with her family.

Natural ability can only get one so far in the sporting and business worlds. Successful footballers are put through daily training regimes, and Victoria treated her occasionally derided solo music career as a building block rather than a set-back.

“I was never a natural,” Beckham once said of her business outlook. I got there in the end because I did believe that if you work hard enough, then you can achieve a lot.”

Clearly, balancing the books hasn’t all been plain sailing, and the husband and wife duo are as susceptible as any business owner to a poor trading period. In January 2017, it was reported that Victoria Beckham’s fashion brand filed a loss of £4.6m. 

Franchising

In an ambitious move, David Beckham has attempted to expand his business empire into franchising.

With a keen eye on the future, Beckham incorporated a discounted “franchise fee” when singing for Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007. The clause gave him the option of entering a team into the Major League Soccer franchise for a cut-price $25m.

Despite his Miami Beckham United ownership group buying land in Florida, the dream looks to be fading. However, Beckham’s attempted step into franchising is inspiration for entrepreneurs seeking a profitable and secure business model to invest in.

Do it for the love

Every business needs to make money, but the life of an entrepreneur is often tough and uncertain. The perseverance to start and scale a company needs to come from passion, not just a drive for profit.

When questioned on the money he had accumulated from football transfers, David Beckham was adamant he was in it for reasons beyond wealth. “It was never about the money – and it never will be,” he told the reporter.

“I don’t have time for hobbies. At the end of the day, I treat my job as a hobby. It’s something I love doing.” Beckham’s own mantra is one that will resonate with any small business owner.

An eye for business opportunities 

Television shows, books, fashion labels. The Spice Girls hits that brought Victoria Beckham fame now seems like a distant memory, and her eye for a lucrative business opportunity is a lesson in adaptability and pragmatism.

In 2012, Beckham Ventures, the company registered for Victoria’s fashion output, was the best performing brand out of the duo’s three businesses. She has more than demonstrated her capability as a businesswoman.

“I get excited by being told it’s not been done before or it’s not possible. Why? Let’s find a different way to do it and let’s do it,” she once said of her outlook on business. 

Corporate social responsibility

The charity work undertaken by David and Victoria Beckham is extensive and still growing. In his 12 years as an ambassador for Unicef, David has campaigned for causes such as child hunger and AIDs awareness. Victoria meanwhile has been applauded by animal rights organisation PETA for her promotion of synthetic fur.

Giving back is important. Businesses that look to have a positive impact on the world around them have been found to have a competitive advantage over those that don’t.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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