David Beckham has found a new home.
Authentic Brands Group, a global brand owner, development and entertainment company, has entered into a strategic partnership with the British footballer to co-own and manage Beckham’s global brand. ABG worked directly with David Beckham Ventures Ltd. on the deal.
Beckham’s brand, Seven Global, had previously been a joint venture between David Beckham Ventures Ltd., and Global Brands Group. Last year, GBG wound down its operations, and sources at the time said DBVL was in the process of buying GBG’s 51 percent stake in Seven Global and taking full control of the company.
In connection with the new partnership, Beckham has become a shareholder in ABG. Beckham’s intellectual property sits in a corporation.
Beckham joins ABG’s growing entertainment roster that includes such athletes and iconic sports brands as Muhammad Ali, Shaquille O’Neal and Sports Illustrated. ABG is soon to be the owner of Reebok once ABG closes its 2.1 billion euro purchase from Adidas on Feb. 28.
Beckham, whose professional football career spanned more than two decades, has built a diverse portfolio of brands and businesses that are aimed at audiences worldwide and is supported by key strategic partners such as Adidas, Tudor Watches, Coty, Maserati, EA Sports, Sands and Diageo .
Beckham, who has no deal for fashion at the moment — his agreement with Kent & Curwen ended in 2020 after five years — has such products as fragrances with Coty, sunglasses with Safilo, watches with Tudor and Scotch whiskey with Diageo. Industry sources said they see a big opportunity for Beckham to expand into more mass product categories if he’s willing to participate in these deals.
“We are thrilled to welcome David Beckham to ABG’s esteemed entertainment division and even further honored to call him an ABG shareholder,” said Jamie Salter, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of ABG. “David is a superstar talent with an incredible global brand reach and a highly influential presence. David and his team have built an enterprise that spans sports, entertainment, lifestyle and luxury, and we see significant opportunities to scale his brand and expand it into new verticals.”
Salter said he’s been friendly with Beckham for a very long time, and even before Beckham signed with GBG they talked about becoming partners. Salter said he told him, “if that deal ever unwinds and you want to talk, I’m all in favor.” About a year ago, Beckham came to him and said he thinks he’s going to buy his categories back, and he wanted to do a deal with Salter. “Once he did that, he could do a deal with us,” said Salter.
Asked where he sees the most potential for Beckham’s brand, and if it’s more at the mass or luxury level, Salter replied, “Luxury.”
He said Beckham stands for “the best of the best.”
“We’re going to be really careful. If you look at David Beckham’s business today, it’s very tight. He doesn’t have a lot of deals,” said Salter. He said he doesn’t really have any merchandise deals.
“We have some big ideas already. Obviously we want to scale the brand. There are significant opportunities in the sports, entertainment and luxury categories,” said Salter.
According to Salter, the big interest level for ABG was the global appeal of the brand. Salter said Beckham means a lot in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, America and Europe, and has a strong digital presence. Beckham has more than 138 million followers and annual impressions surpassing nine billion across Instagram, Facebook, and his China-specific channels, Weibo and Douyin.
In the U.K., he is the most followed and engaged individual on social media, and his profile on Chinese platform Douyin has the highest engagement of any international account. Beckham would bring ABG’s total portfolio’s social media following to more than 420 million.
Beckham added, “ABG takes an innovative approach to global brand development, and I’m delighted to be joining them. Our shared vision makes ABG the ideal strategic partner to help unlock the full potential of my brand and business. I’m incredibly grateful for the support I have received in my business career and proud of what our team has achieved. I’m excited for the next chapter.”
Beckham and his management team will partner with ABG to grow the David Beckham brand through strategic endorsements, innovative business models, digital and media partnerships and new consumer products.
The partnership with Beckham is an integral step in ABG’s global strategy to launch new business verticals, expand its corporate footprint and drive growth in key territories, including EMEA and APAC.
As part of this next phase, ABG has officially opened its European headquarters in London, which will house the David Beckham team. Salter said he kept Beckham’s team intact. “We now have over 30 people in London working on ABG and Beckham on a go-forward basis,” said Salter.
Further, ABG will also become the largest shareholder in Studio 99, an integrated creative and production studio cofounded by Beckham in 2019. The company has a slate of documentary series in development and production for global platforms, including Netflix and Disney+, in addition to commercial business generating content and creative marketing campaigns for a range of global brand clients.
Beckham has played football for some of the most successful clubs in the world. He was a member of Manchester United’s “Class of ’92” and was the first English footballer to win league titles in four countries with Manchester United in England, Real Madrid in Spain, LA Galaxy in the U.S. and Paris Saint-Germain in France. He is a former England Captain who played 115 times for his country including in three FIFA World Cups. In 2018, Beckham became co-owner of Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami CF.
On the philanthropic front, Beckham has been a UNICEF Global Goodwill Ambassador for almost 20 years. In 2015, he launched the 7 Fund for UNICEF, which supports children around the world, with a focus on girls’ education, health and justice. He also supports the British fashion industry around the world, encouraging investment and supporting emerging talent as Ambassadorial President of the British Fashion Council. He is an Ambassador for Malaria No More and a Patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
“We have known David and his team for many years and are thrilled to join forces to break new ground,” said Nick Woodhouse, president and chief merchandising officer of ABG. “Together we will build on his remarkable brand and business platform to drive long-term growth and success.”
David Gardner, managing director of David Beckham Ventures, added, “ABG is a global leader in licensing and branding with a proven track record of successfully tapping into industry trends and innovating across products and platforms. We are looking forward to partnering with Jamie, Nick and the rest of the ABG team to continue the development of David’s brand and businesses.”
According to Companies House in the U.K., DBVL had a profit of 9 million pounds in 2019 on revenue of 12.7 million pounds.
Industry observers applauded the Beckham-ABG match-up.
“I think it makes a huge amount of sense when you think of ABG’s sweet spot. They’re the biggest of the licensing companies and can really roll things out in multiple categories,” said Robert Burke, chairman and chief executive officer of Robert Burke Associates, a New York-based consulting firm. He said sometimes athletes and celebrities can over-reach and become “too luxury boxed in” when it comes to price positioning, but “ABG really knows how to target a very core audience.”
Burke also believes Beckham continues to have a very high profile. “It doesn’t hurt that his wife is Victoria Beckham and former Posh Spice, and they’re a power couple,” said Burke.
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