Gillette Co. is on the verge of signing global soccer star David Beckham as the latest endorser of its men's grooming products and the centerpiece of a summer ad campaign, executives close to the situation said.
A Gillette spokeswoman declined to comment on "rumors or speculation," saying only that the company "looks at sports celebrities on a regular basis."
But several executives with knowledge of the agreement confirmed the collaboration. The multiyear deal is expected to be worth $30 million to $50 million. An executive close to Gillette said earlier industry speculation of a $70 million multiyear endorsement contract was too high and far more than Gillette traditionally pays for sports sponsorship packages.
Gillette, a major global sponsor of soccer's 2002 World Cup, spends about $600 million annually in advertising globally. The marketer plans a new advertising campaign in June, from Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, for the launch of its Mach 3 M3 Power Razor, which has a vibrating, battery-operated handle. BBDO referred calls to Gillette.
Executives close to the situation said Mr. Beckham will not be part of the Mach 3 M3 campaign in June, but footage of him has already been shot for another campaign later in the summer. Some analysts have speculated the company will launch a new razor system later in the year as it fends off a challenge from rival Energizer Holdings' Schick and its Quattro four-blade system. Peter Hoffman, president of the Gillette razor business, told analysts in February that Gillette has successfully tested a next-generation system with consumers.
The deal was apparently brokered by Mr. Beckham's new agent, Simon Fuller, who created the TV sensation Pop Idol in the U.K. with Simon Cowell, who went on to spin that show off into the hugely successful American Idol on News Corp.'s Fox. Mr. Beckham signed on with Mr. Fuller last year after splitting with his agents at the sports marketing firm SFX.
The "Best a Man Can Get" is getting, arguably, the best international soccer player. While some argue that France's Zinedine Zidane or Portugal's Luis Figo are better athletically, neither approaches the telegenic good looks or charisma of Mr. Beckham. Though relatively unknown in the U.S., where professional soccer is well down on the list of popular sports, he is a superstar in the rest of the world. Outside of Europe, he is enormously popular in Asia and can virtually hand-deliver that market for any advertiser.
Such is his popularity that a motion picture film last year was titled Bend It Like Beckham, centering on a young Indian girls' fascination with the soccer star and his unique ability to bend, or curve, a soccer ball off a free kick.
A standout on England's national team, Mr. Beckham was also the face of that country's most famous and prestigious professional team -- Manchester United, English soccer's version of the New York Yankees -- until being sold last year to yet another marquee club, Spain's Real Madrid.
He is also the husband of Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, a former member of the pop group Spice Girls, making them one of England's most famous couples. Last year, the couple came to the U.S. for a series of high-profile appearances in an attempt to boost their image in this country.
Mr. Beckham also has endorsement deals with Pepsi-Cola, Adidas-Salomon and Vodafone.
Ironically, this country's struggling professional soccer league, Major League Soccer, is on the verge of a deal that would bring Mr. Beckham and Real Madrid to Gillette Stadium outside of Boston to play an MLS All-Star team in a friendly exhibition. The Gillette spokeswoman declined to comment, but executives close to the deal said the game is expected to be announced next week and will be played in late July, likely on a Saturday, and be televised on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC.
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