x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Brand Beckham the perfect label for PSG's Qatari owners

Brand Beckham represents the perfect label for PSG's Qatari owners in their ever-growing sports portfolio.

Aside from Nike, Adidas and Tiger Woods, there is arguably no sports brand as recognisable as that of David Beckham. The Englishman has, over a 19-year career, moulded an image so promotable and so profitable that, even at the age of 36, he attracts attention - and sponsorship revenue - like no other footballer on the planet.

Paris Saint-Germain have certainly acknowledged the marketing potential of Brand Beckham. The French team, since being acquired by government-owned Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) in May, are enjoying the early phases of a revolution.

Massive outlays have been provided already, most notably that of the Argentine Javier Pastore swapping Palermo for Paris in a €42 million (Dh202m) deal. The talent infusions seem to be making a difference; following last week's defeat of St Etienne, PSG find themselves at the summit of the French league.

They have not claimed the domestic title since 1994. However, one need only look at Lyon, who won seven consecutive titles at the turn of the century, to see that success on home soil is not enough to elevate a French club into the same global-recognition bracket as the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United.

European success is what is required and Nasser Al Khelaifi, the president of QSI and owner of PSG, has already said that he does not expect to be challenging in the Champions League for another three seasons.

So, until then, why not elevate the club's position through the acquisition of high-profile players and coaches? It is a ploy that has been utilised for years throughout the world, from the New York Cosmos' marquee signing of Pele in 1975 to the recent appointment of Diego Maradona at the helm of Al Wasl here in the UAE.

Al Khelaifi knows if the club are seeking worldwide awareness, Beckham can help provide it. How many football followers were knowledgeable about LA Galaxy, pre-2007? And yet now Herbalife and the Home Depot Center stadium are renowned the world over and Galaxy shirts (both genuine and knock-off) turn up in shops and markets from Beijing to Buenos Aires.

Even if PSG's planned purchase does not come to fruition, the speculation and headlines generated in the past few weeks, thanks to Beckham, have been invaluable in the club's quest to enhance their brand worldwide.

The Qatari owners of PSG not only crave acknowledgement for their new club, but also for their home country. The Gulf state is keen to improve its global prominence and, as is growing common in the Middle East, is using sport as its vehicle.

Much like Herbalife, the Qatar Foundation is gaining recognition courtesy of the fact it is emblazoned across the chest of Barcelona, the European champions. Much like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Qatar has embarked on an intercontinental assault that includes hosting rounds of golf's European Tour, MotoGP, and WTA and ATP tennis.

And much like South Africa last year, Qatar will improve its public image massively by hosting the World Cup in 2022.

The country has also established a portfolio of high-profile business acquisitions, which has seen the government's investment arm purchase stakes in, among others, Harrods, Sainsbury's, Porsche and the London Stock Exchange, proving that no matter how large a project that developing PSG proves to be, it is merely part of an even larger plan.

PSG will visit the UAE next week to play the Italian Serie A leaders AC Milan, on January 4. The fact Beckham's last visit to Dubai was with the Italian club in 2009 has not been lost on those in the country who follow the game closely. But what is likely to be more important is the midfielder's acceptance to attend a tennis tournament in Doha.

It was reported by Agence France-Presse that Beckham is expected to appear at the Qatar Open, an ATP event which runs from January 2-8. Al Khelaifi is president of the Qatar Tennis Federation and PSG will train in Doha ahead of their exhibition match with Milan.

With the two events coinciding, any potential unveiling by the Paris club of the former England captain would make perfect sense - and be most beneficial in terms of exposure - if it were made next week, in Qatar. Expect it.

And if it happens, of course, it means PSG and Beckham will enjoy their first match together in Dubai, against Milan, on January 4. Coup.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae


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