BECKHAM for Boro? Don’t be daft. Yes, the club is crying out for a right sided player. Yes, flagging morale and crowds would get a Juninho-style boost from signing a household name. But come on, the notion is ridiculous.
Not for a second has the move actually even been mooted. Don’t start swearing down dead that the lad from the Gazette said it is gospel. Far from it, the highly-improbable move was mentioned by an acquaintence who always regurgitates without qualification snippets from the tabloids and whispers he has heard from sources close to the pub.
But even if Boro could afford to give Beckham ÃÂ£100,000 a week, the biggest house in Wynyard and Posh a Primark gold card, the idea is a non-starter. Boro are not geared up to play Beckham in his most effective position: shirt salesman.
As a cynic that was my first thought. How could Boro possibly hope to cash in on such a mouthwatering commercial and branding opportunity? There is little point in signing an international superstar with an awesome PR machine if you couldn’t back it with the marketing muscle and shirt selling savvy needed to claw back his wages through merchandising.
Manchester United raked in fortunes stamping his image on tat that sold in shedloads globally, so much so that some key shareholders questioned the wisdom of selling him no matter what the judgement of Sir Alex about his future contribution to the team or the distractions of the celeb circus that surrounded him and his pop star wife.
At Real Madrid too he has been a major promotional tool, the ubiquitous 23 shirt a worldwide pre-teen fashion accessory and a major dynamic for Adidas in their bid for world domination of what is a very lucrative market.
But how could Boro possibly maximise that marketing open goal presented by such a signing when you can’t buy a replica shirt in Redcar, Stockton or Billingham, let alone the Beckmania heartlands of Chester, Torquay, Woking and Manila?
Not that I want to take a cheap shot at Errea or the restrictions that come with the exclusivity built into that deal. It returns a far higher proportion of profit per shirt to the club than a licencing deal with one of the big players would and no doubt in over a decade as the club’s supplier it has provided some exciting and crucial revenue streams for Boro.
But the structure has limited horizons and leaves Boro geographically as well as commercially painted into a corner. The two shops are useful outlets – if you live in Middlesbrough – but it screams out the paucity of ambition and parochial outlook of the club that you can’t buy a Boro shirt at sporting superstores anywhere else in the country.
Yes, the figures show 95% of Boro’s season ticket holders live within 15 miles of the ground – but even the majority of those are not well served. Mams of football crazy kids who live in Marske or Sedgefield or Stokesley may not have the means or motivation to trek down to MFC Retail to get little Harrison his Boro shirt. How many of those take the easy route and buy an England, Barcelona or Chelsea shirt instead? That’s another lost soul.
Even within the remits of the Errea exclusive deal it should be possible to expand the operation with well placed satellite stores in the town centres of first Redcar, Stockton and Billingham and then beyond. And there must be scope for franchises within other shops. There was a time when Dickens superstores sold Boro shirts, and yes, they were shirt sponsors at the time but it shows that it is possible to think outside the box. Why not a regional deal with Asda or Tesco?
Ideally Boro should be looking to expand beyond the TS postcodes anyway. It is no good retreating into the laager and saying there is no market outside the geo-political unit defined by the parmo. Boro have a monopoly of Premiership football in Yorkshire and Durham and should be ruthlessly exploiting it. In promotional terms the shirt is a crusading branding tool for that and it is amazing that such expansion is not a top priority.
The club should be putting down the basis of an infrastructure so that they can exploit opportunities such as a major signing that caused a sudden upsurge in demand. It would be a major embarrassment if Boro were to sign a Beckham or a Ronaldo and couldn’t capitalise. Or worse that the structure made the club think such a signing was not viable.
Today Thirsk, tomorrow the world!