What Meghan and Harry could learn from David and Victoria Beckham’s US rebrand: Power couple have been cleverly building their reputation since the noughties – while royals have been labelled ‘disloyal grifters’

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David and Victoria Beckham were among the most high-profile guests at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s fairytale Windsor wedding in May 2018. 

But while the A-List couple were hugely supportive of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at first, the two couples have reportedly drifted further and further apart in recent years.

Last week, the Mail on Sunday exclusively revealed David and Victoria’s friendship with Harry and Meghan is ‘over’ after they were accused of leaking stories about the royal couple during a tense phone call. 

A source said the Beckhams were ‘absolutely bloody furious’ by the suggestion and claimed any reconciliation would be ‘unlikely.

Although their friendship has fallen by the wayside, there’s still one thing the couples have in common: they both know how difficult it can be to build a brand in the US.

Here FEMAIL explore how David and Victoria Beckham have been cleverly building their reputation since the noughties - while royals have been labelled 'disloyal grifters'

Here FEMAIL explore how David and Victoria Beckham have been cleverly building their reputation since the noughties – while royals have been labelled ‘disloyal grifters’

In 2007, David Beckham signed a $250m contract with LA Galaxy – which involved moving his young family-of-six from Madrid to California.

Although Victoria Beckham was already famous as a world-famous WAG and one-fifth of the Spice Girls, the mother-of-four seemed keen to reinvent herself when she arrived in the States. 

Here FEMAIL looks at how David and Victoria initially struggled to crack America – and what lessons their estranged friends Meghan and Harry could learn from them.

TV SHOWS

VICTORIA BECKHAM: COMING TO AMERICA 

Ahead of the move to the US, Victoria Beckham signed a contract with NBC to make a reality show documenting her family’s new life in California.

Victoria Beckham: Coming to America was supposed to be a TV series but eventually ended up being an hour-long one-off special after the network questioned if US audiences would take to the ‘mockumentary’ style.

As well as filming the family’s everyday life, the show included spoof staged scenes – including one where Victoria brought a makeup artist to take her drivers’ license photo and then asked if they did retouches.

David and Victoria Beckham seen attending a private party held in their honour at the Museum of Contemporary Art in July 2007

David and Victoria Beckham seen attending a private party held in their honour at the Museum of Contemporary Art in July 2007

Pictured: Victoria Beckham attends a David Beckham signing event at the LA Galaxy stadium in July 2007

David Beckham holds up his jersey during his official introduction as a Los Angeles Galaxy player in July 2007

Pictured: Victoria Beckham and David Beckham attends his official introduction as a Los Angeles Galaxy player in July 2007

PR expert Ceri-Jane Hackling – who is the Managing Director of Cerub PR – told FEMAIL: ‘The Beckhams were seen as fame hungry when they first moved to the States. 

‘It was a highly publicised move and there was a media frenzy when they moved there which led to the assumption that they were there to become more famous rather than for professional reasons.’

That August, the former singer also appeared on the front cover of W magazine with David wearing only a black swimsuit.

Discussing her attempts to overhaul her image, Victoria told the publication at the time: ‘I think people are really going to see me for the first time. I think they have this impression that I’m this miserable cow who doesn’t smile. But I’m actually quite the opposite. 

‘When you’re out there, they’re trying to get pictures up your shirt, down your top. With all the flashes, it’s as much as you can do to just find your car. I’m going to try and smile more for America.’

Despite Victoria’s attempt to give an insight into her personality with the show, it was critically panned by US publications.

One of the worst savagings came from the respected New York Post, which described the show as ‘an orgy of self-indulgence.’ 

Their columnist Linda Stasi wrote: ‘NBC should get down on its knees and give a giant thanks that soccer star David Beckham was called back to Europe before it could finish filming his relentlessly self-promoting wife’s reality series.

Pictured: A behind-the-scenes look at the couple's W magazine photoshoot appeared in Victoria's reality show

Pictured: A behind-the-scenes look at the couple’s W magazine photoshoot appeared in Victoria’s reality show

Pictured: Victoria Beckham asks a member of staff if they can retouch her driver's license photo while filming her reality show in 2007

Pictured: Victoria Beckham asks a member of staff if they can retouch her driver’s license photo while filming her reality show in 2007

‘If this were not a one-shot deal and people were exposed to her vapid, condescending behaviour on a weekly basis….she would be run out on a rail. 

‘It is an orgy of self-indulgence so out of whack with reality that you will sit there slack-jawed at the gall of these people who think we are that stupid.’

Meanwhile, The New York Times compared the programme to a now defunct website called cheddarvision.tv – where a webcam was focused on a truckle of West Country cheddar round-the-clock so cheese fans could watch the mould grow.

Reviewer Alessandra Stanley wrote at the time: ‘Watching Victoria Beckham: Coming to America is a little like that site – although the cheddar probably has an ounce or two on Mrs Beckham, who is also famous for being thin but with very large breasts.

‘The Beckhams market their marriage as the core of their brand yet Mrs Beckham is oddly unsensual on television. She somehow takes the sin out of synergy.

‘These kinds of reality shows rely on a fish-out-of-water conceit but in Beverly Hills she is a fish-in-Evian, one rich, blonde, spray tanned wife-of among many.’

Pictured: Victoria and David Beckham seen in October 2008 when they were still living out in the US

Pictured: Victoria and David Beckham seen in October 2008 when they were still living out in the US

Victoria Beckham in 2007

Victoria Beckham in 2007

Victoria Beckham pictured in 2007. The mother-of-four wore her hair in a light blonde bob and was often pictured in bodycon

HARRY & MEGHAN: NETFLIX SPECIAL

What’s more, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Netflix series had a similar detrimental impact on their public image in the US.

PR expert Paul Duddridge, who is originally from the UK but not based in LA, told FEMAIL: ‘When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle first moved to the US in 2020, their public image here was overwhelmingly positive.

‘There was so much excitement about their arrival, also sympathy towards them; they were admired for their willingness to break away from traditional royal duties and seek more independence. 

‘They were seen as a couple trying to forge their own path and prioritise their family’s well-being.

‘The perception of Harry and Meghan in the US has done a complete 180, their image is now almost universally negative.

‘The US public do not like to see anyone being disloyal to their own family. The Harry and Meghan brand is predominantly known for throwing their families under the bus (or gilded coach). Any support they enjoyed in their initial victim phase has almost completely disappeared.’ 

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Netflix series caused their popularity to drop, according to a YouGov study

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Netflix series caused their popularity to drop, according to a YouGov study

Following the release of their six-episode series in December, research by YouGov revealed that the couple’s popularity slumped. 

The study, which involved 1,677 adults between December 7 and 8, asked whether they held a positive or negative opinion of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The results showed Harry’s score dropped to -26, down 13 points from November, which means just 33 per cent of people polled have a positive opinion of him, compared to 59 per cent who think of him negatively. 

Meghan’s net favourability went seven points to -39, with only 25 per cent of the public holding a positive outlook while 64 per cent have a negative view. 

During the six hour-long episodes, the couple made a series of bombshell claims about the Royal Family – including Harry’s claim that he he was ‘literally brought up’ by a ‘second family’ in Africa where he chose to spend three-month stints in his late teens and twenties as he came to terms with his mother’s death. 

Harry also describes a ‘huge level of unconscious bias’ in the Royal Family – with reference to Princess Michael of Kent wearing an offensive Blackamoor-style brooch in front of his wife at Buckingham Palace.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry pictured in 2020 shortly after they relocated to the US. Entertainment coach Paul Duddridge claimed their public image was 'overwhelmingly positive' to begin with

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry pictured in 2020 shortly after they relocated to the US. Entertainment coach Paul Duddridge claimed their public image was ‘overwhelmingly positive’ to begin with

As a result of this 'negative' image, royal commentators have the Duke and Duchess are not being booked for high-profile events because of their profile

As a result of this ‘negative’ image, royal commentators have the Duke and Duchess are not being booked for high-profile events because of their profile

There is also a suggestion that the UK is racist and more obsessed with race than the US, with Meghan declaring that she ‘wasn’t really treated like a black woman’ until she came to Britain.

And in a swipe at the choice of wives by his male relatives, viewed as an attack on his father and other senior royals, perhaps even his brother William, Harry insisted that his decision to marry Meghan sets him apart from his family because it was ‘from his heart’ and not because she ‘would fit the mould’.

As a result of this ‘negative’ image, royal commentators have the Duke and Duchess are not being booked for high-profile events because of their profile. 

American royal expert Kinsey Schofield told the Times: ‘I work with several publicists in LA and they say that Harry and Meghan aren’t considered for high-profile events because the fear is that all eyes will be on them and that will take away from the cause.

‘I think people are starting to hesitate in associating with them because they seem to be a dramatic pair that fixates on the negative.’

BUSINESSES 

VICTORIA BECKHAM FASHION LABEL 

Despite her American Dream getting off to a rocky start, Victoria Beckham didn’t let the initial negative publicity deter her – and she launched her eponymous fashion label the following year.

Victoria Beckham overhauled her image yet again in 2008 when she swapped her blonde bob for a brunette hairstyle

Victoria Beckham overhauled her image yet again in 2008 when she swapped her blonde bob for a brunette hairstyle

Victoria Beckham in 2008

Victoria Beckham in 2008

Victoria Beckham drastically altered  her wardrobe in 2008 when she launched her own fashion label

To mark this new era, Victoria swapped her trademark bleach bond bob for an elegant brunette pixie cut. On top of this, she also ditched her bodycon dresses for more demure ensembles. 

PR expert Alan Edwards – who worked with David and Victoria around this time – said he was impressed by how the couple were always looking to the future of ‘brand Beckham’.

He told The Telegraph earlier this month: ‘She set about becoming a successful designer and building her label with total commitment and passion.’ 

Meanwhile, Paul Duddridge said the Beckhams were ‘very wise in diversifying their careers’.

The expert continued: ‘Victoria took her pop music fame and grew it into a fashion and beauty profile, whilst David was known for soccer which isn’t huge in the US so he expanded to various sports-related ventures, endorsements, and business opportunities. This didn’t happen overnight. 

Entertainment coach Paul Duddridge said of the Beckhams (pictured in 2008): 'They consistently worked on their careers, projects, and philanthropic efforts, showing dedication and commitment to their chosen paths'

Entertainment coach Paul Duddridge said of the Beckhams (pictured in 2008): ‘They consistently worked on their careers, projects, and philanthropic efforts, showing dedication and commitment to their chosen paths’

‘The Beckhams’ public image overhaul was not a sudden transformation but a gradual evolution over time. They consistently worked on their careers, projects, and philanthropic efforts, showing dedication and commitment to their chosen paths.

‘By taking these steps and demonstrating authenticity, talent, and philanthropic efforts, the Beckhams successfully transformed their public image and earned respect and admiration in various fields beyond their initial celebrity status.’

Ceri-Jane Hackling added: ‘Victoria’s desire to build a fashion empire was derided as she was seen as a former Spice Girl who wanted to maintain her celebrity status and David was famous in the UK for what is a minority sport in the US, so the public questioned what they had to offer.

‘Over the years they have worked to reshape their public image, focusing on their careers rather than their fame.

‘Victoria has worked hard to build her fashion and beauty business and is now seen as a credible designer and businesswoman rather than a pop star while David, concentrated on his charitable work and on building his football club Inter Miami which is now starting to pay off.’

After months of speculation, legendary player Lioner Messi announced he would be moving to the US last month to join the club Beckham owns, snubbing a move to Saudi Arabia and a return to Barcelona.

PRINCE HARRY: TRAVALYST  

Further adding to the couple’s PR woes, Prince Harry’s sustainable tourism project Travalyst announced it has entered an ‘incredibly exciting’ era with a new board of directors earlier this month – with no mention of the royal. 

Harry spent three years as the public face of the initiative to encourage the tourism industry to become more sustainable – despite a furore over his use of private jets. 

But he was left out of a major announcement by the group in May about its transition from a ‘pilot phase’ to a new board of five people with ‘world-class expertise’.

September 2019 - the Duke of Sussex launches his Travalyst initiative at A'dam Tower in Amsterdam

September 2019 – the Duke of Sussex launches his Travalyst initiative at A’dam Tower in Amsterdam

Travalyst’s statement was made eight days after Harry and Meghan’s spokesman said the couple had been involved in a ‘near-catastrophic’ car chase while being followed by paparazzi in New York after the Ms Foundation Women of Vision Awards. The NYPD later seemed to soften the couple’s dramatic account, saying ‘there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries or arrests’ related to the incident.

Harry, 38, is still in regular contact with the Travalyst chief executive and board behind the scenes and remains committed to it, according to a report in Newsweek. In addition, the Duke is still listed on the Travalyst website as its ‘founder and patron’.

But it is notable that he was not used as a promotional tool for the revamp – given how prominently he has previously been involved in conferences and marketing.

CELEBRITY FRIENDS

BECKHAMS: STARRY FRIENDS

When the Beckhams moved to LA, they were embraced by A-Listers – and counted Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and Tom Cruise and his ex-wife Katie Holmes among their closest friends. 

In 2007, LA Galaxy threw a welcome party for the couple at the Museum of Contemporary Art – which was attended by Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise and Will and Jada Smith. 

Discussing how they how were welcomed into the community, Paul added: ‘There were a few jealousy fuelled snipes about over exposure and “strategic” friendships with A listers.

Victoria Beckham pictured with her close friend actress Eva Longoria in April 2009. The two women are still friends

Victoria Beckham pictured with her close friend actress Eva Longoria in April 2009. The two women are still friends

In 2007, LA Galaxy threw a welcome party for the couple at the Museum of Contemporary Art - which was attended by Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith (pictured)

In 2007, LA Galaxy threw a welcome party for the couple at the Museum of Contemporary Art – which was attended by Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith (pictured)

‘However, everything they were famous for had been achieved through very hard work, which the USA loves. 

‘Hollywood appreciates that you don’t become pop and sporting icons by being lazy.’ 

MEGHAN AND HARRY: WOKE FRIENDS 

In contrast, Meghan has befriended feminist icon Gloria Steniem since moving to the US and even paid tribute to her as a ‘mentor’ while accepting an award in New York earlier this year.

Since the pair first met, they struck up a friendship over their shared interest in promoting women’s rights and equal voting rights ahead of the Presidential Election that year.

Meghan and Gloria were spotted leaving the swanky Crosby Hotel in New York last summer following a lunch

Meghan and Gloria were spotted leaving the swanky Crosby Hotel in New York last summer following a lunch

And for the last three years, Steinem, who is best known for her role within the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, has been full of praise for the Duchess, telling Access in 2020 that Meghan was ‘smart, authentic, funny, political’ and claiming: ‘She came home to vote.’

Singer Katy Perry and her fiance, actor Orlando Bloom, their neighbours in Montecito, have also reportedly drifted from Meghan’s circle. ‘Katy was close at one point but she has been travelling a lot so it’s been hard to sustain a close friendship,’ another source in LA said. ‘Katy performed at King Charles’ coronation concert, so perhaps she’s taken sides?’

Meghan has quietly been building friendships with members of the Kennedy political dynasty including Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert who was assassinated in 1968. She praised Meghan for her ‘heroic’ stance against ‘structural racism’ in the Royal Family.  

Paul told FEMAIL: ‘The industry sees them as not delivering on their initial promise, not living up to the hype. Other celebs are concerned that as they write books about private conversations with UK Royalty, what would stop them revealing all about their chats with “Hollywood Royalty”?’

PUBLIC IMAGE 

THE BECKHAMS: GRAFTERS

Entertainment coach Paul Duddridge says the US public were under no illusion that David and Victoria Beckham were looking to boost their profile when they moved to the US.

Paul Duddridge said: 'The Beckhams’ image in the US is extremely positive. They are seen as having achieved their goals without ever appearing fake or deceptive'

Paul Duddridge said: ‘The Beckhams’ image in the US is extremely positive. They are seen as having achieved their goals without ever appearing fake or deceptive’

The PR expert noted how the Beckhams are seen as 'family-orientated', which has helped with their public image in the US. Pictured: Victoria and Harper Beckham

The PR expert noted how the Beckhams are seen as ‘family-orientated’, which has helped with their public image in the US. Pictured: Victoria and Harper Beckham

Pictured: David Beckham with his sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz playing football on Father's Day

Pictured: David Beckham with his sons Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz playing football on Father’s Day

However, he says this approach worked to their advantage.  

He explained: ‘The Beckhams were never seen as grifters. They were seen as GRAFTERS. After having cut their PR teeth at the highest level in music and sport in the UK, the Beckhams were already old hands at the publicity game by the time they arrived in the US. 

‘The Beckhams’ image in the US is extremely positive. They are seen as having achieved their goals without ever appearing fake or deceptive. 

‘It’s ironic that they lead such a glamorous A-list lifestyle but come across as family orientated, down to earth and relatable which works here. Americans don’t like anyone putting on ‘airs and graces’. 

PRINCE HARRY AND MEGHAN MARKLE: GRIFTERS

In another blow to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s public image, the pair were labelled ‘f***** grifters’ by Spotify executive Bill Simmons after their $20m Archetypes podcast was cancelled last month. 

Spotify and the Sussexes’s audio production company Archewell Audio released a joint statement saying they have ‘mutually agreed to part ways and are proud of the series we made together’.

Bill Simmons, Spotify's head of podcast innovation

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are pictured in 2019

Bill Simmons (left), who sold his podcast and sports journalism company The Ringer to Spotify for $200 million in 2020, now works as Spotify’s head of podcast innovation. He described the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (right) as ‘f****** grifters’ after they parted ways with the company

Bill Simmons, Head of Podcast Innovation and Monetization at Spotify, condemned the pair in an episode of his own podcast.

‘The f***ing grifters. That’s the podcast we should have launched with them,’ he said.

‘I’ve got to get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try and help him with a podcast idea. It’s one of my best stories.’

Last January, he blasted Prince Harry, saying it was ’embarrassing’ to be affiliated with the same company.

‘Shoot this guy to the sun,’ he said, according to sports website The Big Lead.

‘I’m so tired of this guy. What does he bring to the table? He just whines about s*** and keeps giving interviews. Who gives a s***? Who cares about your life?

What Harry and Meghan could learn from Posh and Becks 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex may no longer count the Beckhams among their friends – but Paul Duddridge says their PR approach could be the key to overhauling their image. 

The expert said: ‘Harry and Meghan could take a few leaves out of the Beckham’s book for sure.

Paul Duddridge belives Meghan making amends with her father Thomas would help improve their public image

Paul Duddridge belives Meghan making amends with her father Thomas would help improve their public image

Spotify terminated its contract with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex earlier this year - meaning they would no longer be producing their podcast

Spotify terminated its contract with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex earlier this year – meaning they would no longer be producing their podcast 

‘Image wise, they really need a lesson in poking fun at themselves, being more self aware. They seem surprised that the public don’t take them as seriously as they do themselves.

‘They also need to acknowledge that they have made mistakes and maybe even express some regret.’

One strategy the couple could adopt would be reaching out to Meghan’s estranged father.

Paul explained: ‘A first move would be to reach out to Meghan’s father while he is still alive, apart from being the right thing to do, reconciling with him would be a huge PR victory. The public feel that he has been cruelly abandoned by the daughter he loved and supported in her quest for success.

‘Business-wise they need to throw everything they can into their few remaining opportunities, the Netflix projects which are slated.

‘They should accept that they are not experts in the field of media, they may be famous but they’ve demonstrated a shocking flat footedness in their approach to becoming showbiz titans. 

‘They would do well to bring in some industry experts who are prepared to tell them ‘No’ and to whom they are prepared to listen. Based on their approach so far, I won’t hold my breath.’



Post source: Daily mail

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