Beckhams ready to burst on U.S. celebrity stage

The Baltimore Sun

As the old saying goes: "You're not famous till you're famous in the U.S."

OK, so it's not really an old saying, but when it comes to Victoria and David Beckham, it certainly seems to be the goal.

If you don't know the couple known to their fans as Posh and Becks, don't worry.

You soon will.

She's the former Spice Girl-turned-modern fashion icon; he's the hunky soccer star who recently signed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal to play with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

They're huge in Europe.

But not as much in the United States, where the last time the Spice Girls had a major pop hit, Paris Hilton was picking out a junior prom dress, and where professional soccer isn't as popular -- yet -- as baseball, basketball or football.

Not a problem for this celebrity couple, who've mastered the art of self-promotion.

Call it: Brand it like Beckham.

They have already launched a full-scale media offensive, making it just a matter of time before they become true American commodities, says Darren Prince, whose Prince Marketing Group specializes in sports and entertainment publicity.

Consider: Although David Beckham may not hit a U.S. soccer field until this summer, he has already proclaimed himself an ambassador for the sport. And expect a high-profile marketing campaign by his new team in the hopes of breathing interest and life into Major League Soccer.

Not to mention his proposed ads, commercials and product endorsements for everything from Adidas and Pepsi to Motorola phones and Gillette razors.

Meanwhile, Victoria Beckham is reportedly talking to NBC about doing a reality show chronicling the couple's trans-Atlantic move. And she's said to be planning her own clothing line.

Factor in the couple's budding friendship with members of Hollywood's royalty and it's no surprise that they're starting to land on our pop culture radar.

"We're infatuated with fame," says Prince, on the phone from his Manhattan office. "Right now, we're wondering who they are, [but] once he starts scoring goals and her fashion line takes off, they're going to be credible.

"They've got great handlers and a lot of marketability and commercial appeal. It's not going to be difficult."

But why here and why now? Well, why not? File it under: cold, hard cash and bright, hot fame.

"Even though the Beckhams are already incredibly wealthy, this is definitely a financial move," says Greg Williams, a senior writer with Details magazine who has been following the Beckhams' careers.

Plus, he adds, "most British celebrities would also like that [American] validation -- Hollywood and New York are the major leagues of celebrity."

"It's quite brilliant for David Beckham to move his brand into a territory that doesn't care about soccer and for Posh to leverage something new when her pop career is in the doldrums," he says.

The crafting of Team Beckham USA comes via a well-oiled star-making machine, Williams adds.

"David's managed by Simon Fuller, the guy who brought you American Idol. These people know how to deal, how to merchandise and market. The Beckhams aren't just coming here on their own -- there's a plan."

Our reaction so far? Largely positive, with even the Los Angeles Times gushing that the Beckhams will "inject a fresh shot of celebrity into a city where it is a practiced art."

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Beckhams have a few famous friends.

In recent months, for example, the tabs on both sides of the Atlantic have dramatically upped the couple's profile, most noticably via endless shots of Victoria Beckham shopping with new BFF Katie Holmes.

"It helps that they've established a group of friends here with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes," says US Weekly senior writer Joey Bartolomeo, on the phone from New York.

Still, being a tabloid fixture isn't always a good thing. The British gossip rags already frequently target the Beckhams -- he may have cheated on her, she's way too skinny, they're both enormously extravagant, etc. -- and there's always a danger of a stateside backlash.

Among the recent rumors: that they're converting to pal Cruise's Scientology, and that Victoria put David on a so-called "daughter diet" to help their chances of having a girl. (They have three sons.)

"They have to be careful to avoid overexposure and not do too much, too soon," Bartolomeo says.

Cord Jefferson, an editor for the MollyGood gossip blog, agrees. He even thinks a reality show could do more harm than good.

"It could backfire if the mask slips and everyone starts to see them as a joke like Jessica Simpson," Jefferson says. Newlyweds "was huge, but no one takes her seriously because of that dumb blond reputation."

His advice?

"Don't move -- they were doing fine in [Britain]," he says with a laugh.

Seriously, the Beckhams will be all right, wherever they are.

"They'll absolutely be accepted here," Jefferson says. "They're attractive and successful and we're willing to play along."

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