Pepsi and Beckham End Partnership After 10 Years

Both Sides Say Decision Was Mutual, But is Soccer Star's Selling Power Fading?

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- After 10 years, Pepsi won't be bending it with David Beckham anymore. The soft-drink behemoth and the celebrity soccer star agreed to part this week, a decision both sides described as mutual in statements.

David Beckham
David Beckham Credit: Kamran Jebreili
But Pepsi's decision to walk away from Mr. Beckham, coming as it does on the heels of a disappointing, injury-riddled second season with Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, raises questions over whether Mr. Beckham's marketability is fading along with his footwork.

The soccer celebrity -- who is married to former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham -- signed a much ballyhooed deal with MLS in 2007 that could be worth up to $250 million over five years.

Shortly after that deal was signed, Mr. Beckham split with one of his largest sponsors, Gillette. Reports on the cause of the split differed: Some said Mr. Beckham wanted more control over his image than Gillette would allow. Others said the move to the U.S., where soccer is a minor sport, made Mr. Beckham less useful to Gillette because it lowered his profile in Europe and Asia, where the brand used him most.

Adidas, Motorola deals
Mr. Beckham still has global deals with Adidas and Motorola, but his pact with the struggling handset-maker expires in June.

In a statement responding to questions, Motorola, which recently featured Mr. Beckham as part of its RAZR2 phone campaign in Asia, said it was "very pleased" with him and his global appeal. The company declined to comment about its interest in renewing Mr. Beckham's deal or whether talks were already in progress.

While the actual cause of Mr. Beckham's splits with Pepsi and Gillette is unknown, it's worth noting that he's among the most expensive sports endorsers in the world, which may make it more difficult for marketers to fit him in tightening budgets. His expired Gillette contract, for instance, reportedly paid him upwards of $10 million over a three-year period, and a fourth-year option declined by Gillette would have been for at least $5 million more. Given the performance of his team and the relative obscurity of the league in the U.S., it may not be as cost effective as it once was for marketers like Gillette owner Procter & Gamble and Pepsi to link up with Mr. Beckham when a strong player in a higher-profile league may come a lot cheaper.

Mr. Beckham's split with Pepsi comes after reports during the summer that he was weighing launching his own line of bottled waters.

'Nothing but good memories'
In a statement, Mr. Beckham said: "I have nothing but good memories of my 10-year association with Pepsi. Along the journey, I've played a gladiator, a cowboy and a surfer, and worked alongside Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez as well as some of the biggest names in world football. I hope everyone who has seen the work Pepsi and I have done together enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making it and, who knows, there may yet be another chapter in this long relationship."

Pepsi said: "We wish David well with the many projects he is pursuing and look forward to the possibility of partnering together with him again someday."

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