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Beckham: Hero, villain or a bit of both?
The children’s viewpoint
Patricia Gaya Wicks1, Agnes Nairn1 and Christine Griffin2
School of Management, University of Bath
Department of Psychology, University of Bath
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What sense do children make of the brand symbols that surround them? An ongoing
study by Agnes Nairn, Christine Griffin and Patricia Gaya Wicks in the School of
Management and Department of Psychology at the University of Bath explores this
question. As part of this study, focus group discussions with 148 children (age 7-11)
were undertaken. They explain their research.
We asked children to list ‘the things kids in your class are into at the moment’.
Surprisingly, the most intense discussions did not centre around children’s toys and
games – what we might term conventional children’s products and brands – nor even
around clothing, as might have been expected, but around sports celebrities, pop
stars and stars on TV shows. Amongst the celebrities most consistently identified,
David Beckham provided particularly rich material for discussion and debate amongst
Our findings support the notion that, in some respects, Beckham may be understood
as a branded commodity with global reach, and available for ‘consumption’ through
the commercialisation of football, celebrity magazines, his own branded clothing
range for younger children, and the various brands and products which he endorses.
Perhaps more importantly, though, are the roles and functions which our findings
indicate that Beckham fulfils in his positioning as a complex cultural figure. For the
children involved in our study, Beckham played a significant symbolic role in peer
group relations and in the negotiation of social identities. Children used Beckham to
discuss moral values and to debate their understandings of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
Beckham played an important role as a (flawed) hero figure in children’s discussions.