Happy 40th Birthday Becks: How Long Can an Ex Celebrity Last?

As David Beckham enters his fifth decade, Lecturer in Sport Sociology At Staffordshire University Alison Bambridge, celebrates the phenomenon that is David Beckham and asks how long an ex celebrity can last? 


Celebrity can be a cruel mistress. She lures you in, massages your ego then the minute you turn up late or forget the flowers you are dead, your once-prime body tossed into the scrap heap or destined for C-list daytime TV appearances or bookings to open leisure centres in Macclesfield.

In all areas of culture, stars rise, fall then disappear from the public domain in mere nanoseconds. It is rare then to discover a celebrity who has survived the normal onslaught of disinterest, character assassinations, scandals and run of the mill mockeries. David Beckham, ex footballer and current megastar is one such man.

The vagaries of celebrity shelf life are perhaps not as marked within the world of sport as they are in the more constructed worlds of music and TV but then the lifetime of an athlete is already limited. For sporting celebrities, those who rise above and beyond their initial sporting success to grasp onto a wider platform, the potential rewards are phenomenal. In recent times it is probably David Beckham who has encapsulated this more than anyone. He has been transformed from a footballer, to a national sporting hero, to a spokesperson, to an entrepreneur to an institution. He is ubiquity personified. To put it simply, despite the fact that he no longer does what he was famous for, there seems no escape from Brand Beckham. Or is there?

Despite earning £20,000 a week from image rights alone ( in fact to use an image of him here would cost me £2.75) and millions in contracts connected to advertising and sports promotions Beckham himself is aware that he may possibly have a celebrity shelf life. After retiring from playing, last year he suggested that at 39 he might not be able to carry on being the torso of H&M’s underwear campaign, a decision that would leave a multitude of women sobbing into their copies of OK. Now, as he reaches 40, there is a debate on whether without the boots and the body the longevity of Brand Beckham is under threat.


One of many David Beckham look-a-likes (www.fakefaces.co.uk/lookalikes).  Despite the real David Beckham earning £20,000 a week from image rights alone to use an image of him here would cost me £2.75!

In his favour, Beckham has created a well crafted all round nice guy persona; he interacts with his multiple children, appears devoted to his wife who herself is similarly branded, and has connections to so many charities, sports franchises and media outlets that one begins to suspect he must have hired a slew of body doubles to be able to be so many places at once.

Perhaps spurred on by the double-retirement Beckham recently announced his decision to launch his own sporting brand, a joint venture with Simon Fuller that takes him away from the lucrative sponsorship deals and into a new domain. This is not without risks; there are many other celebrities who have attempted the same move into clothing lines and failed, dramatically. Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Kanye West and Paris Hilton, all celebrities with avid fans and all with constant media attention. One of the suggestions behind the sartorial fall outs is that the level of hype and expectation can never be realised by what is in essence a pair of jeans with some sparkly bits on them. So how to make a tracksuit a global commodity people would kill for might even be beyond Beckham yet for the man at 40, there is also an obvious need to reinforce an iconic status. For the majority of the consumers that Brand Beckham  will undoubtedly be aimed at, Beckham’s Manchester Utd. playing days are just  folk tales as it’s 12 years since he played in the Premier League. Perhaps for the sportswear shoppers of today, a Harry Kane range would be more appealing.


Hilarious Guy Richie directed Beckham Underwear advert for his H&M range

Whatever David Beckham chooses to do post 40; management, media or even politics (now there’s a thought) it seems unlikely that the robust self-confidence that informed his playing days will desert him. Beckham appears to have manufactured himself perfectly, appealing to everyone, disappointing no-one. Brand Beckham likewise will probably roll on, Brooklyn and Cruz in the wings of a franchise that seems, at least at the moment, unstoppable.



Alison Bambridge (a.bambridge@staffs.ac.uk; @alicrime) is a Lecturer in Sports Sociology in the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University

For more information or details of the range of sport related degrees on offer at Staffordshire University check out our webpages


Eating in the long run: Nutritional aspects of running the London marathon.

Completing the London Marathon is a major achievement for many, whether this be in a fast time or simply completing the distance. To succeed requires a considerable amount of training and motivation. There are certain nutritional aspects that need to be taken into account: hydration and energy.

Although there are cases of runners overheating the typical climatic conditions for the London marathon should not pose major hydration problems, so providing the athlete starts the run fully hydrated and takes the opportunity to consume further fluids at feeding stations dehydration should not be a problem.

Providing sufficient energy to complete the run is another matter. The human body primarily provided energy for long duration exercise from carbohydrates and fats stored in the body. Even for thin people their fat supplies are considerable, it is the carbohydrate that causes the problem. There is a phrase that “fat burns in a carbohydrate flame”. This means that to be able to metabolise fat and to produce energy the body needs to be metabolising carbohydrate. Many people who have run a marathon will be familiar with the phrase “hitting the wall”, typically around the 20 mile mark. This coincides with the point when carbohydrate levels fall so low that the ability to produce energy becomes compromised and the runner slows down dramatically.

A good analogy here is the fuel in the tank of a car. A car with a full tank, driven at an economical speed will go further than a car being driven fast. This is because the higher speed uses the fuel more rapidly. This works the same for the marathon runner. The well-paced runner reaches the finish line with an empty tank and the fastest possible time.

Elite runners, through years of training have developed a very efficient energy production system and a huge fuel tank. Their muscles adapt to the miles of training by being able to store more glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate) and also they have an ability to produce more energy from fat and also from protein. This enables them to “spare” their glycogen.  Thereby achieving phenomenal times such as Dennis Kimetto’s 2 hr 2min 57 sec in the Berlin marathon in September 2014.

Elite runners will also have a diet that is high in carbohydrate. The typical western diet has about 50% of its calories coming from carbohydrate. Elite endurance athletes are recommended to have at least 60% and perhaps up to 75% of their energy coming from carbohydrate. Typically the western diet contains about 200-250 grams of carbohydrate per day but the endurance athlete would be eating double that quantity or more. 7-12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of their body weight per day is the amount recommended by leading authorities. So for a 70 kg person this would be 490-840g of carbohydrate. Bearing in mind a portion of rice (62g uncooked) provides 47g of carbohydrate, this can represent quite a bit of food.

Recreational marathon runners (if that is not a contradiction in terms) do not have the benefit of long term adaptations created in response to years of training but there are things that can be done to the diet that can help.

When marathon running became a popular activity and a challenge that people sought to achieve research into nutritional aspects of running began to be published. A key realisation was that running time was significantly related to initial muscle glycogen levels and glycogen levels could be affected by dietary intake. This led to the creation of the carbohydrate loading diet in the 1970s. The classic carbohydrate loading diet involved a run to exhaustion seven days before the event. Followed by three days on a diet high in fats and protein but low in carbohydrate. This effectively starved the body of carbohydrate and made it crave carbohydrate when it became available. The runner would then eat a diet very high in carbohydrate and the body would store much greater quantities of glycogen. A rebound effect occurred. This led to the famous “pasta parties” the night before a marathon and runners tried to top off their stores of valuable carbohydrate.

The problem with this approach was that exhausting run and the low carbohydrate days. Runners were very lethargic, exhausted and not well prepared mentally for the up and coming run. It was realised that a less drastic approach was also quite effective. In the days leading up to the marathon the runner should taper their training and increase their carbohydrate consumption. This also leads to increased muscle glycogen levels.

In simple terms, to help with either completing the run or running faster, people should increase their carbohydrate consumption by eating greater than normal quantities of rice, pasta, potatoes and other carbohydrate rich foods and taper their training.

A key feature for success is always pace judgement. The faster you go the faster you will deplete your glycogen stores.

The following sources of information might be useful:-





Trevor Barter

Senior Lecturer, Sport & Exercise

Read more about Sport & Exercise Science here.

Read more about Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University here.