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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Rooney sparks net names scramble
Wayne Rooney and David Beckham
Becks can teach Rooney a thing or two about fame
Wayne Rooney may be hitting the back of the net on the field in Euro 2004, but he is also hammering it home when it comes to domain name registrations.

The young England star is on the verge of stealing Michael Owen's second place on the domain name chart, says web registration firm NetNames.

England's hero already has 10 domains in his name, one behind Michael Owen. Even Sven Goran Eriksson has four.

David Beckham still heads the field though, with 111 registered domains.

It is not just because they are good footballers either, it is because celebrities and sports stars are increasingly becoming lucrative "brands" in their own right, according to NetNames' Jonathan Robinson.

Sites like Rooney Lookalike, which has been registered since January 2004, is just a taster of what is being created off the back of the striker's success.

Name game

"What's fascinating to me is that the minute a brand or football star attracts attention, domain names just start 'happening'," Mr Robinson told BBC News Online.

"The key thing is that the domain name registration immediately picks up when the brand is news."

People tend to associate fame with money, which drives many speculative web entrepreneurs to the net.

David Beckham: 111 domains
Michael Owen: 11
Wayne Rooney: 10
Frank Lampard: 5
Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Owen Hargreaves: 3
Sol Campbell, Kieron Dyer, Joe Cole: 2
Nicky Butt, Gary Neville, Phil Neville: 1
Emile Heskey: 0
NetNames has ways of tracking the volume of domain names registered on the net, using their own auditing software.

Although this phenomenon is not new, Mr Robinson warns that celebrities and their crews of agents have to become more web savvy when it comes to claiming a bit of the net for themselves quickly.

"It has been something that has been prevalent for a while, but increasingly there is this concept of URLs and domain names being used for specific product launches," he said.

The youth market in particular is very often the first to look to the web to find information on a product or celebrities.

If they do not move quickly, they may have their name hijacked by someone else who could cash in on the name.

"Many rising football stars have the potential to become huge brands in their own right, so they need to start protecting their online identities early on in their careers," he said.

This, added Mr Robinson, prevents any issues of "cyber squatting" or net name speculation.


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