The World Cup of Brands part 4: Ronaldo brands it like Beckham

Posted by : Dr John Jewell

The World Cup of Brands part 4
Cristiano Ronaldo has sponsorship deals with Armani, Castrol Edge, Toyota, Jacob & Co, Herbalife, Banco Espirito Santo and KFC

When Cristiano Ronaldo scored the last goal in Real Madrid’s extra time Champions league final victory over near neighbours Atletico on Saturday,  he put the finishing touches to a domestic league season which has seen him out perform his arch rival, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. Ronaldo scored 51 goals for his club this campaign – including a record 17 in the Champions league alone. Messi, in a season interrupted by injury, could only manage a relatively poor, but still hugely impressive, 41. Oh, and Ronaldo lifted the FIFA Ballón d´Or award for the world’s best player. An accolade bestowed on Messi in all of the previous four seasons.

Added to this, Ronaldo has been named by  as the world’s richest player with an estimated wealth of £122 million. Much of this comes from his deal at Real where is paid an estimated £14.3 million a year and a reported 50% of his image rights. But a significant amount, and it difficult to quantify just how much, of Ronaldo’s earnings are the result of advertising, sponsorship and endorsement deals.

The most lucrative and most enduring of these contracts is with Nike. In 2010, he signed a deal with the sportswear giants worth 6 million Euros a year which, according to industry sources, in the run up to the World Cup, is in the process of being extended. It will see Ronaldo earn £40 million a year over five years. For Nike, Ronaldo is two people: the footballer and the person. The two combined become the brand. As its website states, there are, ‘two distinct sides of CR7 – a relentless, focused footballer at the peak of his power, and a more irreverent, playful and spontaneous style icon with a love of music who lives life full-on.’ 

In World Cup year the brand of Ronaldo is everywhere. There are the other deals with Armani, Castrol Edge, Toyota, Jacob & Co, Herbalife, Banco Espirito Santo and KFC. There is the recent tie in with watch manufacture Tag Heuer, about whom Ronaldo said, ‘we share exactly the same determination: to totally change the game, push the limits and make our own rules. It is a great honor to be a part of such a powerful and pioneering legacy’. In March he became the brand ambassador the ubiquitous Middle Eastern airline, Emirates where he appeared in a commercial with the legendary endorser and footballer, Pele.

That he has his own ‘CR7’ underwear range is no surprise. That he appears on the front page of Spanish Vogue virtually naked with his Russian girlfriend barely raises an eyebrow. The fact that in December he opened a museum dedicated to himself in his hometown of Madeira was more of an inevitability than an act of self indulgent folly.

The obvious reference point for Ronaldo, at least in terms of commercial exploitation (the opening of museums notwithstanding), is David Beckham, sporting icon and advertisers dream. In marketing terms, Beckham is the prototype Ronaldo: footballer and commodity. Over the years Beckham been associated with – amongst many others companies – Vodafone, Marks and Spencer, Adidas, Pepsi and Castrol Oil. Castrol used him in adverts across the Asia pacific region after research found that more than 80 per cent of consumers in Thailand, Vietnam and China said a link with the footballer would be a reason to buy its engine oil.

Beckham sells products because he can be many things to many people. He is not one dimensional – he appeals to men and women. To men, he represents tenacity, skill, patriotism and success. Women appreciate his undoubted good looks, his loyalty and his willingness to embrace his feminine side. Arguably, Ronaldo, whilst not such as an immediately endearing figure as the England idol, is an obvious replacement figure now that Beckham has left the stage. Having said that, Beckham’s retirement from football means that he has more time to concentrate on his commercial activities. In 2013, Brand Finance predicted that he would become a $500 million dollar brand as he consolidated his interests and took on a series of ‘ambassador’ roles for the likes of (among others) Samsung, Sky Sports and Chinese football’s governing body. Expect Beckham’s profile to be to the fore as this tournament gets underway.

In this World Cup, the use of social media – and the interaction between brands, players and supporters – will be immense and unprecedented. Brazil itself, as the Wall Street Journal points out, is a key area for YouTube and the like because of the country’s appetite for social media. By the end of 2012, Brazil was the biggest market outside the U.S. by number of unique visitors for Google Inc. and Facebook has some 65 million users in Brazil, which makes it the company’s second largest market after the U.S. by number of users, according to social-analytics company Socialbakers.

Companies like Adidas and Nike are already exploiting and anticipating the explosion of activity on social media once the tournament begins. The Creative Review  reports that Adidas has shot over 100 films designed to be released via Twitter and email, whilst Sony has created a single online platform, called One Stadium Live, to bring together conversations and content across Twitter, Facebook and Google+ before and during the World Cup.

According to Adage World Cup 2010 attracted two billion TV viewers, and since then internet use has increased by 53%, Twitter use by 13,500%, and Facebook has gone from 300 million to one billion users. The opportunities for commercial activities are seemingly limitless.

The use of social media is the key area where Ronaldo has surpassed Beckham and left his rivals like Messi trailing in his wake. According to Inside World Soccer he has over 90 million Facebook and Twitter followers combined and has recently launched the Viva Ronaldo social networking site. It is where, he writes on his Facebook  page, ‘my true fans belong.  My community – where I can be closer to all of you.’ This is a messianic statement, both inclusive and exclusive.  This is the place where ‘true’ fans can be ‘close’. And one thing is for sure –  if Portugal progress , and Ronaldo shines, he and his many sponsors will be closer still.