Cristiano Ronaldo is a household name, and to many he’s considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time. As a sportsman, he has an ongoing list of career achievements and broken records, and as a celebrity, he’s deemed the king of social media with his ability to attract the most followers of any athlete or Hollywood star.
In the past two decades he has partnered with dozens of brands, and his continual growth on social media means that his influence grows with it. We looked at how much engagement he receives online, from earned media to his own social media accounts.
Let’s first take a look at the recent public interest.
The Ronaldo effect
It’s not uncommon for Cristiano Ronaldo to appear in headlines around the world, but recently the soccer star has captured even more attention than usual. In the past three months Ronaldo has been written about 60k times, with more than 21 million engagements with those articles.
The massive amount of public interest has been a result of his return to Manchester United, the Premier League club he played for in the early 2000’s that helped to shape his career as a young athlete. News about his Man United homecoming, which was responsible for the biggest peak in both media and public interest on Aug 27, received over 3.8 million engagements in one day.
This announcement is what initially sparked the bulk of engagements with Ronaldo, but even so, he still manages to garner almost 100k engagements or more every single day.
We know that Ronaldo earns an immense amount of engagement on his own, but what does it look like when he’s tied to a brand and how does his social media status have an impact?
Ronaldo is one of the world’s most endorsed athletes
As one of the world’s highest profile athletes, Ronaldo boasts an impressive portfolio of endorsement deals. In addition to a lifetime deal with Nike, in the company of the likes of Michael Jordan and LeBron James, he’s had various partnerships over the years with brands like Tag Heuer, Herbalife, and Clear. Most recently he announced his partnership with the tech wellness company Therabody, where he’ll appear in ads to promote various muscle massaging devices.
In our research we found that media coverage of this partnership was quite low, with only 29 articles published about it. Initially this came as a surprise due to the level of media interest he receives in general, but as we dig a bit deeper it becomes clear that engagement with Ronaldo’s brand partnerships tends to be mostly limited to his own social universe.
In contrast, earlier this year we looked at the engagement to BTS’s brand partnerships and saw huge amounts of earned media from those announcements. The K-pop group might be new to the world of partnerships compared to veteran Ronaldo, but it was clear that publishers had high interest in covering them.
The lack of earned media of Ronaldo’s brand partnerships doesn’t necessarily affect his ability to make an impact as an influencer. As of July 2021 he became the most followed person on Instagram, with 315 million people following his account, and since then he’s gained another 47 million.
With an audience that large, full of devoted fans, Ronaldo is able to draw enormous amounts of attention to the brands he’s promoting. As shown above, his most recent collaboration on the platform with Therabody generated over 5.6 million engagements.
Although Instagram is where he has the most followers, his presence on Facebook and Twitter is still profound, with a combined following of 245 million. We looked into Facebook a bit further to see how Ronaldo’s page compares to some other highly endorsed athletes on the platform such as NBA star LeBron James, and Argentine soccer star, Lionel Messi.
So far in 2021, Ronaldo’s Facebook page has brought in over 293 million engagements, with Messi’s 177 million taking the second spot among the trio. James only saw 29 million engagements this year, and although that would normally be considered a high level of engagement, it shows how far above and beyond Ronaldo’s level of influence is on social media.
How Ronaldo holds brand influence regardless of endorsements
The power that Ronaldo has to bring attention to brands is not bound by influencer marketing, although his influence is certainly impactful to brands, and sometimes in negative ways. This past June at a Euro 2020 press conference, Ronaldo removed two Coca-Cola bottles from the table, and instead held up a bottle of water to show the crowd.
In the week following there were 7k articles written about his actions, which received over 5.3 million engagements. The top piece of content came from the Independent and joked about product placement needing to end.
However, the biggest and surely the most impactful takeaway was that Coca-Cola’s market value dropped by $4 billion soon after the press conference, although the company’s finance chief was quick to dismantle the claim. This sent the media and public into a frenzy, but also demonstrates how Ronaldo’s brand partnerships are selective, and when something is not tailored to his audience he has the ability to change it.
In our analysis we’ve seen how content about Ronaldo can quickly erupt, but it seems that media coverage about him leans more towards his life as an athlete and brand partnerships receive engagement through his influence alone. For now, it looks as though the “king” will have to continue wearing two crowns.
To read more about celebrities and brand partnerships we’ve researched, click here.