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Cristiano Ronaldo – an example of how social media is changing football

Cristiano Ronaldo
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The success of Cristiano Ronaldo, not only as a professional football player but also as an international endorser, is no doubt real.

His success is considered a glimpse into how social media is affecting football. Cristiano Ronaldo currently has over 233 million followers on Instagram. While many love him because of his football talent and skills, others still follow him but pay no interest in football.

An extremely effective media channel

Cristiano Ronaldo is paid a staggering £147m by Nike, according to ...

Soccer superstars are an effective media channel. Source: The Sun

The marketing power can save a company from bankruptcy. This is a true story. We are living in an era where everything can go online and the marketing power of international soccer superstars, like Cristiano Ronaldo, has been exploited to the full. In the 1969 European Cup final, the soccer legend George Best traded off his star performance to launch his fashion brand in Manchester. Kevin Keegan, an English former football player and manager, used his back-to-back Ballon D’Or wins to flog radios.

While some players consider using social media as entertainment, many clubs are willing to pay a giant amount of money to embrace a player with more followers. Cristiano Ronaldo and his Juventus’s transfer is a typical example. According to W88, the giant Italian football club paid $118 million in this transfer, which had not been witnessed in football history. 

The decision to acquire the Portuguese superstar was made without any hesitation, even when there were many opinions that his age was unlikely to have much if any resale value. The thing is that this Italian football club not only bought a football asset but also a media channel with extremely great popularity. 

Before Ronaldo, the Juventus club got 1.8 million television viewers. This was just 1% of the potential audience of Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus club also experienced a significant increase in the number of followers on social media, meaning that the club’s value also rises dramatically. Shares in Juventus witnessed a 15% increase from the transfer of Ronaldo and the club’s market value was reported to increase $354 million, which was a big change. 

The next Euro 2021 season (postponed due to Covid-19), in order to defend the European championship title, Cristiano Ronaldo would once again be at the top of Portugal’s plan. He will be indispensable in their hopes this season. The Portuguese star’s sporting abilities are no doubt real. He scored 30 goals in Serie A alone, which was nearly half of the total goals made by Juventus. His Instagram account is considered a bonus for himself and the Juventus club and is contributing considerably to the changes in the football industry.

The relationship between football and Instagram

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Digital revenue is turning to become the main revenue of footballers and their clubs. Source: Nearview Media

Before the information era where nearly everything goes online, the main revenue of a football club was from winning trophies. These days, prize money no longer seems to be the main revenue of a soccer club. Digital revenue streams are affecting how football teams make their money.

You might hear about Hashtag United club – a fifth-tier English club – which was formed up by YouTuber FC Spencer. This club earned big money from online platforms and marketing by taking advantage of massive online following.

A typical example is Manchester United. By exploiting the power of digital platforms, this club had facilitated its extraordinary financial growth. It turns out that commercial revenue coming from advertising is the main revenue in most football clubs, accounting for 50% of total revenue in the largest soccer clubs.

Especially in the COVID-19 pandemic where live events, including tournaments, are restricted considerably. Commercial income becomes the main income, and even the only one, to many footballers.

By using a star player with strong social media followings, for instance, Cristiano Ronaldo, brands can reach their target market more easily and effectively. The advertising contracts between football stars and brands are a win-win one. Brands can take the biggest benefits of the stars’ popularity to push their products while the star players get a chance to make big money.

According to Coyle, soccer has a much harsher audience than a lot of other sports.  Continuously, he explains that if a football player did not have a good performance, he will get slated on the internet. After analyzing social media campaigns of professional players and soccer influencers who have many massive followers on social media, Coyle found an interesting fact.

When it comes to engagement, choosing a football influencer with a smaller audience tends to be more effective than choosing a professional footballer with a large number of followers. No matter if the content is an advertisement or not, they can make the content more engaging.

Eden Hazard advertising a watch is an example cited. According to Coyle, this footballer seems to try to leverage his social following to sell a product. The picture of him holding a watch is very basic. It had about a 1% engagement rate on that post and normally, he always gets like a million likes of him playing soccer. Cristiano Ronaldo’s way of advertising is not like Eden Hazard’s. The evidence is everywhere. Many brands are willing to pay a big amount of money just to have their post related to their products on the football star’s Instagram.

It cannot be denied that Cristiano Ronaldo does very well on social media when it comes to advertisement.  If his posts had not made sense, brands wouldn’t want to pay him that much because he could produce content that results in higher brand recognition and higher sales. That he is being praised as the best player of all time is not a matter to brands.

Cristiano Ronaldo versus The Super Bowl

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Should you advertise in the Super Bowl or have a superstar to promote your products? Source: Fox Business

Having influencers advertising products via social media and having their advertisements shown in events like the Super Bowl are two kinds of advertisement: the digital one and the traditional one. The Super Bowl has been considered the pinnacle of sports advertising, with sky-rocketing priced television ad-breaks during the event. This year’s Super Bowl audiences were about 99.9 million – half of the number of followers on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram.

While Ronaldo can reach audiences 24 hours a day, the Super Bowl is held once a year, leading to an inevitable shift of marketing budget spent on digital looks. However, there is one thing that brands might not be aware of. Unless audiences are actively taken in by the post, it is just background noise. Of millions of followers on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram, how many actually and actively engage with the post? About the Super Bowl, if you’ve got 100 million people tuning in, those hundred million people are actively engaging with that product.

More and more brands are actively hiring sports superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo to promote their products. With millions of followers on social media, these stars tend to gain much attention from the brands. However, the thing which really matters is how many are engaging with the products, not the number of people seeing and dismissing the posts.

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