After nine years with Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the most marketable man in football, is joining Juventus for a fee of €100 million. At the age of 33, the goal-scoring superstar has a wide social media influence and is noted for his many and varying endorsement deals. With 74.5 million followers on Twitter and 134 million on Instagram, Ronaldo became the first athlete to reach 200 million combined followers across all platforms, according to Hookit.
With a social media net that wide, the revenue and interaction Ronaldo can score is huge. Forbes reported that between 2016 and 2017, he posted 580 pieces of sponsored content, which generated 927 million interactions.
But what does this transfer coup mean to the player himself and Juventus as a club and brand? Adrian Pettett, the chief executive of Cake, the Havas sport and entertainment agency, questioned the deal now that "[Ronaldo’s] best playing years are behind him."
"Are Juve buying a player or investing in a marketing asset?" Pettett said. "Ronaldo is a media publisher in his own right, with follower numbers and a level of global fame that is arguably more valuable in the short term than Juve’s".
He continued: "In the market for sponsorship, clubs can find themselves in competition with their own players, who are a viable option in reaching the same audience, often at a lower price point."
As for the deal, Ronaldo will pivotally retain his shirt number seven, allowing him to uphold his lucrative CR7 brand, which is reportedly worth €100 million. The brand’s main focus is clothing, with a range of CR7 products modelled by Ronaldo himself. In 2015 Ronaldo poured €75m into the luxury hotel group Pestana to build four CR7 hotels, with one open in Madeira and another in Lisbon.
His home nation also contributes to his status as the most famous Portuguese export, with his hometown of Madeira hosting the Ronaldo museum and boasting an airport named after him with its infamous bronze bust of the star.
For Juventus, the deal represents a near completion of its business and brand building plan, which started after the club’s relegation from Serie A for a game rigging scandal in 2006. This has involved the construction of Serie A’s first club-owned stadium in 2010 and a rebranding of the club’s logo to make it more social media-friendly. Following the news of Ronaldo’s transfer, Juventus’ shares soared by almost 40%, with newspaper Secolo XIX noting that its market valuation had risen from €665 million to €815 million.
However, it’s not all cash flow for Juventus. Phil Carling, the global head of football at creative marketing agency Octagon, pointed out that while imagery of Ronaldo in a Juventus shirt will be good for exposure, commercial use of those images would not be part of the deal.
Ronaldo’s intellectual property will actually have a small impact on the value of the transfer, Carling added: "It is highly unlikely that either Juventus or Serie A will have contracted individual rights to utilise his I.P. Nor would such rights have formulated a part of the transfer value. This is because Ronaldo is heavily contracted already and has either category conflicts or no time to offer."
As for Juve’s sponsors, Bloomberg reported that car manufacturer Fiat Chrysler, whose Jeep brand is the official shirt sponsor of the club, could see a large advertising increase in the deal. Eric Smallwood, the president of Apex Marketing Group, told Bloomberg that if Ronaldo can help Juventus to a UEFA Champions League final, the exposure for that one year will be worth about $58.3 million, representing a large return on the $20 million investment paid each year for sponsorship, according to SportsPro.
Juventus could also see an increase on its social media channels because of the transfer. With 10 million followers on Instagram and 6.1 million on Twitter, the organisation’s number of followers falls far behind Ronaldo as a single player.
As clubs become more sophisticated in their use of social media, "big name transfers are key content opportunities" to engage with global fan bases, Carling said.
The importance of Juventus signing Ronaldo is not just in his ability on the pitch, but also about his image, brand and influence. In 2015, Ronaldo told Agence France-Presse that "many footballers end their careers without knowing what they want to do", but for him "it’s clear" that he wants to want to "look after [his] brands."
His predecessors weren’t part of the social media generation, and therefore had to look to build their careers elsewhere post-football. Yet Ronaldo’s adeptness at personal brand building and his wide social media influence will ensure his future career will be focused solely on Brand Ronaldo.