Athlete Personal Brands Impacting Major Events and Sponsors
By: Natalie Downey
Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best soccer players of all time, has always advertised his healthy lifestyle and strict diet. Because of this, it was no surprise when he decided to drink water instead of the Coke provided for him at a recent press conference during EURO 2020. This decision, done by Ronaldo moving the Coke bottles in front of the cameras and then saying “agua”, led to a significant decrease in the market value for Coca Cola. A decrease of $4 billion to be exact. Tim Crow, a sports marketing consultant who advised Coca Cola on the sponsorship, said it was “obviously a big moment for [the] brand when the world’s most followed footballer on social media does something like that.”
Actions like these are things that companies can never control. Ronaldo is one of the world’s top social media earners, earning more than $1 billion in soccer salaries, bonuses, and commercial activities. This is largely because of his personal brand. In recent years, we have seen a rise in personal branding across athletes and other influencers. PR expert Mark Borkowski says that this gives influencers “so much bloody power.” Because of the popularity of athletes like Ronaldo, it is hard for companies to control or screen what they say to the media.
In some ways, Ronaldo expressing his opinion around carbonated soda is a form of activism. We have recently seen athlete activism from other high-profile athletes, take Naomi Osaka for example. The number 2 ranked tennis player took herself out of the French Open, regardless of the consequences, to focus on her mental health. Actions like this resonate with fans all over the world. Tim Crow also commented on this saying, “activism is now on every sponsor’s radar.”
The idea of a personal brand is something companies are going to need to take into consideration going forward. Signing a deal with a tournament like EURO 2020 doesn’t stop an athlete from sharing their opinions and influencing the opinions of those who follow them. This example is something for companies to take note of before they enter any deals or sponsor any events in the coming future.