Cristiano Ronaldo has the potential to replace David Beckham as the footballer who earns the most money from endorsements following his world record 130-million dollar move to Real Madrid, experts say.
“There is certainly a vacancy for a football central brand right now,” said Simon Chadwick, professor of sport business strategy and marketing at Coventry University in England.
“Beckham, because of his age and the stage of his career, has lost it. And Ronaldo is ideally placed to assume the mantle of ‘brand Beckham’, especially among young kids and teenagers,” he told AFP.
Chadwick, who has studied what makes a strong sports player brand, said Ronaldo has many of the required qualities: he is highly skilled, has a good physique, plays at a successful team and has enjoyed “sustained” success.
The 24-year-old Portuguese winger has already appeared barechested in adverts for Pepe Jeans, as well as in campaigns for Nike, Coca-Cola, the video game FIFA Street 2 and Indonesian energy drink Extra Joss.
He earned 19.6 million dollars a year at Manchester United off the pitch from product endorsements, compared to 42.5 million dollars earned by the 34-year-old Beckham last year, according to British media reports.
With his move to Real, where he will play alongside other big-name new recruits like Kaka and Karim Benzema, Ronaldo is following in the footsteps of Beckham who also left Manchester United for a successful spell at Real.
“He is in a fantastic position. Both clubs are very good at marketing their brand and players and have a huge fan base,” said Jamie Wynne-Morgan, managing director of M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment.
“He needs to be careful not to be overexposed and make the right strategic decisions, not do lots of little deals,” added Wynne-Morgan, whose agency advised on a deal that saw Ronaldo sign up as a “global ambassador” for engine oil company Castrol earlier this year.
Ronaldo, the 2008 FIFA world player of the year, signed a six-year deal with Real worth 94 million euros and will reportedly be paid 13 million euros each season, making him the world’s most expensive player.
His appeal to the youth market coveted by advertisers was underscored at his official unveiling on July 6 at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium as nearly 80,000 ecstatic fans, mainly teenagers and young adults, turned out to welcome him.
Ronaldo however lacks the seemingly stable family life which Beckham, who now plays for Los Angeles Galaxy, enjoys and is often accused of not being a team player, two factors which could decrease his “likeability” factor and appeal to advertisers.
“Beckham was so successful at Real in part because he was seen as playing for the team. I don’t think Ronaldo has that. Off field Ronaldo needs to get married, settle down with a nice girl, and start a family,” said Chadwick.
How much Ronaldo earns from endorsements will ultimately depend on his performance on the pitch since companies seek endorsements from top players like Ronaldo because they want to be associated with their success.
“They want to be seen as young, goodlooking, funky, successful brands so therefore they want to have young, goodlooking, funky, successful icons promoting their name,” said veteran football agent Jon Holmes, who managed former England international striker Gary Lineker.
“He is a good looking guy and I would say his level of articulateness is about the same as Beckham’s. I don’t know about his intelligence or anything like that but he is not dissimilar in some ways,” he told AFP.
“He is probably a better player than Beckham in that he is more versatile. Beckham is a workhorse of a player, Ronaldo seems to be a more natural player.”