Cristiano Ronaldo is in news. Making headlines with a consistency. For his on field heroics. For his global, league, championship, career, club, revenue and market value records. For his 600th career goal. For completing the century of goals in Champions League. For his La Liga club Real Madrid’s second successive Champions League triumph. For leading Portugal national team to their maiden Euro Championship crown. For his record earnings and million dollar endorsement deals. For his fourth FIFA player of the year award.
Hookit has conducted the study for Forbes on the world’s biggest sports stars. The California based firm started with the universe of the 100 athletes from Forbes’ annual look at the highest-paid athletes. Hookit measured interactions and video views across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from the athletes’ personal social media accounts for posts with hashtags, mentions or images in photos/videos of sponsors (Hookit performed the same study last year without image recognition for logo analysis). Hookit measures account promotion type and quality and applies market-driven costs per interaction and platform to deliver a dollar value for each post.
Each of the Ronaldo’s feats takes social media by storm, leading his sponsors to unprecedented rewards. The report suggests that Ronaldo’s sponsors have benefited to the tune of $936 million in social media value from the soccer icon’s accounts during the 12-month period till June 1, 2017.
Ronaldo has made 580 posts with mention of his sponsors logo or name during this period, which culminated into these unprecedented values because of him being the largest followed athlete on social media. Ronaldo has 277 million followers on social media.
His sponsored posts totaled 927 million interactions, which culminated into an average value of $ 1.6 million for his sponsors. The list includes global brands like Nike, Herbalife, Tag Heuer. Nike has signed him for a lifetime deal worth $1 billion.
According to a Forbes reports, Ronaldo is the highest-paid athlete in the world for the second straight year. His $93 million annual reported earnings included $35 million from sponsors and licensing deals.
Soccer players dominate the list of athletes delivering the most interactions and media value for sponsors with six of the top seven. Credit the popularity of the players, teams and sport itself, which touches every corner of the globe.
The 25-year-old Neymar is already a popular pitchman for brands like Nike, Gillette, Red Bull, Panasonic and Beats. Neymar’s personal brand got a boost last summer when he led Brazil to its first Olympic gold in soccer with the game-winning penalty kick in the gold medal match. His 255 social media posts with sponsor images or mentions produced $125 million in media value on 160 million interactions and video views over the last year.
Track star Usain Bolt is the only non-soccer player to crack the top seven. He ranks third with $68 million in media value. The Jamaican sprinter completed his third straight gold medal sweep of the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4 x 100-meter relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Bolt plans to retire after the 2017 World Championships, but many of his 10-plus endorsement partners like Puma, Gatorade, Nissan Motors, Hublot and Sprint are expected to maintain their relationships.
India captain Virat Kohli is the only cricketer in the list dominated by soccer stars. His 62 sponsor branded posts have aggregated a media value of $31.1 million, averaging at $501,800 per post. He is placed at No. 8 in the top 10 list.
Bolt’s total social media following of 31 million fans can’t match the top soccer players, but the interactions on his posts are sky-high when a sponsor is involved. The average promoted post had 281,839 interactions or nearly four times what a non-sponsored Bolt post received. His 194 sponsor-branded posts were worth $351,013 on average per Hookit.
“Athletes who have embraced the major platforms to make themselves accessible and engage with their fans have done the best job to grow their followings into the millions,” says Hookit CEO Scott Tilton. “Athletes like Ronaldo, Neymar and Bolt have capitalized on this opportunity to create 24/7 media properties for themselves where they can control the content, messaging and brands they endorse to generate massive sponsorship value.”