Cristiano Ronaldo and Coca-Cola: A love-hate relationship
Why did Ronaldo remove those Coca-Cola bottles?
On the 14th of June 2021, Cristiano Ronaldo gave a press conference with Portugal coach, Fernando Santos, where Ronaldo removed two Coca-Cola bottles that were in front of him, and asked for water instead.
The funny thing is that Santos saw what Ronaldo did, and was ready to do the same thing instinctively. Fortunately for him, he realized what he was about to do, and finally stopped it at the last moment.
So, what happened to Ronaldo all of a sudden?
Could it be that the Coca-Cola bottles reminded him of his clash with his teammate at the time, Ryan Giggs, over a Coca-Cola can that made Giggs mad, when he saw Ronaldo with it in his hands?
Perhaps that was an experience that is hard to forget, even so many years have passed since then.
It could have played a big role in Ronaldo’s adoption of a healthy lifestyle, which has helped him a lot to become the world-class football class that he is now.
After all, some “healthy” pressure and motivation in the changing rooms by older and more experienced players can sometimes work wonders.
Man Utd was known for its tough players, such as Giggs and Roy Keane, not to mention Sir Alex Ferguson and his famous incident with David Beckham, when Ferguson threw a shoe at Beckham’s face in the changing rooms.
It’s all down to little “healthy” competition and a bit higher-than-normal adrenaline levels in the changing rooms of a professional football team.
Under other circumstances, Ronaldo’s action would not have been a big deal.
However, since Coca-Cola is official sponsor of the Euro 2020 tournament, continuing a long-standing sponsorship that goes back decades, this spontaneous action can have several implications.
The first effect has already been experienced by Coca-Cola itself, since the price of the company’s stock has dropped by a couple of dollars, and the company’s market value has also fallen by billion of dollars.
This effect shows the level of influence that highly popular athletes have in today’s connected worlds. No sooner had Cristiano Ronaldo taken the bottles away than investors realized that this action of his would influence his hundreds of millions of social media followers and fans, with a potentially negative impact on the company’s sales. All this finally led to a significant market loss for the Coca-Cola company in a very short time.
Sports and other celebrities who are heavily involved in the social media game, and have a massive base of followers, can have an incredibly positive effect on the marketing campaigns of profit and non-profit companies that use them to take advantage of their social influence. On the other hand, on certain occasions, this can prove to be a double-edged sword, as it happened with Ronaldo, when celebrities act in a way that has a directly opposite effect.
In the past, there were incidents of football players showing bad behavior, for example, by kicking other players in and out of the ground, or even fans, as in the case of Eric Cantona.
Football players are under constant pressure to perform well, score, defend, and take a positive result. When they are young, they are inexperienced and don’t know how to handle this pressure. On the other hand, extreme success can also cause them to behave strangely.
In terms of sports and financial success, Cristiano Ronaldo is not only one of the most successful athletes – if not the most successful athlete – today; he is among the most successful athletes of all time.
He was clever enough to make a massive fortune from his talent, because, whether we like it or not, long are past the times that football players, and athletes, in general, were amateurs who received little pay, or were not paid at all for what they did.
Nowadays, football is a very lucrative industry, and footballers, and rightly so, want a share of the pie; why not the lion’s share, since they are the ones who play the biggest role in generating billions of dollars for the sports and related industries?
However, they should show some prudence, and understand that every single action of theirs before the public is expected to have influence, which can be social, financial, etc.
All football players who have made huge fortunes after 1995, in the aftermath of the famous Bosman ruling, should be grateful to Marc Bosman; the player who fought a court battle that resulted in major changes in the free movement of players across Europe, and which was the start of an era that saw footballers earning amounts of money that they could only dream of in the past.
Sadly for Bosman, however, the Bosman ruling only made other footballers rich, and not himself.
When it comes to explaining Ronaldo’s behavior at the press conference, another factor could be considered, which is the coronavirus. Football players have been inactive for months, and have also suffered wage cuts because of a drop in club revenues due to the COVID-19 virus.
This may have caused tension and frustration, as well as the recent incident, when a Danish player collapsed on the field. Footballers, and athletes, in general, are not gladiators in ancient Rome, fighting for their life inside the Colosseum. Of course, winning is the ultimate goal, but not to the point of losing your life on the ground. Ronaldo and other football players have been deeply affected by this incident, and perhaps, they are more determined now, so that, if they fight their last battle in the hunt for fame and recognition, they will die hard and not destitute. The sports and leisure industry, fans, and sponsors need to realize that today’s athletes are not willing to become modern-day gladiators for nothing; they will have be rewarded well. Very well.
Back when Ronaldo’s star started to shine, there was much debate on print media on whether Ronaldo would become as famous and wealthy as David Beckham. We know now, that Cristiano Ronaldo has surpassed Beckham in many ways. Although they are different players from different eras, Ronaldo has been awarded the Ballon d’Or and the European Golden Shoe a record-breaking number of times, and these two achievements alone are perhaps enough proof of Ronaldo’s superiority as a player.
Therefore, the money that he has earned is only the natural result of the recognition that he has enjoyed. He has not stolen it, or deceived anyone, but he has earned it through hard work, discipline, and tons of natural talent.
However, the thing is that players like Ronaldo may sometimes find it hard to discipline themselves out of the ground, when they have to follow set professional and social rules.
If an ordinary person makes a mistake, it is different than if a famous athlete makes the same mistake. If I choose water over Coca-Cola, my choice won’t have any impact at all on Coca-Cola’s sales and/or revenues overall, because, as an individual, my personal influence would be limited to a very small number of people.
However, due to Ronaldo’s huge social reach and appeal, his gesture has a strong influence on literally millions of people across the world. Therefore, the economic impact of the things that he does is high.
It can often be the case that athletes and celebrities are approached by companies to sponsor the services and products of those companies, although they may not actually endorse those products and services for whatever reason.
From a marketing point of view, it would be strongly recommended for famous people who are asked to advertise a product or a service and get paid for it to actually like the product or the service at some degree. If this is not the case, sooner or later, problems will arise in the business relationship that is based on the promotion of the product or service, having the opposite effect than the expected. As a result, both the celebrity and the paying sponsor will find themselves in a mutually awkward and embarrassing situation that will cost them millions, if not billions, of dollars.
Ronaldinho learned his lesson by losing one million in sponsorship money from Coca-Cola in 2012, when Pepsi products were placed on his table during a press conference; although Ronaldinho himself was sponsored by Coca-Cola, his club was sponsored by Pepsi.
In the past, players had problems, for example, when they were seen in the company of players from their rival teams (seen as the “enemy”), while, nowadays, it is OK, if Ronaldo and Messi are the best of friends, but not OK, if Ronaldo chooses water over the products of his sponsor, or Ronaldinho (without even realizing it) chooses one Coke brand over another. Times change.
Even after Ronaldo’s incident with Giggs during his Manchester United playing years, Ronaldo’s and the Coca-Cola company have enjoyed a mutually beneficial business relationship for about a decade now. He has not only made his hundreds of millions of euros from transfer deals, but also from sponsorship and advertising deals, with Coca-Cola being among his top sponsors.
Ronaldo endorses a healthy lifestyle, and it is this healthy lifestyle that has largely helped him rise to the top of football fame. He even wants his children to stay away from soft drinks, if they ever stand any chance to become successful football players and follow on his steps.
Ronaldo (and other players) have been accused of greediness and hypocrisy, when it comes to comparing the amount of money that they earn from various sources during their playing career, compared to ordinary working people, and in terms of how they earn that money.
Some of them may have regrets, and stop endorsing products and services that they didn’t actually like or agree with. But, in fact, it may be a bit late, because they have taken the money beforehand. If they have really changed their mind, why don’t they give back the millions that they have earned from these sources in the past?
However, there are things to consider, too.
What about the fact that alcohol beverage manufacturers sponsor sports events heavily? And what about the fact that the same people who claim to be sports fans also consume large quantities of alcohol drinks, namely beer, at major sports events?
Like everything in life, moderation is the answer. Circumstances also play a role.
For example, if a sports fan goes to the ground to watch a game, and consumes, let’s say, one-two pints of beer just to enjoy themselves, that’s fine, and it is even good for health. On the other hand, if they go there to drink literally buckets of beer, and, usually, cause trouble, that’s not OK. I think that even alcohol beverage companies do not encourage this type of behavior.
This could be the message that Ronaldo wanted to get across to fans (maybe in a somewhat clumsy way), i.e. that drinking Coca-Cola does not fit the athletic spirit and healthy lifestyle that are promoted by athletes. However, under other circumstances, drinking Coca-Cola is fine, for example, when you don’t follow a strict diet, like a professional athlete does, or on weekend meals with family, etc.
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