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Nike announced a lifetime deal with global soccer icon Cristiano Ronaldo last month. It is only the third lifetime deal for the $31-billion-in-revenue sports giant after LeBron James, who inked his own lifetime pact 12 months ago, and Michael Jordan, who is presumed to have a quasi-lifetime deal as the name and logo of the Nike-owned Jordan brand.
The Ronaldo-Nike partnership launched in 2003, the same year Ronaldo joined Manchester United where he starred for six seasons before moving to Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid in 2009. Ronaldo has worn 60 different kinds of Nike cleats over 13 years. The lifetime endorsement deal is reportedly similar to James’ pact and worth as much as $1 billion.
Nike got off cheap based on a new report from Hookit, which measures the social and digital media value for brands. Hookit found that Ronaldo’s massive social media presence generated a staggering $474 million in value for Nike this year via 329 posts across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“Cristiano is one of the top influencers on the planet who has effectively leveraged his social following and engagement into a media powerhouse to drive tremendous value for his sponsors,” says Hookit co-founder Scott Tilton. “He's been incredibly effective at integrating his sponsors into the content he shares with his over 240 million global followers.”
Here are the numbers behind Ronaldo’s value to Nike. He posted 1,515 times overall on social media during the first 11 months of the year with 21.7% of those posts promoting Nike via a hashtag, mention or logo. Those posts generated 443.5 million total interactions (likes, comments, shares, retweets and views on videos).
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Hookit’s methodology looks at promotion type and quality, as well as interactions and market-driven rates. Their models have found that the average number of impressions per interaction ranges between 15 and 65 depending on the platform. Meaning: Ronaldo’s posts mentioning Nike or of him adorned with the Swoosh logo could have generated more than 25 billion impressions.
Ronaldo’s most valuable post from 2016 was on Instagram after he led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title as team captain. Just Do It was the hashtag, while the same slogan as well as the Nike Swoosh were both in the image for the post below with 1.75 million likes and nearly 13,000 comments. The payoff: $5.8 million in media value for Nike.
Ronaldo is on a completely different planet than any other athlete when it comes to media value for his sponsors. Hookit took a look at sponsor mentions and hashtags this summer as part of Forbes’ annual look at the world’s 100 highest-paid athletes (it did not include logo recognition). Ronaldo’s media value was $176 million for all of his sponsors in the prior 12 months or seven times what the No. 2 athlete, Stephen Curry, generated. Ronaldo also topped the earnings list with $88 million from salary and endorsements in the 12 months ending in June 2016. His total comp is heading up with his new Nike pact and Real Madrid contract signed last month.
This value for Nike via Ronaldo’s social media feed is above and beyond the value Ronaldo generates for Nike from his appearances on the pitch and in commercials, as well as the cleats/boots and apparel he helps Nike sell. Soccer generates more than $2 billion annually in revenue for Nike.
Ronaldo added 60 million followers to his social media accounts so far this year with Instagram the major source at 41.5 million new fans for Ronaldo on the photo-sharing site per Hookit. His total following is now 249 million with Facebook still his biggest source. His 118 million Facebook fans are more than any other person on the planet (Shakira ranks No. 2 with 104 million). Ronaldo's 60 million new fans are more than the total following of any American athlete, save LeBron James.