What is the ‘Cristiano Ronaldo Effect’?
It is now everywhere in Italy. It is all around us. It is both real and virtual.
You can see it when you look out your window and there are kids with ‘CR7’ shaved into their heads all wearing the same Juventus jersey.
Or when you turn on your television and are inundated with ads hailing ‘ Il colpo del secolo ‘ (The deal of the century).
It is evident on the front page of every newspaper at every news stand in every city up and down the peninsula, but it can also be found at the gelateria, where one can buy a ‘CR7’ ice cream.
‘The Cristiano Ronaldo Effect’ transcends sport. It dominates social media and even influences the stock market.
It is why Juventus ultimately decided to pay over €100 million for a 33-year-old forward on July 10.
When Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, first informed Juventus in the spring of this year that his client wanted to move to Turin, the Bianconeri did not immediately rush to make it happen.
Club president Andrea Agnelli, CEO Beppe Marotta and the rest of Juve’s directors met several times to carefully consider the financial merits of putting together a package worth a grand total of €341m (a €117m transfer fee plus an estimated €224m in wages over the next four years) for a man who will be 34 by the time the next Champions League knockout stage rolls around.
In the end, the Bianconeri board deemed Ronaldo worth the colossal investment, both from a sporting and financial perspective.
Juve’s directors, players and supporters had seen first hand that the Portuguese remains in excellent physical condition when, on April 3, he netted an incredible, acrobatic overhead kick in Real Madrid’s 3-0 Champions League win in Turin.
His impressive mental fortitude was also on show eight days later at the Santiago Bernabeu when he nervelessly converted the injury-time spot-kick that decided the quarter-final tie in the Spanish club’s favour.
Less than a year after his double in the final in Cardiff, Ronaldo’s goals had once again killed Juve’s hopes of winning a first Champions League since 1996. Now, he has revived them.
However, as Timothy Bridge, author of Deloitte ‘s ‘Football Money League’ explains, Juve haven’t just signed Ronaldo to help them on the field.
“The reasoning behind signing Ronaldo will have been two-fold,” he tells Goal . “Firstly, it will be about trying to ensure that they not just maintain but raise the level of their on-field performances over the past few years.
“They believe that, even at 33, Ronaldo can win them the Champions League. Anyone who’s watched Juve’s Netflix documentary will know that European success is their primary aim.
“They’ve won Serie A seven years in a row; now they want the Champions League. And they, quite understandably, believe that Ronaldo can help them do it.
“At the same time, though, in an era in which Serie A wasn’t providing Juventus with the global exposure that clubs in the Premier League and the top two in Spain are enjoying, I think Ronaldo’s signing has to be read as a key part of an internationalisation strategy on the part of Juve.
“This transfer is about making Juve as attractive as possible to both fans across the world and potential commercial partners.
“Ronaldo is still one of the best players in the world, if not the best, and that brings credibility. But he’s also undeniably the biggest draw in world football and that brings with it greater commercial revenue opportunities, which is where Juve still lag behind the game’s superpowers: Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
“So, fans want to follow him and, consequently, companies want to be associated with him. New commercial opportunities – that’s where the real value lies for Juve because, as we’ve already seen, they’ve experienced a massive spike in their social media following over the past month.”
There is an old adage in football that ‘Nobody is bigger than the club’ but, in terms of social media, Ronaldo is bigger than Juventus.
At the time of writing, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has approximately 334.9m followers across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram; Juve have 55.1m – and Ronaldo’s arrival is responsible for six million of those.
In addition, according to Deportes & Finanzas , Juve ranked no.1 among football clubs for YouTube views in July (as well as Instagram and Facebook interactions), with 36.3m. When one considers that the club had just 3.07m views the month before, the staggering scale of Ronaldo’s pulling power can be fully appreciated.
Of course, internet increases do not equate to an immediate monetary boost for the Old Lady but they are far more significant than the much-discussed rise in share price (from 0.627 cents on June 11 to 0.861 by August 10) or the surge in shirt sales (one a minute the day after his arrival).
It has been suggested that Ronaldo will repay his transfer fee in jerseys alone but that is simply not the case, given Juve ‘only’ receive between 20 and 25 per cent of the money that kit supplier adidas make from every unit shifted.
That share of the spoils is nothing to be scoffed at but it is the social media spike that is potentially of far greater value to Juve.
As outlined in KPMG ‘s recent report on ‘Ronaldo Economics’, the game’s elite clubs have long since realised that “fans can be turned into customers” – and nobody has more fans than Cristiano Ronaldo.
And that means nobody. Not even the world of entertainment. Ronaldo has 139m on Instagram; Kim Kardashian has 115m.
“He’s the most popular celebrity in the world and that has a massive value because more and more football fans nowadays follow players rather than teams,” Bridge adds.
“They either love the way they play the game or just love the personality, the image, and nobody has a better image than Ronaldo, so they’ll pay just to watch his games.”
Certainly, Juve fans are no longer complaining about the on-average 30 per cent price hike for season tickets that was announced before the Ronaldo deal.
Indeed, the Bianconeri are now expecting to shift all 29,300 of their allocation, which will mean an additional €33m in revenue this season – a 30% profit increase on the 2017-18 gate receipts (€25.7m).
It is not just Juve fans who want to see Ronaldo in action either. Every stadium in which he plays in this season is expected to sell out, while Serie A is already benefitting from his arrival in terms of TV rights.
“Ronaldo is obviously a major box-office draw,” Bridge says. “Some people will come to matches just to see him alone, firstly because he’s such a superstar, and secondly because, at 33, there might not be many more opportunities to see him again in the future.
“Even fans of other clubs in other leagues are keen to see ‘the Ronaldo effect’ in action; they want to know what impact this phenomenon can have on the Italian game.
“And that’s a global phenomenon, too, meaning Ronaldo has opened up new markets for Juventus and for Italian football.”
This has been amusingly manifested itself in Finnish pay-TV channel Ruutu acquiring the rights for Serie A solely to show every Juve game for the next three seasons.
Put quite simply: Ronaldo has reinvigorated Serie A. Not since his Brazilian namesake joined Inter in 1997 has one transfer so captured the imagination of the Italian public.
A Villar Perosa sono al lavoro… pure i barbieri ?
C’è chi prima della partita #JuveAJuveB vuole farsi il taglio griffato #Juventus … ?
Video di @romeoagresti pic.twitter.com/aaibMakHNd
— Goal Italia (@GoalItalia) August 12, 2018
But the effect is far-reaching, with Neymar among those that believes that other superstars will now follow the Portuguese to Serie A, claiming that “it will once again become the league that I watched as a child”. Indeed Luka Modric – the best player at the 2018 World Cup – also pushed for a transfer to Serie A this summer with Inter after seeing his former Real Madrid team-mate make the move.
The counter-argument, of course, is that Juve will simply strengthen their grip on the Scudetto but Jose Mourinho believes that it could give “a push to the likes of Milan, Roma, Inter and Napoli”.
Indeed, Fabio Capello believes that this is an unexpected and unique opportunity that Serie A as a whole cannot afford to squander.
“Ronaldo’s transfer means that people are speaking about the Italian league again,” the former AC Milan boss told the Gazzetta dello Sport . “In the 80s and 90s, we represented the pinnacle of the game but we lost the run of ourselves and stopped investing in the structure of the league.
“TV rights and merchandising allowed England, Germany and Spain to overtake us, but with Cristiano Ronaldo we can try to lift our heads again.
“Certainly, Ronaldo alone is not enough. We need to have the strength and intelligence to exploit this Ronaldo stimulus to give our football a boost.”
The CR7 brand has already given it a massive boost, though. Ronaldo’s arrival has altered the global perception of Serie A. It now feels like a world without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.
That is the Cristiano Ronaldo effect. And it’s now up to Juventus, and indeed the rest of Serie A, to build upon it.