Inside the CR7 Social Media Empire

21 Dec

Back in October it was reported Cris had amassed 100 million likes on Facebook, making him the biggest sports personality ever. And the recipient of yet another fancy-esque trophy for his museum. Only Shakira has more likes on that platform, amassing 106 million to almost 104 million for Cris.

These numbers are mind-boggling, and represent quite an evolution from 2009 when Facebook executives first approached Cris about creating a profile. According to an article in the Financial Times Weekend magazine, these executives suggested, “He has the potential to get to 10 million followers.” Chief executive of Lisbon-based Polaris Sports which manages Cris’ image rights, Luis Correia, recalled how Polaris replied: “We don’t believe you. That’s the size of Portugal.”

Ha! x 10! Love that even Cris’ own management company underestimated his social media potential.

In acknowledgment of this incredible feat, FIFA Weekly interviewed Correira back in November to gain some insight into how this social media empire came to be and operates today.

Were you always convinced Cristiano Ronaldo would triumph on the social networks?
Luis Correia: No. We actually had reservations, or at least great respect. It was all fairly new back then in 2009-10 and we didn’t have enough previous experience to draw upon. All we knew was that whatever Cristiano says can have a huge impact. But what if he made mistakes or his words were interpreted the wrong way? It could all have backfired very quickly.

What was ultimately the decisive factor?
We wanted to show Cristiano unfiltered and just as he is. The Ronaldo brand polarised opinion. There was only black or white. Fans either worship him or loathe him. There was no middle ground. We wanted to make Cristiano tangible, especially for kids and teens, and you can only reach them via social networks. So it became clear we had to be part of that.

Did you have any inkling of the dimensions his presence would take on?
We were expecting it to be big, but we have to admit we were surprised by the magnitude. I recall a jokey conversation with social media experts who insisted Cristiano might one day pass the 10 million milestone – approximately the population of Portugal. Unbelievable, we thought. It seemed gigantic!

Ronaldo first posted on Facebook from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Was he enthusiastic about the new medium at the start?
The breakthrough came on 4 July 2010 with the announcement of his son’s birth on Facebook and Twitter. Rumours were circulating that Cristiano had become a father. Cristiano was with the national team in South Africa, and we all needed to take a fast decision, so we weighed up our next move very carefully. Should we confirm the news via a standard press release? Should we give a newspaper an exclusive statement on the subject? Or should we have Cristiano appear for the cameras? At the end of the day we decided to use Facebook and Twitter and reach the largest possible number of people with a clear message: “It is with great joy and emotion that I inform you that I have recently become the father to a baby boy.” The response was very good, and that’s when Cristiano realised how important and helpful the tool could be for him in the future.

Why are people so fascinated by Cristiano?
We think people are interested in Cristiano the person. The level of interest always peaks when he posts about his private life: photos of himself and his son, at dinner with his partner, or eating a bowl of spaghetti while watching football on TV. Obviously, we seek the right mix and balance between personal information, commercial messages and sports-related posts. That is our task.

Is his appeal to women especially strong on the net?
The split is 78 percent male and 22 percent female actually, but we don’t pursue any strategic target group considerations. When he’s on the net Cristiano tries to be as natural and personal as he possibly can.

What was the most popular post?
It was on October 23rd, when he posted a selfie showing him with his new boot. That photo attracted more than 3.8 million likes, unbelievable dimensions. His personal photos always generate an insane buzz in the social media.

According to the Repucom agency, 84 percent of the global population is aware of Cristiano. Does his popularity translate directly into turnover?
Direct monetisation in social networks remains difficult. In common with many others we’re trying to profit directly from internet activities and we’re involved in a couple of interesting and innovative projects to that end, but it’s definitely not our primary objective.

So what is the main goal?
Cristiano is primarily interested in direct communication and interaction with his fan base. Naturally we’re also trying to maintain and protect the Ronaldo brand. There’s a strong emotional component and the opportunity to experience and get to know him personally on the net, and share some moments of his life. This is why we set up the “Viva Ronaldo” digital platform with exclusive content covering all Cristiano’s activities. Everything else – by which I mean commercial considerations – is secondary.

On that note, Repucom reports a single post by Cris is worth an average of $143,750 of advertising for the brand he is endorsing. You can bet his commercial viability – aided significantly by his social media presence – is not secondary to those companies.


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