Athletes have short career span. We have seen so many once-popular athletes vanishing into obscurity after their retirement.
However, there are also some athletes who have kept themselves current and influential all the time with strong personal brands. And from that point of view, nobody in the football industry – perhaps even the whole sports industry – understands personal branding better than Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham.
Ronaldo ranks the world’s highest paid athlete and the most followed person in the world on Facebook. Beckham retired 5 years ago, but he still pockets a reported £1 million a month. People keep tabs on the products they endorse and closely follow up with their social media updates. What made them so influential even when they are off the pitch? Why can’t we peel our eyes away from them?
How Strong Are Their Personal Brands?
Both Ronaldo and Beckham have one of the most recognizable personal brands in the world of sports. Before learning about their personal branding strategies, let’s first take a glimpse at how great their personal brands are.
Worth & Wealth
Ronaldo and Beckham are great examples of how developing a personal brand pays off, literally.
Ronaldo, who has an estimated net worth of $400 million according to Celebrity Net Worth, has been the world’s highest paid athlete twice in a row in 2016 and 2017. In 2017, Ronaldo pulled in $93 million overall, with $58 million in earnings and $35 million in endorsement contracts. His recent transfer to Juventus was signed on with a transfer fee of €112 million, which is the highest ever paid by an Italian club and the highest fee ever paid for a player over 30 years old.
Beckham has consistently ranked among the highest earners in football, and in 2013 he was listed as the highest-paid player in the world, having earned over $50 million in the previous 12 months. But what’s more interesting is that, unlike many footballers, Beckham has managed to grow his fortune after hanging up the boots. The Richest estimates Beckham’s net worth to be in the region of £330 million, making him better off than most professional footballers who are still plying their trade. He was recently in the news for being the second most lucrative retired sports star behind Michael Jordan.
Ronaldo has been dubbed a “human billboard” because of his numerous endorsement deals, which include Nike, Tag Heuer and many other brands from hospitality, food, etc. It comes as no surprise that many brands want to work with him, given that he reportedly produced nearly $1 Billion in value for sponsors on Social Media. He also has his own line of underwear, shoes, fragrance and hotels.
Beckham, a former legendary footballer, is now more known as an advertising icon. Since his debut as a Manchester United player in 1993, Beckham has grown into one of the most sought-after brand ambassadors of his generation. He has served as a brand ambassador for Pepsi, Motorola, Adidas, Gillette, Breitling, Emporio Armani, etc., as well as his own line of fashion brands and fragrance.
Social Media Followers
When it comes to social media popularity, there is no sportsman that can compare to Ronaldo with striking data. NBA stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, or Conor McGregor and even his eternal rival Messi are no rivals for Ronaldo.
Ronaldo is the most followed person on Facebook with over 122M fans, on top of big celebrities like Shakira (103M), Eminem (89M), Rihanna (81M) or Justin Bieber (78M). He is also the second most followed person on Instagram with over 121M fans behind of Selena Gomez (133M), and in the top 10 on Twitter.
Beckham also has a great influence on social media. Although the followers are far less than Ronaldo’s, his Instagram and Facebook are followed by over 54M and 51M fans. Reportedly, Beckham can earn up to £228,000 just for posting something on Instagram. Amazing, right? It’s the power of strong personal brand.
How Could They Build Strong Personal Brands?
While there are many other soccer players with amazing records or who are notoriously good looking, it is hard to think of any who is as influential as Ronaldo or Beckham not only on the pitch but also off the pitch. The difference comes down to the issue of how strong their personal brand is.
Their powerful personal brands were not created overnight, and they are the combined result of many areas that they have constantly been working on. Here are 5 factors that contributed to building their successful personal brands.
- Successful Career
Your successful career helps you develop a very solid personal brand. Experts in the business world believe that talent is a major requirement for people who want good personal brands.
Ronaldo has won everything there is to win in football, from individual achievements to team success. He is a five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or – an annual award given to the best player in the world, and is the first player to win four European Golden Shoes. He has won 27 trophies in his career, including five league titles, five UEFA Champions League titles and one UEFA European Championship. With Real Madrid, as the team’s all-time top goal-scorer, Ronaldo won 15 trophies, including two La Liga titles, two Copas del Rey, four UEFA Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups, and three FIFA Club World Cups.
Beckham is a living legend in the world of soccer. He is very famous for his many successful stints in soccer clubs like Manchester United and Galaxy FC, and he is now the only person to have won four national club championships while playing for four different teams in four different countries: England, Spain, the United States and France. With Manchester United, he won the Premier League title six times, the FA Cup twice. He also won the La Liga championship in his final season with Real Madrid.
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- Multifaceted Branding
According to Danielle Berman, a sports philanthropy consultant, “An athlete brand is one that doesn’t revolve around sports”. He says, “Sports may be an athlete’s job, but an athlete brand that stands out among the rest involves more of their passions, interests and life outside of sports.”
While career performance plays an important role in building your personal brand, it gets even stronger when it is combined with various facets of your life including personal elements unrelated to career activities. Ronaldo and Beckham, both did a great job of this, by giving their fans a sneak-peek into their personal lives like their role as a father or their interests in charitable activities on their social media channels.
Also, in Beckham’s case, the number-one name associated with grooming products, his personal brand is arguably closely connected to his physical appearance and good fashion taste. His marriage to a pop-star Victoria Beckham also helped make him even more popular. So, we can say he definitely gained more opportunities to maximize earning potential off the pitch during and post career by showing his talent to marriage, wife and good appearance on his social media channels.
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- Image Optimization
Personal branding is the contents YOU control. You can brand your certain strength to make it stand out more, whereas you can also brand your certain weakness to make it receive less attention.
Beckham had a very good reputation as a footballer in his playing days. For instance, whenever he scored goals, he made sure to give lots of credit to his team members and never showed off. Some soccer analysts claim that there were instances where he created goal scoring opportunities for his team mates so that they can be given spotlight too. His amiable character with his team members can be easily noticed on his social media posts as well as traditional media. Whether he meant or not, it is obvious that his such behavior has increased his credibility as a real professional as well as his fan base.
On the other hand, Ronaldo always had a reputation of being arrogant and self-absorbed due to his obsession in success. It made him never really get the same recognition as his rival Messi received. However, it was his personal branding that changed the narrative surrounding his image, by actively engaging in charitable activities, contributing to communities, and showing his sweeter side as a father and a husband. As a result, our perception on him has rather changed into a professional footballer who can be arrogant on the pitch due to his strong desire for victory, but is sympathetic and involved off the pitch.
Meanwhile, his resilient energy toward success is one of his strengths, which goes aligned with the image most brands pursue. So, you can find a lot of posts showing his strong will and vision to reach his goals on his social media.
- Planned Ahead
You’re making a mistake if you think Beckham was focused only on football during his play days and started branding himself after his retirement. He was aware of the importance of personal branding and started to develop it earlier on. Many of his current endorsement deals are also continuations of partnerships he formed before his retirement.
Ronaldo has also got a head start on capitalizing on his personal brand while still playing. He already has his own line of shirts, boxers and his own fragrance, and co-owns ROC, the speaker and headphone brand, with Shareability. He also has his own line of shirts, boxers and his own fragrance. He has also become the most popular celebrity on social media before he leaves the pitch.
Personal brand is not something that is created in an instant. You need to build it, manage it, in other words work on it. It’s not exceptional for super starts.
Ronaldo has 3,351 posts on Twitter, 2,484 posts on Instagram (ever-growing numbers). Beckham also has almost 1,000 posts on Instagram. This is a visual representation of how they provide the public with daily doses of their personal brands. Frequently and constantly uploading posts on social media is never easy, but it enables you to keep yourself in the forefront of the public’s mind.
In particular, one of Ronaldo’s value that appeals to many brands is his heavy usage of social media with the greatest number of followers in the world. He posted 580 times over 12 months with a sponsor mention or logo. Ronaldo tallied 927 million interactions (likes, comments, shares) and video views on his sponsored posts for an average value per post of $1.6 million for sponsors like Nike, Herbalife, Tag Heuer and Abbott Labs. To build your strong personal brand, you should not just rely on your fame. You need to put considerable amount of efforts.
Ronaldo and Beckham are the people who have earlier recognized the importance of personal branding and used it as a main tool to bring their success on the pitch to the world we actually live in. They understand that winning in life creates more success than only winning on the pitch. It is worth taking time to learn from them how to build a strong personal brand which can shine through our whole life, and make us current and influential even when we are separated from our main career.
Brizzo is a dynamic and energetic investor, marketing strategist, musician and online reputation specialist. He is the Co-Founder of AICY Create, https://www.aicy-create.com/, a leading marketing agency based in China, with expertise in Personal Branding and China Digital Marketing.