Influencer marketing with champions: Ronaldo vs Messi

    score your influencers!


    Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Two of the most recognizable athletes on the planet. Worldwide fame, monstrous salaries, a lifestyle to salivate over, and gazillions of adoring fans following them on social media.


    Star players in team, ‘most valuable brand influencers in the world’. Mesmerizing fans with their ball work for over a decade.

    Back of the net!

    Social media is a powerful platform that’s given sports stars and celebrities a place to increase the value of their brands. Football players have long been considered fashion icons, style leaders, pin-ups. Appearing on many a bedroom wall for reasons other than their scoring skills. The lucky ones, continue as an influencer long after they’ve stopped playing.

    Beckham ain’t going nowhere!  

    I'm going to look at Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Who’s the most marketable? How they compare with regard to public awareness, social media value, endorsements, influence, trendsetting, engagement, reach, sentiment, etc., etc. Quick Search - our social media search engine - will dig deep into the social media lives of Ronaldo and Messi for the last three months.

    Before we kick off, Laura, our cracking designer, has designed a champion infographic - pulling out the best bits. Feel free to share!

    Ronaldo vs Messi - infographic

    What is influencer marketing?

    First up, influencer marketing isn’t a new thing. It’s been around for decades. But, the power of influencer marketing has increased and it’s recognized as a highly effective part of marketing strategies.

    How did it become a marketing champion?

    Traditional advertising took a hit. Consumers lost faith in brands using hard sell marketing techniques, with 92% prefering to trust recommendations from individuals over brands. The rise of ad blockers was the nail in the coffin.    

    Choosing your influencer

    While top-tier influencers are unquestionably in it for the money, relying purely on their pretty faces isn’t going to work. You need to ensure that:

    • Your brand is relevant to the influencer’s content and followers
    • The influencer identifies with your product and promotes it as a benefit to their followers
    • The influencer interacts with their followers -  automated posts are ignored, a bored audience won't comment engage

    Quick search - influencers

    No question, Ronaldo has huge reach. He also engages with his followers.

    Okay, let’s take a close look at our footy players...

    Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi


    Cristiano Ronaldo Facebook image

    Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro

    Born in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, on 5 February 1985
    Forward #7 - Real Madrid/Portugal

    Love him or hate him, Ronaldo can kick a ball. He also rocks on social media, being one of the best Facebook influencers ever, with 122M+ likes.

    The facts

    • Since signing with Manchester United in 2003, Ronaldo has signed 31 major sponsorships
    • 2015 - agreed a $1 billion lifetime pact with Nike
    • 2016 - generated $500 million for Nike from social media accounts
    • 2016 - when Portugal defeated France in the Euro final, Ronaldo’s Instagram post was worth $5.8M to Nike
    • 2016 - with 120 million Facebook fans, Ronaldo published 347 posts that included a Nike logo or mention - generating 477M interactions - likes, shares, or comments 
    • HopperHQblog suggests Ronaldo earns $400,000 for every image he posts


    Liked 1.7M times, 12,750 comments. Worth $5.8M to Nike.

    • 2018- Forbes estimates his total earnings for the year to be $61M in salary/winnings and $47M in endorsements
    • Sponsors - Nike, Electronic Arts, Herbalife, Egyptian Steel, KFC, Emporio Armani… the list goes on




    Lionel Messi - Facebook image

    Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini

    Born in Rosario, Argentina, on 24 June 1987
    Forward #10 - Barcelona/Argentina

    Okay, so he missed a penalty this weekend. He’s still a genius on the pitch.

    • Forbes calculates Messi’s digital footprint to be worth $53.5M to Adidas. He’s not as active as Ronaldo, generating fewer interactions. Plus, the Argentinian national team weren’t as successful as Portugal’s team in 2016
    • 2017 - contract extension with Barcelona will pay him $80M+ per year
    • 2017 - Messi announced his contract extension with Adidas. Reportedly, a lifetime deal. Prior to this agreement, it’s estimated that Messi earned $12M annually.
    • Messi has an endorsement portfolio worth $27M, compared to Ronaldo’s of $47M
    • 2020 - theme park - Messi Experience Park - will open in Chinese city of Nanjing

    • Sponsors - Adidas, Gatorade, Huawei Technologies, Pepsi, Mastercard, Turkish Airlines, Gillette, etc.

    Measuring the ROI of brand ambassadors

    In 2016, Messi and Ronaldo were the two highest paid athletes in the world...

    • Ronaldo $88M
    • Messi $82.4M

    Their teams are the second and third most valuable sports franchises in the world - Dallas Cowboys take the number one spot - ye ha!

    • Real Madrid $3.65B
    • Barcelona $3.55B

    Despite their shared dominance, Ronaldo’s visual presence far exceeds Messi’s. Ronaldo comes out on top for mentions and engagement. While both guys are on the plus side of sentiment, Ronaldo is ahead with 66% compared to 55.4%.

    Quick Search - mentions

    First spike in Ronaldo’s mentions?


    Hard work pays off!

    A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

    The bicycle kick! What else?

    Ronaldo doesn’t just post his sponsors’ content and walk away, he integrates their brands within his posts. Images of cars, fashion, athleticism, and abs are lusted over by men and women across social media.

    Don’t believe me?



    A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

    Nice abs. What brand’s your watch?

    “Olá! Just taking a rest with my sunglasses, underwear, watch!” 
    Subtle or not, it earned 11K retweets and 134K likes.


    “Can anyone see where I put my Nike trainers?”

    Ronaldo is a brand’s dream.

    When looking at audience demographic, the players show close to the same results…

    Quick Search - demographics

    Ronaldo dominates with English speakers, Messi with Spanish.
    Students & journos favor Messi over Ronaldo.

    Social media presence

    Instagram logo

    Ronaldo - 128M followers vs Messi - 93.1M followers
    Ronaldo - GOAL!

    Facebook logo

    Ronaldo - 120,519,689 followers vs Messi - 88,298,936 followers
    Ronaldo - GOAL!

    Twitter logo

    Ronaldo - 73.6M followers vs Messi - no Twitter account
    Messi - OWN GOAL

    @TeamMessi is a Twitter account created by Adidas. It currently boasts 2.6M followers.

    Ballon d’Or

    5 ALL - penalty shootout!

    Ronaldo matched Messi’s 5 in December 2017. This is their era - they’ve won seven of the past 10 European Cups between them, and been the competition’s top scorers for each and every one of those seasons. The Ballon d’Or reflects that.

    Real Madrid vs Barcelona

    While Messi is an Adidas guy and Ronaldo belongs to Nike, their roles are switched with regard to their La Liga teams. Adidas has a deal with Ronaldo’s Real Madrid, and Barcelona extended its deal with Nike in 2016. Their national teams - Portugal and Argentina - align with their player endorsement deals.

    Ronaldo promotes Nike’s biggest competitor in his posts when he’s training or playing for Real Madrid, and vice-versa with Messi.

    Over the last twelve months, Ronaldo has generated $213M in value for Adidas, with Messi generating  $111M for Nike.


    Looking good. Soon I will be back ✌️

    A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

    Real Madrid training video promoting Adidas, worth $3.6M.

    If you're looking for more awesome content about sponsors, download Dan's report - Who's winning the sponsorship battle. All the biggies are there - Adidas, Nike, McDonald's, Umbro, etc.

    Show me the winning sponsors!

    Full time!

    Who’s better? Meh. As footballers, they’re both to be admired. As ambassadors of the game itself? Joint winners...

    The question here is… who dominates on social as a brand influencer?

    Messi - a reserved person choosing a quiet lifestyle - it’s all about the football. Messi uses fewer social channels and posts less frequently, which means his visual presence is reduced.

    Ronaldo - social media is a second job which he exploits with a passion. He works hard for his sponsors - Nike & Adidas, Herbalife, EA Sports, and American Tourister - along with his CR7 branded products, shoes, underwear, fragrance, jeans, and children’s clothes, plus hotels and restaurants. He has a museum - Museu CR7 - celebrating his life and achievements. Which, coincidentally, is next to his hotel Pestana CR7.

    Ronaldo - a player loved and hated in equal measure - is an endorsement machine!


    To run a check on your influencers or test out newbies, take a look at Quick Search. It'll pull out all the insights you need for successful influencer marketing. Make the best choice to suit your brand.

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    *Pelé - the greatest soccer player of all time. My post, my opinion.