Cristiano Ronaldo transfer will show how much digital reach equals financial revenue

On my Twitter timeline a few days ago when Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Juventus, someone (and my apologies, as I forget who it was) quipped that if they were advising a football club on how to boost their social media following, the best advice he could give was to go out there and simply buy Ronaldo.

These days, a massive social media following is part of the package, though most clubs will put their stock in engagement (and the much more difficult to measure sentiment) metrics rather than the vanity of the big numbers. But there’s a kernel of truth in it, too: for Juventus at least, it’s not just about headline numbers but where those followers are from. Amongst other things, KPMG Football Benchmark took a look at the Bianconeri’s finances and how their new signing will help them in their quest to get to the financial level of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

According to KPMG Ronaldo’s €30m a year wage equates to 21% of Juve’s staff costs on top of the transfer fee. In Financial Fair Play terms, that might be hard to square, but whilst the finances are interesting, they’re rather off topic for this article whose purpose is to look at the digital impact of the transfer.

Instead, it’s the commercial and social media side of things where Juve perhaps stand to benefit the most.

The Juventus brand is clearly more valuable with Ronaldo on board. The Portuguese star is big-business the world over, and clearly he has followers in places where the Italian giants don’t. India, the Far East and North America are three massive global markets in which football is growing steadily, and also where many of Ronaldo’s hundreds of millions-strong army of followers are located.

In terms of Juve’s sponsorship, as the accountancy firm’s report points out, that puts them in a much better bargaining position with current sponsors and helps them to bring on board new partners around the world, too. Currently, according to KPMG, 40% of Juventus’s sponsors are local to Italy. Other big clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid have local sponsors making up a total of between 15 and 20% of their whole portfolios.

Rather than having to drop sponsors in Italy, however, Juventus will be in a better position to gain more regional partners in different parts of the world if they’re able to prove that their following extends further into new territories. If it does over the next few years, they’ll certainly have Ronaldo and his global celebrity to thank in no small part.

It’s always interesting to see how these things work out. When Bayer Leverkusen sold Javier Hernandez to West Ham, the Hammers gained a sizeable chunk of followers whereas the German giants lost a few thousand.

Cristiano Ronaldo shirt on sale at Juventus shop

But as we saw with Leverkusen, the followers they gained from Chicharito’s arrival outweighed what they lost when he departed, showing that when these new fans arrive, they’ll stay if you give them a reason to. Or, at the very least, many will be too lazy to press the unfollow button. Either way, as a result of their presence, attracting overseas sponsors becomes easier.

There is no doubt that signing Cristiano Ronaldo is a boost to Juventus’s digital capabilities. They have already grown, and nothing has happened yet. They now have the next few years to leverage it, creating content that gets people all over the world liking and sharing. That has to be the aim. On the other hand, it’s what they do with it that’s going to be key for the club as they aim to climb up the ladder and reach the same level as the absolute wealthiest clubs in the world.

Despite the outlay and the money spent on a 34-year-old, such is the draw of Ronaldo and such is the plan in place, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t money spent wisely. But Ronaldo’s power as a celebrity, particularly on social media, is what’s driving the numbers. This might be the first transfer where we get to see clearly just how much power digital media has in the modern game.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 731 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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