Influencer Marketing With The G.O.A.T: Ronaldo Vs Messi

Influencer marketing with The G.O.A.T: Ronaldo vs Messi

It’s 1970. The Mexico World Cup quarter final, Brazil vs Peru. Kick off is postponed, Pelé – the greatest soccer player of all time* – kneels to tie his shoelace. It takes 42 seconds. 42 seconds! The camera zooms in for a close up. GOAL! Puma, shoots and scores. Sales increased by over 300%. It’s an influencer marketing win.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Two of the most influential 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!

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% preferring 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

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

Born in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, on 5 February 1985
Forward #7 – Juventus F.C./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

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
View this post on Instagram

Listo para ⚽️ /// Ready for ⚽ #Nemeziz

A post shared by Leo Messi (@leomessi) on

  • 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%.

First spike in Ronaldo’s mentions?

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?

View this post on Instagram

On board??

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

Nice abs. What brand’s your watch?
View this post on Instagram

Great time together @faz3 !?? #mydubai

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

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

Social media presence


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


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


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.

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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