Exodus: a mass departure of people.
That is exactly what happened when the Portuguese best player ever Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid and signed with Juventus. Ronaldo decided to move from Spain to Italy this summer and a legion of fans jumped on the Juventus bandwagon too without even blinking. The question being raised is: were these Real Madrid fans or Cristiano Ronaldo Fans after all?
The Bianconeri gained over 3.5 Million instagram followers in August right after the deal was announced.
Juventus was also the fastest growing European club online in China in the month of August. The number of fans skyrocketed at a rate unprecedented.
The set of skills, personality and form longevity of Ronaldo make him a “love or hate him” figure all across the globe. According to Instagram, he’s the most loved ever… if we want to be accurate the one with most followers: 140 Millions. His fans are zealous as few and they’ve been supporting him since his Manchester United days back when CR7 was ruling the Premier League.
“There hasn’t been an incident like this where there’s been fans moving from one team to another or deciding to choose and follow a second team. This is probably the largest shift we’ve ever seen in China.”, Tom Elsden, senior client manager at Shanghai-based digital marketing and investment company Mailman, told CNN.
The way we perceived sports has been changing. Millennials don’t follow sports like the previous generations used to. It used to be teams over players, nowadays the phenomenon drifted to players over teams.
The Cult of Individuality
In 1989, FIBA, international basketball’s governing body, modified its rules and allowed USA Basketball to field teams with National Basketball Association players, and so for the first time in history professional players were allowed to compete in the Olympic games.
In 1992, in Barcelona, the United States of America assembled the best team ever, also known as the Dream Team. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, among others were now teaming up to face the world. The result was impressive and the rest of the world never stood a chance as the aAmerican team brought gold to US soil.
Those Olympics games worked as a window to the world. For the first time the whole world was witnessing the likes as Michael Jordan in full form, and that was a thing a beauty. People were following players everywhere. Literally. In the streets. In Ramblas. It was the cult of individuality. They weren’t following the Chicago Bulls or the Los Angeles Lakers, the world was hypnotized by the stars.
Later that summer, in England, history was being made was well, as the 22 clubs of the first division football inaugurated the first edition of the Premier League as we all know it by now. 1992 marked the year english surrender to the television deals. A 5 year 305 Million pounds deal signed with Sky. The the largest agreement in the history of British sports and so the Premier League was born.
The land that invented football was now televising every game making it a huge first-step to football globalization. Manchester United won the first edition. Well, Man Utd won 12 of the first 20 editions actually, making it the most succefull english club of our generation. At the same time figures like Eric Cantona and David Beckham were also slowly breaking into our lifes due to the same phenomenon and kids at schools were impersonating their goal celebrations and free-kicks styles.
Times were changing.
Simon Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at Salford University, told CNN the cult of celebrity has changed the way football fans around the world associate with teams and players. “We’re now more interested in celebrities than perhaps we are in teams and that’s a characteristic of not just football and sport but of life in general. There is the emergence of celebrity culture over the last 15 to 20 years in a way that didn’t exist in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s”.
It all started through adds campaigns. For the first time football and NBA players were talking to us directly. We could see it and hear it without a middleman. They were everywhere. Billboards, TV’s, radios.
Then the internet broke through and we were able to watch almost 24/7 what our favorites players were doing, not only on the courts and pitches, but also on their private lives, with they’re love ones, on vacation, etc.
“There’s something in the way in which the social and digital environment has enabled fans to challenge the existing ways of being a fan and perhaps therefore it’s breaking down the barriers to fandom that previously existed.”, Simon added. “The role of social media is shaping people’s associations and perceptions. For many younger people in particular they have less affiliation with a football team that’s embedded in the town where they’re from and more association with global icons. Those global icons can be Manchester United or Real Madrid, but at the same time those global icons can be Kylian Mbappe, Ronaldo or Paul Pogba.”, according to Simon Chadwick view.
Sports worldwide turned into a huge business and players as clubs are brands and if they want to proliferate in this day and age they’ve to think about themselves as such.
“What football clubs are faced with is having to understand somewhat the Chinese, Europeans, Americans, Millennials, Generation X, Generation X. There are differences between urban and suburban viewers, men and women. For football clubs, which are relatively small organizations, understanding this complexity is a huge challenge for them.”, Simon explained.
Even if Ronaldo doesn’t win the next Serie A edition or the next Champions League trophy, the brand CR7 and the brand Juventus already won something. That’s how different times are.
According to Forbes, between 2016 to 2017, Ronaldo posted 580 pieces of sponsored content which generated 927 millions interactions.
The question can be made: Was Juventus buying a football player or investing in a marketing asset? Well, both actually. And the best ever in both too, allegedly.
Following the news of Ronaldo’s transfer, Juventus’ shares soared by almost 40%, with newspaper Secolo XIX noting that its market valuation had risen from Ä665 million to Ä815 million(!!!).
The Cristiano Ronaldo exodus is real and we should get accustomed to it. After the signing with Juventus on July 10th the club gained on social media: 3.5 millions instagram followers, 1.7 million facebook likes, 344,000 Twitter followers and a 71% increase on YouTube engagement.
When Ronaldo was sold from Manchester United to Real Madrid, the Spanish club sold more tha 1.2 millions shirts on Ronaldo first season. The Italian club is expecting something similar the upcoming season. And fans expect not much, I guess. The usual. Ronaldo usual. Titles. Greatness.