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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

The Real Value Behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram

Last week, an article published by Business Insider stated Cristiano Ronaldo makes more from Instagram than he does on the pitch, $47m to $34m, respectively. Staggering when you consider he’s at the peak of his professional service, but also serves a reminder to athletes everywhere the power of social media.

At Seven League, we took a deeper look at his Instagram over the past 12 months and analysed the performance across his channel with some alarming conclusions. We tracked an entire year from 20th October 2018 - 20th October 2019, then recorded what the post was about and attributed it to one of 5 categories:

Family > all things related to his family

Personal > thoughts, observations and his lifestyle

Pitch > all things on and about his favourite game

Business > things related to his personal business interests

Sponsored > clear sponsored content by branded partners

We then recorded each individual post engagement (likes, comments), views (if videos) and total number of posts across each category. This is what it looks like.

Figure 1.0 - Cristiano Ronaldo Social Media Summary

As you can see ‘Personal’ & ‘Family’ trump all content, however, the ‘Pitch’ is the most frequent and rewarded content. Not surprisingly ‘Business’ and ‘Sponsored’ were loss leaders. Now here’s what we learned when taking a deep dive into his activity and performance.

Sponsors lack authenticity

Sponsored posts were by far the least engaged of all post categories. On average, sponsored posts generated -45% less engagement. Of the bottom 50 worst performing posts, 23 were sponsored. Videos containing sponsors delivered on average 8.7m views, compared to unsponsored videos at 23.5m views on average, underperforming by 270%.

The real scoops were the family and personal moments

Posts featuring his family generate on average 7.9m engagement, 42% above the average, yet accounts for only 13% of total output. Of the top 30 posts made, 100% were either personal or family-related.

The pitch is his playground

Posts containing ‘Pitch' related content represented an impressive 40% of output and generated 39% of total engagement. His persona is deeply tied to his on-field presence, he is clearly celebrated and fans embrace his every move.

Video is hardly worth the effort

On average, video output across his Instagram generated just 4% above average engagement. Although it can be richer in consumption, it didn’t seem to have any incremental effect on his overall engagement. He posted a total of 52 videos, quality over quantity would be the best medicine.

My business trumps their business

Similar to the sponsored posts, content which focused on his own business interests (or his girlfriend’s) delivered on average -37% less engagement. Between the ‘sponsored’ and the ‘business’ related posts, they delivered the bottom 20 performing posts. However, between the two ‘business’ posts, content featuring genuine business interests, including his ranges of CR7 fragrances, footwear and underwear outperformed all sponsored posts on all areas (6% higher output, 19% more likes, 11% more comments)

The best and worst of the paid sponsored posts...

The most successful sponsored posts, out of the sponsors that had 3 or more posts over the past year, were those from @nikefootball. Not surprisingly, these posts were rich in production and featured brand stories that centered on the boots improving the ability to play (Pitch performs well). However, the average engagement for these 5 sponsored posts was -29% lower than average.

The least successful sponsored posts, with a minimum of 3 or more was with @meoinstagram (surf brand). These posts were in long-form video, featured Neymar and Ronaldo playing other sports like table tennis and boxing. The average engagement for these 5 posts was -68% lower than average. The videos were high quality, long form, yet lacked any genuine relationship to Ronaldo or each other.

So where is the value?

Although his channel offers a compelling platform to engage a hugely significant and global audience, predominantly young men, for sponsors the real value can only be realised by studying how best to integrate your brand or product into his personal or family life. The brands related to the pitch, it certainly can reap the rewards through the halo of his on-field success, yet the hidden value in sponsored content is unlocking the fanatical engagement that is seen through his personal life.

Brands which can deliver their core messages, with a dose of authenticity, keenly integrated into his daily life, have the foundations for a successful digital partnership.


About the author: Andrew Collins is the Group CEO of Mailman / Seven League, a global sports digital consultancy and agency. For more, visit

This article originally featured in SportsPro

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