Will UEFA Take Punitive Action Again Cristiano Ronaldo?

When Cristiano Ronaldo carefully and strategically moved two Coke bottles away from his line of sight at a post-match press conference, the Coca-Cola share price suffered a steep fall. Were the footballer’s actions a commentary on Coke the drink or a simple case of an elite athlete inferring he wouldn’t promote something for free? Maybe Ronaldo just wanted water? After all, he did shout “drink water” when confronted with the Coke bottles.

Earlier in the week, France midfielder Paul Pogba removed a bottle of Heineken placed in front of him at a news conference following the 1-0 win over Germany. Pogba is a Muslim, so moving that Heineken bottle might have been a religious statement?

In both cases, the marketing executives at UEFA and the brands in question were left scrambling to tamp down reactions. UEFA issued a statement stating, players “can choose their preferred beverage. Coca-Cola offers a range of drinks to suit different tastes and needs, which are available to players throughout the tournament.” Coke said it had nothing to add.

Ronaldo is a 36-year-old superstar of the sport who, like Tom Brady in the NFL, has, through his performance and seniority, achieved a status that cuts through the public psyche. Ronaldo, like Brady, is fastidious about his diet and exercise regime and believes this to be the key to his longevity in his chosen sport.

Ronaldo said, “‘If a player wants to play for many years, he needs to know how to adjust and adapt, and the numbers speak for themselves. From 18 to 36, I have managed to adjust and adapt.”

The question for marketing gurus is how best leverage the Ronaldo’s and Brady’s of the sporting world. Are they too big for conventional sponsorship campaigns at events such as the European Football Championships?

Finally, what do sporting bodies do with superstars at their showcase events. In the past players would be fined if they spurned a sponsor, but that has little cut through when the players are like corporations in their own right. As one sporting exec said to Which-50, “there will be lawyers”.

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