Altice USA Lets Cristiano Ronaldo “Discover” American football: Can New Consumers Discover Him As Well?

What: Cristiano Ronaldo tries his hand at American football in a new Super Bowl ad.
Why it matters: Ronaldo's star status is unassailable internationally, but still emerging in the U.S. beyond soccer fandom.

First we saw him in his underwear in a hotel hallway, now he is trying to play American football in a spot that ran in select markets during the Super Bowl. There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is a high priced, and highly visible, figure that is trying to get Altice USA some great and humorous exposure in markets where the media company is looking to continue to grow brand.

Wikimedia Commons/Soccer.ru

However, there is a question with both spots, one in which the star is locked out of his room and gets photographed by a maid who then splashes the photo on social media, and the other in which he is using his soccer skills in American football garb. Does the general public actually know who he is through the spots? It’s a pretty big question, and an assumption that is still TBD.

Ronaldo’s global brand and his place on the world stage as a World Cup and Real Madrid star does make him a household name in the United States IF you follow global soccer and IF you are paying attention to the sports marketing business. It is an audience that is surely growing as soccer takes even more hold in the U.S., and with the coming World Cup, it will grow even more. But he does not play in the States, and La Liga’s deal with beIN SPORTS as their main rights holder in the United States limits the weekly exposure to an English speaking audience that can see Premier League matches on NBC and Bundesliga on FOX.

Soccer is growing, the World Cup is coming, and the growing Latino demo in the U.S. has a much better affinity toward image recognition of a star than fans of the NFL or even MLB or the NBA.

Is the assumption in the spot that the mainstream audience does not know who he is? A quick poll of non-soccer fans thought he was everything from a pop star to a model to a baseball player, with those with an interest in “The Beautiful Game” knowing immediately who he was. Still, that may be a fraction of an audience, while the bigger group can probably be grasped with a little better brand identification during the spots, which run very regularly in areas where Altice is available.

Ronaldo is as big as it gets

"There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo has perhaps one of the greatest followings of any athlete on the planet today. Altice USA is smart to be able to take advantage of his star power, especially as they market towards millennials and a Latino audience,” said Ray Katz, co-founder of ROI Sports Group and professor at Columbia University. “However Ronaldo is a superstar in a sport that is still emerging at least in the U.S. Consequently assuming that the television viewing audience, particularly in non-soccer programming, knows who he is and what he is doing is still a pretty broad leap. That can easily be addressed in a little more identification in either or both of these highly visible spots. The best practice here would be total integration with respect to planning and execution between brand managers, the sports agency, the media buying agency, and the creative agency.”

Now going forward is Altice USA making a strong gamble with Cristiano Ronaldo? For sure. Soccer is growing, the World Cup is coming, and the growing Latino demo in the U.S. has a much better affinity toward image recognition of a star than fans of the NFL or even MLB or the NBA. The spots are also humorous, which highlight another part of the elite star's personality and give the images a viral play that will go beyond the regular spot run. They also set Altice USA apart from the other potential providers doing the same old, so there is a good amount of recall.

It is certainly different to see a global star engaged in promotion, and more will surely be coming. Seeing Ronaldo discover American football also plays well, what might be a little better is if everyone knew who he was, and a little better ID could do the trick.

Image at top: Wikimedia Commons/Ruben Ortega

Joe Favorito @joefav

Joe Favorito has over 32 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. The Brooklyn, New York native has managed the day-to- day activities in strategic communications for: Two of the world’s hallmark sports and entertainment brands (the New York Knickerbockers and Philadelphia 76ers), the world’s largest professional sport for women (the WTA Tour), the world’s largest sports National Governing Body (the United States Tennis Association) and the world’s largest annual sporting event (the US Open). He also oversaw the strategic planning, investor relations, communications and digital business development of the International Fight League during its two year run as a Mixed Martial Arts venture and a publicly traded company. Favorito serves on the boards of the Weinstein Carnegie Group, New York Sports Venture Capital, the National Sports Marketing Network, the Drexel University Sports Business program, and Columbia University’s Sports Management program (where he is an instructor in Strategic Communications and Director of Industry Relations). Joe also maintains a well trafficked blog on the sports marketing and publicity field, “Sports Marketing and PR Roundup,” on the website joefavorito.com, as well authoring the first- ever text on the sports publicity industry (“Sports Publicity” published in August 2007 by Reed Elsevier and updated in 2012 by Taylor Publishing with a third printing coming in 2018), which is used in over 60 sports management programs in the U.S. He has been a guest speaker on sports marketing, social media and communications at a host of institutions, including Princeton University, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, the University of Florida Law School, New York University, the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and many others. He is also a frequent spokesperson on the industry for publications ranging from Ad Age and The New York Times to NPR and CBS News. A graduate of Fordham University, Joe, his wife and two children reside in River Vale, New Jersey.

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