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What: Allegations against Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo have made some of his partners take a pause until his legal issues are settled.
Why it matters: How those partners react should the allegations against the world’s highest paid athlete prove true will have a great effect on how brands view off-field transgressions moving forward.

Could pending legal trouble for one of the world’s most marketable personalities damage global brands beyond the field?

That question is going to very much be in play in the coming weeks as the alleged rape charges against Cristiano Ronaldo(@Cristiano) play out both in the courts of law and public opinion.

The new star of Juventus (@juventusfc), one of the world’s biggest and most marketable personalities, has already seen companies not just monitor but start to pull back from existing campaigns. The first has been EA Sports (@EASPORTSwhich deleted his image from the cover picture of FIFA 19 on its website, while others, including Nike (@Nike) and DAZN have expressed “concern” over the accusations made by American woman Kathryn Mayorga in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2009.

The Portada Brands-Sports Summit in Los Angeles on March 15, 2019 (Hotel Loews Santa Monica) will provide a unique setting for brand marketers to learn about the opportunities sports and soccer content offers to engage consumers in the U.S. and Latin America.

Where those [deals] go will be a big issue not just for athlete marketing, but could have implications on the fast-rising Serie A valuations…

Some brands, such as his CR7 underwear line with the Italian fashion brand Yamamay (@Yamamayhave continued business as usual, with a full page ad in La Gazzetta dello Sport last Saturday. The team itself has been careful to point to “presumption of innocence” and monitors the goings on while the Serie A season continues along. However, the BBC reported that Juventus’ shares “dropped sharply on Friday” after criticism of the club’s handling of the allegations, after hitting record highs after his July signing.

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How devastating could the charges be should they play out? “Brands really are taking as hard a look now as ever on the issues of off-field behavior, and in an era of ‘Me Too’ any transgressions that involve women are going to be looked at even harder,” said Chris Lencheski, longtime sports marketing expert and professor at Columbia University. “Here we are talking about legal issues against one of the world’s biggest brand ambassadors and all of those involved are going to very carefully weigh risk and reward as this plays out. It’s going to be a very big story to follow, one of the biggest ever in terms of a global personality in the prime of his career in terms of endorsements.”

The 33-year-old was the highest-paid athlete in the world for the second straight year in 2017 pocketing £70m – including £25m in mega licensing deals. Where those go will be a big issue not just for athlete marketing, but could have implications on the fast-rising Serie A valuations, not to mention the global soccer marketing industry.

While no reason to panic yet, there could be some storm clouds on the endorsement horizon as one of the world’s biggest brands ends up in a limelight that neither he nor his partners have chosen.

cover image: credit Ruben Ortega

What: Soccer star Neymar Jr. has begun his two-year term as Global Sports Ambassador for TV and small appliance manufacturer TCL.
Why it matters: TCL is increasing its presence in the U.S. and Latin America, in particular in 4K/HDR television sets, and connecting with Neymar Jr. is helping introduce the brand to a younger audience there.

TCL (@TCL_USAis a relative newcomer in the world of TV manufacturers, at least to U.S. fans. But its Roku-enabled 4K and HDR sets have helped the 37-year-old company, also known for producing air conditioners, gain at least a small foothold as fans upgrade their home entertainment experiences.

The Huizhou, Guangdong Province, China-based company recently added soccer superstar Neymar Jr. (@neymarjrto its roster of sport-related partners, inking the Brazilian National Team standout to a two-year stint as Global Brand Ambassador. While the role covers all of TCL’s products, high-definition television sets are the most natural connection, as the company looks for additional brand awareness in the Americas for its well-regarded products. He officially kicked off the role this week after having been named in February.

With sports fever set to spread all over the world this year, Neymar Jr. is undoubtedly the best possible partner with whom, together, we can deliver an exceptional experience to our consumers.

“We are delighted to welcome this outstanding, talented young athlete to the TCL family,” said Tomson Li, Chairman and CEO of TCL Corporation, in a statement. “Neymar Jr. is truly a global sports icon who inspires fans to strive to reach the ultimate standards of excellence, just as TCL constantly strives for excellence in technological and product innovation. With sports fever set to spread all over the world this year, Neymar Jr. is undoubtedly the best possible partner with whom, together, we can deliver an exceptional experience to our consumers,” Li added.

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This is the latest in a series of sports partnerships for TCL that also include NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolvesand Lynx (@minnesotalynx ‏), soccer team San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes), Brazilian Football Confederation (@CBF_Futebol ‏), Rosario Central Football Club of Argentina (@CARCoficial ‏), Philippine Basketball Association, The Melbourne Cup and Melbourne Victory Football Club (@gomvfc ‏).

“I am thrilled to be partnering with TCL,” said the Sao Paulo native in a statement announcing the partnership in February. “It was an easy decision for me. I share similar values with TCL – the constant pursuit of excellence and great results in every game and I’m excited to work closely with TCL and support the company’s efforts to bring the global sports community together through football.”

Neymar Jr., 26, competes for Paris Saint-Germain in France’s Ligue 1, though he is currently injured and did not play in the team’s championship-clinching win on Sunday in Paris. Known for his exceptional ball skills, Neymar Jr. is a popular fit for other global brands such as Nike, Gillette, Panasonic, Red Bull and Beats by Dre, with Forbes estimating his earnings last year at $37 million, nearly 60% of that from endorsements.

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