Cristiano Ronaldo effect sees Juventus popularity surge in China

The Portuguese star has caused a shift in who Asian fans support. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019
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Cristiano Ronaldo effect sees Juventus popularity surge in China

  • Juventus added 308,000 followers across the Twitter-like Weibo when they signed Ronaldo.
  • Last year the Portuguese superstar also became a brand ambassador for Chinese automaker Wey

LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo’s move from Real Madrid has seen Juventus’s popularity rocket in China, up nearly 70 percent by one measure, as top European clubs vie for supremacy in the Asian country.

The Portuguese forward has made his presence felt on the pitch, netting 17 goals in 22 Serie A games to put Juventus well on course to retain their Italian league title.

Ronaldo, who cost Juventus about 110 million euros last summer, was at it again at the weekend, scoring twice before the Turin side were held 3-3 at home by Parma.

Off the pitch, the Portuguese — who turned 34 on Tuesday — has made a similarly emphatic impact in China, the world’s second-biggest economy and home to a growing number of football supporters.

In the week of Ronaldo’s transfer in July last year, Juventus added 308,000 followers across the Twitter-like Weibo, social media and messaging app WeChat, and video app Douyin (known elsewhere as TikTok), the Italian club said.

That popularity has held, Juventus say, its number of followers on Weibo jumping 68.5 percent between July and December last year — a surge in interest that appears undiminished by a police investigation into the star launched last year.

Juventus declined to comment on an allegation of rape levelled at Ronaldo, who vehemently denies the claim made by a woman in the United States.

ICON MARKET

More fans ultimately means more money, and suddenly Ronaldo’s transfer fee does not look so extortionate.

Experts call China an “icon market” because its football fans tend to support an individual rather than a team.

So when Ronaldo moved clubs, thousands of Chinese fans went with him in the digital world.

“It’s beyond football,” Giorgio Ricci, chief revenue officer of Juventus, said in emailed comments to AFP, addressing Ronaldo’s immense pulling power.

“Ronaldo’s success in China is not simply connected to his performance on the pitch and achievements over the years.

“Players have a stronger influence on (Chinese) fans than teams.

“As a matter of fact, fans online have become increasingly interested in individuals, as players have almost 30 percent more combined followers than their clubs.”

Juventus’s gain was Real’s loss in China, which along with the United States is a key overseas market for European football clubs.

Real may have won the Champions League again, but they suffered a net reduction of about 8,000 followers after Ronaldo’s departure, said a recent report by Shanghai-based digital marketing firm Mailman.

That said, Real remain hugely popular in China and are still the number one club online in the country, according to Mailman’s 2019 “Red Card” report.

Ronaldo, who along with Barcelona rival Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or a record five times, has “actively worked toward building a strong image in China,” said Ricci.

That includes an annual visit to the country and deploying his own Chinese social media channels “to establish a connection with China and shorten the gap with fans.”

Last year the Portuguese superstar also became a brand ambassador for Chinese automaker Wey, strengthening his prominence in the country.


Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

Updated 23 March 2019
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Finch's century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

SHARJAH: Aaron Finch's fine century drove Australia to a convincing eight-wicket win over a new-look Pakistan in the first one-day international on Friday.
The Austraian skipper scored 116 off 135 balls for his 12th one-day international century that helped his team overhaul the 281-run target in 49 overs on a flat Sharjah stadium pitch.
The win gives Australia the lead in the five-match series and has come on the back of their 3-2 series win in India earlier this month.
Finch's match-winning knock overshadowed Haris Sohail's maiden one-day hundred (101 not out) which helped Pakistan to 280-5 in their 50 overs.
The 32-year-old smashed Shoaib Malik for a huge six towards deep mid-wicket to complete his century -- his first since June last year against England at Chester-Le-Street -- off 120 balls.
Finch, who knocked four sixes and eight boundaries, added an innings-building 172 runs for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh who scored an unbeaten 91 off 102 balls with four boundaries and two sixes.
With 46 needed Finch became Mohammad Abbas's maiden wicket but Peter Handscomb hit 30 not out to help Marsh cross the line.
Finch and Marsh came together after opener Usman Khawaja fell for 24 to medium pacer Faheem Ashraf, the only other success Pakistan's new-look bowling attack could achieve.
Pakistan rested six of their key players including regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup starting in UK from May 30.
But the young and inexperienced Pakistan led by Malik proved no match for Australia, who are on a roll after their win in India earlier this month.
Left-hander Sohail, who reached 1,000 runs in his 27th one-day international when on 40, anchored Pakistan's innings, adding 98 for the third wicket with Umar Akmal who made a 50-ball 48 in his first international match for two years.
Sohail took a single to complete his hundred in the last over, finishing with six boundaries and a six.
Pakistan had handed one-day debuts to opener Shan Masood and Abbas -- who have played 15 and 14 Tests respectively.
Masood put on 35 in an opening stand with Imam-ul-Haq (17) before off-spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Imam in the seventh over, caught and bowled.
Masood, who hit five boundaries in his 62-ball 40, was then bowled by paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile who finished with 1-38 in his 10 overs.
Umar smashed three sixes in one Jhye Richardson over but fell one short of his half century.
Malik fell for 11 and Ashraf and Imad Wasim scored 28 each.
Wasim hit four boundaries and a six during his 13-ball unbeaten knock, helping Pakistan to 55 runs in the last five overs.
Sunday's second ODI is also being played in Sharjah, with the third in Abu Dhabi (March 27) and the last two in Dubai (March 29 and 31).