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
0

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.


Beach football tournament, key attraction during weekend of sport at NEOM

Updated 23 min 45 sec ago
0

Beach football tournament, key attraction during weekend of sport at NEOM

  • The FIFA-approved football tournament will see international teams grapple for glory at the NEOM Beach Soccer Cup
  • The Wakeboard World Cup will also take place at NEOM during the weekend

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s mega city NEOM is hosting an international beach soccer tournament from July 17 to 20 on the lush white beaches of the Red Sea coast.

Running alongside the tournament will also be the 50th Wakeboard World Cup, rugby and tennis in the Gayal region in NEOM.

The FIFA-approved football tournament will see international teams grapple for glory at the NEOM Beach Soccer Cup.

Countries including China and England will compete against Arab teams from Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt in a purpose-built venue, according to a tweet on the official NEOM Twitter page.

This will be the second time a sports event has been held, the first being an extreme adventure sports tournament in April.

The official logo

“The reason we chose extreme adventure sports at the first event in NEOM was because it’s a beautiful environment,” said Jason Harborow, head of NEOM’s future of sport sector.

“Sport is right at the center of what we want to achieve at NEOM, and that means sport for all: male, female, children and athletes with disabilities. NEOM will be for everybody.”

NEOM is being marketed as a tourist destination designed to attract dreamers and elite minds from around the world.

The aim of the mega project is to attract new business and work as an incubator of future technologies, while also acting as a major economic power and a leading center for global investment.

”The team looks forward to the day when NEOM will host a wide range of bold sports to become a world center for sport enthusiasts, thrill seekers and an international sports center that embraces the world’s most important championships in all areas,” said Jason Harborow, head of future sports at NEOM.

The tournament is part of the ongoing effort to promote the sport sector in NEOM and business that comes with it, including encouraging major sporting events to the region.