“Agua, no Coca-Cola,” the Portugal player preached, lifting his own water bottle in the air. But this was not just a plea for fans to consider healthier dietary habits. It was a not-so-subtle acknowledgement of Ronaldo’s marketing power, and it left UEFA scrambling to prevent players from harnessing this untapped power and affecting the tournament’s ability to secure sponsors (who pay a whopping $30m per endorsement).

Ronaldo, obviously, can do what he wants and he knows it. He doesn’t care about Coca-Cola and he definitely doesn’t care about the product placement of an item that isn’t going to make him money. This influenced other footballers, like Paul Pogba who removed a Heineken bottle from his own media appearances later the same week. And if you’re thinking “I don’t care about football or Coca-Cola’s stock prices,” we hear you… But if you care about your own brands’ marketing, you might find this matters.

The impact of influencer marketing

Highly-paid names, whether they’re the world’s top footballers or just the most influential influencer in your industry niche, are really beginning to understand – and wield – their worth. Ronaldo obviously doesn’t drink Coca-Cola. Pogba is a practicing Muslim who does not support the consumption of alcohol. They know that brands need them far more than they need the brands (which is not at all, really) and it’s a lesson in alignment and not taking your sponsorships for granted.

Not dis-similarly, Naomi Osaka who pulled out of the French Open on the grounds that mandatory press commitments were damaging to her mental health, has had her penalty fines paid for by meditation and mindfulness app, Calm. Calm’s quick and ingenious decision to step in and support Osaka is a prime example of the way brands can align themselves with relevant and headline-worthy names by doing something positive. And we think this could be the future of influencer marketing.

Simply placing a product near a famous person isn’t enough, and it won’t get you anywhere. The connection between an influencer – however famous – and a product they can genuinely vouch for is worth a million Coca-Cola bottles on the UEFA press table.

Share this post