Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus could shift balance of power to Serie A from La Liga in Hong Kong and Asia
As the era of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi comes to a close, Spain’s La Liga faces a fight to ensure its global brand does not suffer
If you needed an example of the significant marketing power of Cristiano Ronaldo, just take a minute to consider a few of the following numbers.
After Ronaldo’s shock transfer to Juventus for a reported €105 million [HK$958 million] was announced on Tuesday, the Italian Serie A club’s stock price shot up 20 per cent.
Juventus’ social media numbers have also skyrocketed – they’ve gained nearly 1.5 million followers on Instagram, over one million new followers on Twitter and more than half a million followers on Facebook.
Perhaps more significant is that Real Madrid, who have enjoyed nine trophy-laden years with Ronaldo as their talisman, lost one million followers on their social media platforms within 24 hours of announcing Ronaldo’s departure.
In this modern era of football, where many fans support star players from club to club rather than sticking with any one team, letting the 33-year-old go may backfire on and off the pitch for Madrid.
It was inevitable Ronaldo would leave the Spanish giants one day. He is already slowing down, and the 13-times European champions have extremely high standards to keep, but most thought he would have two or three years left in Spain.
La Liga has enjoyed an unprecedented boom period in popularity during the era of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, something that has helped the Spanish top division – and Barcelona and Real Madrid in particular – combat the financial might of Premier League clubs.
Television rights for England’s top flight go for top dollar – Facebook just agreed a £200 million [HK$2 billion] deal to exclusively broadcast Premier League matches in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from the start of the 2019-20 season until 2022.
And that’s despite the absence of the two best players in the world. But La Liga Hong Kong delegate Eduard Castell said that their global brand will not suffer because of Ronaldo’s departure to Serie A – far from it.
“It has been an honour to have Ronaldo playing for nine years in La Liga, where he has achieved his best results both individually and collectively of his entire career,” Castell told the South China Morning Post.
“La Liga has been working hard in the last five years in order to not depend on the transfer market. Even without such an important player, La Liga will still be the best football league in the world.”
Whether La Liga will lose a step in its global popularity in the wake of Ronaldo’s exit remains to be seen, but there could be a knock-on effect in Hong Kong.
PCCW Media announced last week they had secured the rights to broadcast the 2018-19 English Premier League in Hong Kong with Now TV delivering live coverage for all 380 matches starting next month.
A three-year deal to broadcast La Liga in Hong Kong had ended in May, but Now TV announced this week they will also be broadcasting the new Spanish top flight season.
The rights for Ronaldo’s new home of Serie A in Hong Kong are held by beIN Sports, but Now TV has announced a newly-launched beIN Sports Pack priced at HK$88 a month including matches from Serie A, the French Ligue 1, Major League Soccer in the US and Australia’s A-League.
The beIN Sports Pack will be provided at no extra cost to customers who already have Now TV’s “Super Sports Pack”, which is priced at HK$238 – perhaps wisely, given Now TV’s website has Ronaldo, dressed in his old Real Madrid shirt, as the face of the promotional deal on their subscription offers page.
While Now TV looks to have all its bases covered, the coming season could see a shift in the dynamic concerning the global popularity of Europe’s top five leagues.
While the Premier League continues to go from strength to strength in Hong Kong and Asia, Serie A could now potentially be ahead of La Liga in the pecking order.
It remains to be seen, but if any club knows the value of star power to its global brand, it is Real Madrid, famous for their “galactico” era of transfer policy that saw David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and the Brazilian Ronaldo brought to the club in the 2000s.
If they can find a way to prize Neymar away from Paris Saint-Germain then they will be just fine in terms of attracting new fans in global markets, but securing a deal for the former Barcelona star will be complicated and costly.
Either way, La Liga might just be crossing its fingers that the Brazil star finds his way back to Spain, because there is a Cristiano Ronaldo-shaped hole in their product right now.