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Cristiano Ronaldo: Huge sports superstar, one of the greatest footballers of all time, social media mega-influencer, and Juventus’ newest recruit. With a multi-million social media following (73.7m on Twitter, 137m on Instagram) this high-profile move resulted in a huge amount of fan conversation on social media.
Online conversation around this was going to be massive in Europe where both Cristiano and Juventus are based, however, what about across the pond? We decided to look at the USA, which is much less soccer focused, but one of the biggest countries for commercialisation of brand partnerships, especially for sports stars. Did the Cristiano effect have any impact on fans further afield and could the club capitalise on these kinds of conversations going forward to engage with new audiences?

Mentions over time for @Cristiano and official Juventus accounts in the USA, 1st June – 23rd July 2018, via Brandwatch

Much of this conversation focused on the impact fans (of Juventus, Real Madrid, Cristiano, football in general) perceive Cristiano will have on the club.
This conversation on Twitter was wide-ranging, but fans highlighted three key aspects of the Cristiano Effect;

  • commercial success
  • increased social media engagement

and, at the heart of it all

  • an increased fanbase.

Our qualitative analysis of the fanbase identified differing motivation underlying this increase in support, which will be crucial for the club and any stakeholders to understand in order to engage with them authentically and bring them into the Juventus fold.
Cristiano’s commercial impact on the club was widely documented and discussed on Twitter. News that the signing led to a surge in Juventus’ shares was popular, as was an increase in broadcast interest, including for Serie A as a whole. This was openly believed by football fans to be a direct consequence of Cristiano’s high profile and success:

“We don’t often get to see the immediate impact a professional athlete can have on a team. We did today…@Cristiano Ronaldo will play for Italy’s @juventusfc next season, and the Old Lady’s stock surged 6% right after the announcement”

“We’re already seeing the @Cristiano effect on the bidding for @juventusfc broadcasting rights”

But, what are hardcore fans most interest in? The answer?
Kit Sales!

“Big fan cr7. Can’t wait to grab the juventus no 7 jersey of yours”

“@Cristiano’s magic has already started working for @juventusfc. The club has earned $60 million from the sale of the striker’s #7 jersey”

These figures were later questioned, but a number of people were fans were ready to believe in this success implicitly.
In a sense, the Cristiano Effect is a self-fulfilling phenomenon. His profile is such that he has an immediate commercial impact on the club, because people believe he will be hugely popular and successful.

Twitter commenters believed that Cristiano’s huge social media following would result in an increase in social media engagement for Juventus:

“Get ready @juventusfc you guys are going to blow up with followers”

“Every Juventus player Twitter account will get increased by some millions follower [sic] from this very day”

For the Club, having this increased following and sustained fan/community engagement with posts (on the back of Cristian’s signing) would lead to greater commercial interest from brands and enhanced sponsorship potential, both on monetary and brand awareness levels. A sponsor who has a grant of rights including direct social media posts from the Club mentioning their brand, would instantly (for a relevant brand) create a return on investment, especially if the potential of Ronaldo being pictured with their brand was a possibility.
Cristiano’s social media power is exemplified by his first post of himself in a Juventus kit on 16th July. At time of writing, this has received 146k retweets and 581k likes on Twitter. The same post on Instagram was even more successful, with 244k comments and a whopping 12m likes.

Any post from Cristiano will attract lots of fan attention, but here, his own social media team have a clear strategy – by using the image itself to explicitly invite comments. The direction he’s pointing draws the viewers’ attention to the ‘Like’ and ‘Retweet’ buttons, as well as to the ‘Comment’ function. This primes fans to react to the content, engaging both with the account and with each other. A tactic brands, specifically of ‘celebrity’ origin, should take note of.
Here at Disruptive Insight, we assess social media content both quantitatively and qualitatively to determine which content performs well and why. Understanding the significance of quantitative social media metrics and uniting that with rigorous qualitative analysis of the content, helps us to advise brands of how to integrate these powerful insights within their campaigns in both PR and social media strategies.
This insights can, for example, identify cues such as that detailed above which subtly invite increased fan interaction, should that be an objective of a brand.


Top Emojis, via Brandwatch

Fan reaction to the move is motivated by intense emotion, particularly in responses to posts from Cristiano himself. And how do people like to show their emotions on social media? Via Emoji!
As seen in the emoji cloud above, these emotions were many and varied, including heartbreak, shock and love. Some Real Madrid fans expressed heartbreak, gratitude and a sense of loss. Although some were devastated that he left the club, they wished him well in the future:

“Still heart broken but best of luck in your new endeavour”

“We enjoyed your football and your parting hurts the Real Madrid fans but the best always will be good luck”

Some Juventus fans explicitly welcomed him to the team and expressed support:

“Such an honour to see you in our shirt!”

“Welcome to Juventus!!!”

A number of Cristiano fans responded with expressions of dedicated praise for him. Fan devotion has not been damaged by his move to a different club:

“You are the real GOAT”

“Legend… My G.O.A.T. for life”

It is inevitable that Cristiano’s move will increase interest in Juventus, but it is too simplistic merely to state that the fanbase has increased – the Club needs to understand more about the background of these new followers in order to engage with them.
Our analysis identified three ‘types’ of fan who have increased interest in, but have very different feelings about, Juventus.

Cristiano Fan Type 1:
Follow Wherever He Leads
A number of fans are unashamedly ditching Real Madrid and following Cristiano to Juventus. Their language expresses absolute dedication. The word ‘king’ suggests that Cristiano is a leader, inspiring fervent admiration over and above team loyalty.
For some fans, this process is almost unconscious e.g. “Guess I’m a @juventusfc fan now”:

“@Cristiano made me love football thats why I follow him wherever he goes. Now am team @juventusfc”

“I’ll go with you anywhere you go”

“Just following my king”

Cristiano Fan Type 2:
Supporting Real Madrid AND Juventus
Other Cristiano fans reacted more moderately – they are still loyal Madridistas, but Juventus is now also on their radar, with some deciding to support Juventus as well as Real Madrid:

“@juventusfcen you just gained a new fan, but Real Madrid will always be number 1 for me”

“Been debating for months now whether it’s okay to be a fan of two clubs at the same time. But @Cristiano’s move to @jvuentusfc seals it for me”

“I will certainly be paying more attention now so job done for @juventusfc as far as I’m concerned”

Cristiano Fan Type 3:
Supporting Cristiano NOT Juventus
Other fans were more conflicted, displaying on occasion hostility towards Juventus as an entity, but still vowing to support Cristiano at the club:

“I will still be a Madrid fan and I will support Ronaldo in Juventus only. Ronaldo not the team”

“Still hasn’t hit me that Ronaldo left Madrid. It felt so wrong adding the @juventusfcen stream on my @BleacherReport…I will always root for @Cristiano, but Man Utd and real Madrid will forever be my only two clubs”

The wider footballing community (including fans of Real Madrid and Juventus) responded mostly derisively to this Ronaldo-superfan switching of teams, criticising them as ‘plastic fans’, ‘fake fans’ and jumping on a ‘bandwagon’.
These commenters included fans of Juventus, fans of Real Madrid and general football fans.

“Can’t stand guys like you who just jump from one team to another”

“Haha, this is when the new FAKE fans join my lifelong club Juventus”

“Best thing about @Cristiano leaving? Getting rid of all the Real Madrid “fans” who were because of him and not the club itself. They’re your problem now, @juventusfc”

 The issue was summed up neatly by one Twitter user:

“The power of @Cristiano. Interested to see how many of these Ronaldo fans the club can turn into permanent, authentic, and valuable @juventusfc fans”

 This is the heart of the question – how can Cristiano fans really be brought into the Juventus fold?
Juventus have Cristiano signed on a 4 year deal, so now is the time for them to take advantage of a new fan base to engage with in this time, turning them from Cristiano fans, to Juventus fans.
The key to this, is understanding their emotions and motivations to form the basis of a dedicated social media strategy to help these fans feel part of the club and encourage them to proactively and positively engage with Juventus content, before potentially losing them to Cristiano’s next move.
The analytic results in this research were powered by our pals at Brandwatch.
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