Nike’s ‘CR7’ Brand Could Be Hit If Ronaldo Doesn’t Get The Shirt At Manchester United

The 36-year-old Portuguese is set to complete a sensational move back to Manchester United the club he left in 2009 after they ‘reached an agreement’ with Ronaldo and his club Juventus over a two-year deal.

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Aside from wearing 28 at Sporting Lisbon as a teenager at the start of his career and No.9 in his first season at Real Madrid, Ronaldo has always carried No.7 on his back. It is a number long associated with flair and panache on the field, and it is one that Ronaldo has used to leverage his own stardom and create a brand.

So popular is he on the global stage, where he is by some distance the most followed athlete on the planet across social media channels breaking the 500m barrier across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram back in February his CR7 brand has been able to flourish and spawned a number of lucrative lines for his major sponsors Nike, whether it be football boots or tracksuits. The CR7 brand has also been used to sell underwear, hotels, gyms, nutritional supplements and cologne. It has been a major money spinner.

In fact, in 2020 Ronaldo raked in almost as much from his off the pitch as he did for what he does on the pitch.

He was the third highest earning athlete in the world behind old rival Lionel Messi in second and UFC star Conor McGregor in first, with McGregor’s £131m earned having a major slice coming from the sale of the whiskey business he had a major stake in, Proper No. Twelve.

And it was only Messi’s salary, over £20m per year more than Ronaldo, that saw him rank above the Portuguese, with £36.5 of his £87m earned last year coming through his sponsorships and business interests, with Messi behind that at £24m. In fact, only McGregor and basketball icon LeBron James earned more from their business dealings than Ronaldo over the past year, according to Forbes magazine.

James, like Ronaldo, has a strong link with his preferred sporting number having long been wearing the 23 that was initially made famous by another sporting legend to make huge waves in the business world, Michael Jordan.

But Ronaldo looks like, for the first time in a decade, that he won’t be able to wear the number that has become part of his brand due to Premier League rules around the changing of squad numbers.

Edinson Cavani currently occupies the number seven shirt at Old Trafford, but Premier League rules forbid changing of squad numbers once players have been registered, with exceptions only made if a player leaves the club or special dispensation is given from the League itself, something of which there is no precedent for and seems unlikely.

It means that Ronaldo will likely have to wear another number, one he has never worn before given that the No.9 is taken up by Anthony Martial and the 28 by Facundo Pellistri.

In terms of what it means to Ronaldo’s output on the pitch for United, it’s hardly likely to change a thing. But for Nike, with who Ronaldo has a long-term deal, it may cause some concern for them over the sales of their CR7 merchandise, something that the US sportswear giant would have been hoping to maximise for the final of Ronaldo’s playing career, especially with one final major move to a European giant.

Ronaldo shirts will fly off hangars around the globe, just as they have done for Messi at Paris Saint-Germain, where his famous number 10 at Barcelona was traded in for number 30 in the French capital.

Ronaldo will remain synonymous with the No.7, but given the amount of traction that #CR7 gets on Twitter when chatter around the world’s most popular athlete, a change in a tagline that has been ingrained in ‘Generation Z’ could, it can be argued, dilute the brand’s visibility at least. Will as may children be wanting to get CR7 boots when he is actually CR36, or whatever it may be?

It is hard to tell, but it certainly won’t be United’s headache to deal with even if it did have an impact.

News of Ronaldo’s impending arrival at Old Trafford saw a nine per cent jump on the New York Stock Exchange for Manchester United Plc, increased the value of the club by $300m in a matter of hours.

He is a marketeers dream and United will know that the wages, which they have room to accommodate thanks to their enormous revenue streams, and the fairly easy to absorb amortisation cost of £7.5m on the balance sheet over the next two years is well worth the investment when it comes to what they could see arrive into the club through heightened interest in the club due to the presence of Ronaldo.

Since his arrival in Turin back in 2018, Ronaldo has brought huge commercial benefits to the football club, despite his mammoth £28m per year salary.

The Agnelli family, owners of Juventus and the founders of the Fiat motor brand, still retain a 30 per cent shareholding in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, with one of FCA’s brands, Jeep, holding the main shirt sponsorship of the club.

Ronaldo’s arrival at Juventus saw two record breaking years follow for FCA, largely through Jeep, while Juve’s stock rose 30 per cent on the Milan Stock Exchange in the days following his signing.

The power of the brand is undeniable, although Nike will be watching with interest to see whether their big selling CR7 merchandise takes experiences a downward trend.