Lionel Messi took to Facebook this month to reveal a contract extension with German sportswear giant Adidas. It is reportedly a lifetime deal or at least until the end of Messi’s life on the pitch. No financial terms were released. Forbes estimates Messi earned $12 million annually under his prior agreement.
Messi’s longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo signed his own “lifetime” dealwith Nike at the end of 2015. Reports place that deal on par with LeBron James’ lifetime pact, which James’ business manager says is worth as much as a $1 billion.
The comparison between Ronaldo and Messi is never-ending. They play for the two most valuable soccer clubs in the world in Real Madrid and Barcelona. They were the two highest-paid athletes in the worldlast year, earning a combined $169 million. They won the Ballon d’Or as soccer’s top player nine straight years with the other ranking second every time but once (Messi has a record five nods with Ronaldo just behind at four).
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are fierce rivals on the pitch, but there is no comparison on social media. Ronaldo generated $500 million for Nike last year from promoted posts versus $53.5 million for Messi.
They are close rivals in almost all respects, except when it comes to social media. Yes, Messi has a massive following on Instagram and Facebook (Adidas runs the Messi Twitter account) with 152 million fans. Only Neymar and Ronaldo have more followers. But when it comes to the value generated from those accounts, Messi gets lapped by Ronaldo, according to data from Hookit, which measures the social and digital media value for brands.
Ronaldo generated a staggering $500 million in value for Nike during 2016 from his social media accounts, which have 260 million followers, including 65 million new followers last year. His 120 million Facebook fans are more than anyone else on the planet. Ronaldo posted 347 times with a Nike logo or mention that had garnered 477 million interactions (likes, shares or comments). One Instagram post alone after Portugal won the Euro 2016 Final was worth $5.8 million to Nike thanks to 1.7 million likes and nearly 13,000 comments.
Messi has a vast following, but he produced “only” $53.5 million in value for Adidas on social media during 2016. Blame fewer posts that promoted Adidas (213) compared to Ronaldo/Nike and dramatically fewer interactions with 65 million (Hookit also factors in promotion quality to their values in regards to size and clarity). Messi’s top promoted post in 2016 was on Instagram in September with 2.5 million likes and 38,000 comments. It was worth $3.6 million in media value for Adidas.
While Messi is an Adidas guy and Ronaldo is aligned with Nike, their roles are flipped on their respective La Liga teams. Adidas has a deal with Ronaldo’s Real Madrid and Barcelona extended its deal with Nike last year at a price of $165 million per year (their national teams, Portugal and Argentina, are aligned the same as their player endorsement deals).
So Ronaldo promotes Nike’s biggest competitor in his posts when he is wearing Real Madrid uniforms or practice gear and vice-versa with Messi. In that sense, Ronaldo generated almost as much value for Adidas last year as Messi did. Ronaldo’s 36 promoted posts featuring the Adidas three stripes produced $50 million in media value thanks to 45 million interactions, per Hookit. An August training video of Ronaldo on Instagram heavily promoted Adidas and was worth $3.6 million.
Messi was much more restrained in his social posts featuring the Nike Swoosh. He had only two Nike posts in 2016 worth $830,000.