When he was 18, Ronaldo signed with Manchester United, the massive English football club. Since then, he’s taken the soccer world by storm. He has 654 career goals on the books, and his legs alone are insured for $144 million.
Ronaldo may not be the world’s highest paid player in his sport, but what separates him from other players is how he leverages his brand power on social media. Ronaldo is a prolific user of social media and has the biggest social media following of any athlete. He outranks Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. by tens of millions of followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. According to Hookit, Ronaldo has 323.4 million followers across these platforms. On Instagram, he has the third largest following on the planet — with 128 million followers.
That’s part of why his sponsors pay a hefty sum for just a single sponsored post on his social media pages. Hookit estimates that Ronaldo has more than 2.3 million social media interactions and views per post. Those interactions generate $1.8 million in value per sponsored post for brands like Nike. And according to social media research firm Izea, Ronaldo has made close to $400,000 on each of his sponsored posts on Instagram in 2018.
Ronaldo also has something no other rival soccer player has: a lifetime contract with Nike that is worth an estimated $1 billion. That deal was made back in 2016 and has the potential to go on for decades after he’s retired from soccer. NBA legend Michael Jordan has a similar deal with Nike, which has paid him every year since retiring back in 2003.
But with his great riches, comes a lot of scrutiny. On Friday, it was reported he had reached a deal with Spanish prosecutors in a tax evasion case. Under this arrangement, he will have a two-year suspended prison sentence and pay a fine of $21.7 million.