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Wise and heavy activation of top player endorsements as a must

Spending around 6mio€ per season sponsoring the most awarded player in the world and realizing that consumers associate him with your main competitor is not precisely good news for a sports marketer. This is what happened to Adidas executives when realized that association of German brand with its Argentinian star is just 58.8%, well below an astonishing 73,5% association between Messi and FC Barcelona sponsors (and former player sponsor) Nike.

Even more worryingly, archrival Cristiano Ronaldo gets 69.6% association with Nike (his most important sponsor) and then 58.8% with Adidas. I would say this is what you should expect considering that your personal most lucrative sponsorship should always get the highest association, followed by the one with the brand that sponsors your team (Adidas in Ronaldo’s case).

This data, extracted from a recently published report by Lagardere (coming from 600 consumer interviews in Spain) confirms the importance of investing extra and wisely to activate brand’s goldmine sponsored properties. Indeed, considering very similar circumstances between Messi and Ronaldo (top 2 teams, top 2 players, top 2 technical sponsors, personal sponsor same as national team, personal product line developed by personal sponsor), the only reason I can find for Nikeassociation with Ronaldo being better than the one of Adidas with Messi is a better usage of activation.

It is fair to say that Messi was once sponsored by Nike, but controversially moved to Adidas at an early stage, hence not giving it enough time to develop a proper association. So it seems clear that the reason must be that Nike is better activating its association with Ronaldo. Despite not having evidence of more investment by Nike, I believe that Ronaldo gets more attention in advertising campaigns among Nike sponsored players than Messi gets from Adidas. This could probably be one of the reasons, which in my opinion would be 3:

1) Higher activation investment.

2) More Cristianocentric advertising.

3) Advertising creativity.

I am really intrigued by this data and would be happy to get your point of view on why Nike better capitalizes its association with Ronaldo than Adidas does with Messi. I will be happy to get your ideas or factual data that help explain this circumstance, so please feel free to email me on

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