Ballon d’Or: Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo - Battle of the brands

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Story highlights

Globe's highest-profile players set to fight for Ballon d'Or

Award shortlist of three to be revealed on Monday

But is Ronaldo more marketable than Messi?

Ronaldo's Facebook post estimated to be worth $143,750 in 2014

CNN  — 

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo find themselves fighting it out for FIFA’s Ballon d’Or award once again – but the contest between the world’s two highest-profile footballers isn’t only being played out on the pitch.

Bayern Munich’s German international goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was the other player on the three-man shortlist revealed Monday, with Ronaldo the overwhelming favorite to take the award.

Which means there is no sign of Barcelona’s Messi and Real Madrid poster boy Ronaldo’s domination of the back pages ending any time soon.

Both are so globally known that that their every Facebook posting is worth thousands of dollars for brands associated with the two players, while the allure of their names helps shift any and every product with which they are associated.

But who is the most marketable?

Is it Messi, the newly-crowned all-time La Liga top scorer? Or is it Ronaldo, the current Ballon d’Or holder and a man seemingly able to score goals at will, no matter what the competition?

Sports marketing research company Repucom examined 15 different markets, ranging from Spain to the U.S., and found that Portugal skipper Ronaldo is the better-known of the two: 92% know of him, while 87% have heard of Messi.

The figures also show that the same number of men know about Messi as women know about Ronaldo – 91%.

They reveal that Ronaldo sells more effectively, with 86% of those questioned regarding the ex-Manchester United man as “an influential brand spokesman.”

“Cristiano Ronaldo dominates in terms of his overall marketability – largely because of the consistently high levels of awareness people have of him around the world, whilst Messi has a greater proportion of people that do know of him saying they like him,” said Repucom’s global head of research Mike Wragg.

That, Repucom says, makes the Real star the most marketable footballer in the world.

One leading academic believes Ronaldo’s increasingly growing “brand” off the pitch is testament to the way his management team have “packaged him as a formal business proposition” in contrast to Messi.

“There is a clear and deliberate strategic intent on the part of the Ronaldo and his business representatives,” Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sport Business Strategy and Marketing at England’s Coventry University, told CNN.

“The intention has been to create and position a brand that provides consumers with a differential advantage over its rivals.

“We’ve seen the development of the CR7 brand, which Ronaldo has used as the basis for the development of his commercial activities.”

Whereas Messi was always viewed by many as the ultimate team player, there has also been a shift in the way Ronaldo is now presented to his audience, says Chadwick.

“From a man who has historically been perceived as being self-centered and arrogant, recently Ronaldo’s image has softened as the result of him paying for the medical treatment of a sick fan – a young child.

“Remember too that Ronaldo had his hair cut in a particular way to mark his relationship with the boy. Those actions have helped in shaping and fashioning the latest incarnation of the Ronaldo brand.”

The data also shows that Ronaldo’s online clout is higher than Messi’s.

The Real forward boasts more than 102 million Facebook followers, with Repucom calculating his average Facebook post value in 2014 to be worth $143,750.

Messi, on the other hand, has 75 million Facebook fans and average post value of $62,500.

Are we likely to see Messi being marketed in a different way in the coming years?

“I’m not convinced that Messi or his advisors want this,” said Chadwick.

“I think he’s simply happy to play football and pick up some additional commercial income along the way.”

The academic argues there are complications in trying to come up with a compelling “brand proposition” for the Argentine star.

“Five years years ago his brand was something akin to childlike innocence, someone who plays football for the joy of it. but now he has a child he is, therefore, not a child any more.

“And his tax case means that the brand may be perceived as not being innocent any more.

“One way for him to position the Messi ‘brand’ might be as a ‘family man’; but given that he is not married, this may not play out well among some market segments.

Meanwhile, back in the footballing arena, the statistics are more reassuring for Messi – even more so given he is two years younger than the 29-year-old Ronaldo.

The Camp Nou talisman is La Liga’s goals record-holder, with 253 strikes to his name, while Ronaldo has 197.

He is also the leading scorer in the Champions League, with 74 goals – a record held jointly with Raul and only one ahead of Ronaldo’s tally of 71.

And Messi also has the greatest number of Ballon d’Or awards – four – with his Real Madrid rival having taken the accolade twice.

Ronaldo is Portugal’s leading all-time goalscorer with 52, while Messi and Gabriel Batistuta share the record of most goals scored in a year for Argentina, each striking 12 times. Messi has hit 44 goals in 95 games for his country overall.

So these stars will fight it out for the Ballon D’Or award, unless Manuel Neuer spoils the party.