Cristiano Ronaldo finished second to Lionel Messi in the FIFA Balloon d’Or voting announced last month. Messi now leads Ronaldo five to three for the award that crowns the top soccer player in the world. The pair have had a stranglehold on the sport’s top honor for the past eight years. But when it comes to social media followings, Messi can’t touch Ronaldo.
Ronaldo became the first athlete to reach 200 million combined followers across Twitter TWTR -5.57%, Instagram and Facebook FB -1.86%, according to Hookit, which tracks and values the sports ecosystem on social and digital media. His social following is 64% larger than Messi’s, who is not on Twitter. Ronaldo became the first athlete to cross the 100 million barrier on Facebook in 2014, and today he is the third celebrity to cross the 200 million threshold across the three major platforms. Ronaldo joins Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift in the 200 million club.
The social breakdown for Ronaldo is 109.7 million fans on Facebook, 49.6 million on Instagram and 40.7 million on Twitter. Seven-four percent of his 41.8 million new followers in 2015 were on Instagram (see infographic below).
Ronaldo’s following speaks to the massive global appeal of soccer. His social media base is greater than the combined followings of basketball icons Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. Ronaldo has three times as many followers as all Major League Baseball players combined. James is the No. 1 athlete in North America with 69 million followers, according to Hookit.
The Real Madrid star’s greatest following comes from the U.S. where he has 13.5% of his social media fans. Other top countries for Ronaldo are France (7.4%), Brazil (6.4%), Mexico (6.2%) and the U.K. (5%). He has an attentive audience with his average post on Facebook or Instagram averaging one million interactions over the past six months. A November 2014 Facebook photo with his son racked up 4.8 million interactions, while his top Instagrampost was a birthday thank you this month with 1.7 million likes (Ronaldo turned 31).
The huge, active following is a major benefit for endorsement partners like Nike NKE -1.54%, Tag Heuer andHerbalife , who can tap Ronaldo’s fans. It also helps Ronaldo earn $27 million annually off the pitch. Ronaldo was the third highest-paid athlete in the world last year with total earnings of $79.5 million, including his Real salary.
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