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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Explained: Why Coca Cola will not lose sleep over Cristiano Ronaldo’s snub

At a pre-match press conference at the ongoing European Championship, the football icon, Cristiano Ronaldo, pushed aside two bottles of Coke placed on the table before holding up a bottle of water.

Written by Andrew Amsan , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 24, 2021 9:10:46 am
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo during the press conference.(UEFA/Handout via REUTERS)

It took Cristiano Ronaldo less than 10 seconds to trigger an online campaign that eventually shaved off $4 billion from beverage behemoth Coke’s market value. At a pre-match press conference at the ongoing European Championship, the football icon pushed aside two bottles of Coke placed on the table before holding up a bottle of water.

The gesture does not need much reading into as Ronaldo’s disdain for aerated drinks is no secret. The display, however, almost instantaneously pulled down Coke’s share price from $56.10 to $55.22, as per a report in The Guardian.

Will Ronaldo’s snub have a lasting impact on Coke’s brand image?

Advertising guru Prahlad Kakkar, who has worked on Pepsi commercials with Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan, feels the effects will only be short term. “It does make a huge difference when someone like Ronaldo, considered a God by millions across the globe, makes a gesture like that. It will affect the shares and market value of Coke, but only momentarily. And these share prices don’t reflect the actual turnover,” he said. Kakkar, the founder of Genesis Film Productions, feels even if a good percentage of youth give up fizzy drinks, inspired by Ronaldo, it won’t take much time for the beverage giant to attract new customers. “There is no dearth of fools in the world. If one quits, five more will take up.”

Fizzy drinks’ cosy relationship with sports

Professional athletes across the globe are paid exorbitant amounts to endorse these products. From Liverpool’s Mo Salah to NBA legend LeBron James, beverage companies, with deep pockets, are always on the lookout for signing stars. In March this year, American basketball great LeBron left Coke after an 18-year association to strike a deal with Pepsi.

The two conglomerates are always on the lookout for ways to upstage each other. Back in the day, when Coke acquired the rights to be named official sponsors of the 1996 Cricket World Cup, Pepsi promptly launched a campaign with the tagline “Nothing official about it.”

Even today the sure sign for a young cricketer making it big is a deal with a soft-drink company.

Not only athletes, but beverage giants also sponsor leagues and major tournaments like World Cups to associate their products with an active lifestyle.

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Will Ronaldo’s message fizzle out with time?

Kakkar believes this could spark off a “revolution” in the beverage industry. “Now parents will have a hook line: ‘See your hero Ronaldo doesn’t drink these fizzy drinks, why do you want to?’”. Kakkar believes if the movement catches on, cold drink manufacturers will be seen pushing their fruit-based drinks “which cost thrice the amount”.

“If I was Coke’s ad person, I would ask the company to say that they endorse Ronaldo’s views and that is why we have a huge range of fruit juices to explore.”

Ronaldo’s disdain for colas

The 38-year-old Portuguese star is one of the fittest athletes on the planet across all sports. The Juventus star has a personal dietician, who plans his routine of six small meals a day. Sugary foods and drinks are off the table. Ronaldo’s dislike for colas is genuine. He gets furious when he sees his son Cristiano Jr chug bottles of cola. “I’m hard with him sometimes because he drinks Coca-Cola and Fanta sometimes and I’m p***** with him,” Ronaldo said in an interview last year when asked about his son’s desire to pursue football professionally.

Incidentally, Ronaldo is not the first sportsperson to openly express his disdain for aerated drinks. Current Indian badminton national coach and former All England champion Pullela Gopichand had once rejected an advertisement offer from a cola major, as he believed these products were harmful for health.

How did Coke respond to Ronaldo’s snub?

Coke, one of the major sponsors of the ongoing Euros, released a statement saying people have “different tastes and needs”. “Players are offered water, alongside Coca-Cola and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, on arrival at our press conferences,” said Coke.

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