As football star Cristiano Ronaldo left European champions Real Madrid for Serie A giants Juventus in the summer, the Italian club’s popularity increased by 70 percent in the 2018-19 season.
The Portuguese captain, who led his national side to Euro 2016 title, made his presence felt on the pitch by netting 17 goals in 22 Serie A games, putting Juventus well on course to defend their Italian league title.
The 34-year old’s presence in Juventus has made a strong impact in China, the world’s second-biggest economy and home to a growing number of football supporters. The week of Ronaldo’s transfer in July last year, the social media account of Juventus saw an addition of 308,000 followers across Sina Weibo (the Chinese microblogging website), messaging app WeChat, and video app Douyin (known elsewhere as TikTok), the reigning champions of Serie A had said.
The 2017 Champions League finalists further said that their number of followers on the twitter-like app Weibo jumped exactly 68.5 percent between July and December, the first half of the football league season.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid, who have been winning the UEFA Champions League for three consecutive years, suffered a net reduction of about 8,000 followers after Ronaldo’s departure, according to a Shanghai-based digital marketing firm Mailman. However, the Spanish giants continue to remain the most followed and most popular club in China.
Giorgio Ricci, chief revenue officer of Juventus, said in an interview to AFP, “It’s beyond football,””Players have a stronger influence on (Chinese) fans than teams. As a matter of fact, fans online have become increasingly interested in individuals, as players have almost 30 percent more combined followers than their clubs.”