How Cristiano Ronaldo flipped the script on Coca-Cola: Matthew Pavlich
This article initially appeared on wwos.nine.com.au
Do what you believe in, or do what you have to do? Be authentic and independent, or toe the company line? These are questions many people ask themselves daily.
The choices are often not mutually exclusive, but when someone decides to do something original, authentic or stand for what they believe in, it is usually a bi-product of their current situation or status - at home, socially or in the workplace.
While this conundrum is often felt by the general public, people of influence - be it in the locker room or with commercial partners - also have choices like this to make all of the time.
Millions of people across the globe saw this play out in real time last week, when Cristiano Ronaldo cost Coca-Cola a drop in share price of $5.2 billion with a press conference stunt at the Euros.
Companies are attracted to athletes because of the positive impact a 'human of great achievement' can have on a brand or product but Ronaldo showed that the reverse is also true.
The relationship between celebrities and brands is a long-told tale. In fact, celebrity endorsed marketing strategies go back as far as the concept of celebrities. When a trusted celebrity gives a brand or product the thumbs up or thumbs down, it can have a significant impact.
Many have applauded Ronaldo for his stance on sugary drinks and their promotion with global sport stars and likened it to when tobacco giants once ruled the sporting sponsorship world. While others have said there are other ways to make his point, rather than denigrate a brand that parts with millions to pay for these events.
Wherever you sit on this paradigm, one thing can be said, athletes have both power and influence. And that can be both positive and negative.
This is because people create relationships with brands. Putting a human element to that relationship improves trust and connectivity. Ultimately, when the relationship deepens, loyalty occurs.
Having played in the AFL for 17 years, as a captain for nine, I know all about being 'on message.' It was my fallback. My comfortable place was to talk in generalities and clichés.
But I know the public and sponsors need more. Demand better.
So how much of an influence should celebrities have on the decisions you make about brands and products? The answer to this is really dependent on how well the celebrity is matched to a brand.
If a brand has chosen a celebrity that truly aligns with their beliefs and values, the union is synonymous and therefore believable. A powerful example of this was vitamins outfit Swisse when they partnered with a number of celebrities including Ricky Ponting, Chris Hemsworth, Lleyton Hewitt and Ashley Hart. Or Bonds with Pat Rafter.
Looking beyond ambassadorship, brands are wanting greater control of messaging and so have vastly grown their own platforms and media departments to provide fans behind the scenes content and engagement opportunities. .
So much has changed. I wonder how it will be different in another 20 years? Because it will be. Change is the only constant.
Independent thought and action? Or doing what you're told? Both are required.
So too are role models that perform and are careful with their influence.
But in the end, the fans have the final call either way.