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    Picking the right athlete endorsement for your brand is a big decision, but how much return do they actually generate? Some athletes are just synonymous with brands, David Beckham and Adidas, Roger Federer and Rolex, LeBron James and Nike. They are the biggest stars strutting their stuff on the biggest stage for the biggest brands, it all makes perfect sense. But how much value and tangible results do partnerships of this magnitude bring in?

    Lets look at the two most talked about footballers of this generation, Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo. They represent rivals that a comic book would be proud of, on opposing sides of the two greatest clubs in Spain and arguably the world. One relying on power and athleticism to bully opponents and the other is the master of misdirection and subtlety. Off the field their rivalry continues and spirals into a separate realm all together.

    Lionel Messi revealed on Facebook recently that he signed a new ‘lifetime’ deal with German sportswears giant Adidas. There is some speculation that this might only mean Messi’s life on the pitch and although no official financial terms were released it’s assumed that Messi will receive more than his reported $12m per year in his previous agreement.

    Ronaldo has a ‘lifetime’ deal of his own with long term adidas rival, Nike, and joins LeBron James and his deal worth a reported $1bn.

    It seems the comparison between Messi and Ronaldo will never stop, that they are two sides of the same coin destined to battle it out for the title of best of the generation. Between them they have won the Ballon d’Or for nine years in a row with neither of them finishing below 2nd and last year earned over $169m, making them the two highest paid athletes in the world.

    It appears the only arena where there is any clear daylight between the two stars is social media. Granted they both have large followings on the big platforms but what they can bring to the table for their sponsors is a very different story.

    Hookit, an online service that analyses sponsorship value for brands via social and digital media found that Ronaldo was a more than a few leagues above Messi.


    Ronaldo generated a eye watering $500 million in value for Nike during 2016 from his social media channels, which have 260 million followers, including 65 million new followers last year. He has the largest Facebook following of anyone on the planet with 120m fans. Ronaldo posted 347 times with a Nike logo or mention that had garnered 477 million interactions around the globe.

    One Instagram post alone after Portugal won the Euro 2016 Final was worth $5.8 million to Nike thanks to 1.7 million likes and nearly 13,000 comments.

    Messi has a vast following, but he produced a relatively measly $53.5 million in value for Adidas on social media during 2016. In the Argentinians defence there were significantly fewer social media posts that promoted adidas (even though the brand run his Twitter account) compared to the Ronaldo/Nike connection. Messi’s top promoted post in 2016 was on Instagram in September with 2.5 million likes and 38,000 comments, it was worth $3.6 million in media value for Adidas.

    Adidas took another blow from their rival this weekend as the NFL combine came to a close. Adidas offered the chance to win a private island should anyone break the record of the fasted 40 yard dash. The record had stood since Chris Johnson ran a 4.24s back in 2008. However to win the island the athlete must be wearing adidas when they attempt the feat.

    History was made than John Ross from the university of Washington ran a 4.22s, however he does not own his own island. The star wide receiver prospect was wearing Nikes as the US sports media tuned in to see him break the record. Immediately Nike signed him up to a deal and adidas are left to lick their wounds

    This article was originally published by our partner, Future Sport.

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