It has now been widely reported that Cristiano Ronaldo faces allegations that he raped Kathryn Mayorga in a hotel room in Las Vegas back in 2009. Aside from the potential criminal investigation that Las Vegas Metropolitan police are now reported to be undertaking, Ronaldo and his team will also be concerned about the impact of such allegations on his commercial profile.
Whilst Ronaldo, has been left out of the Portugal squad for games against Poland and Scotland, he has been backed by Juventus. Since the allegations of rape against Ronaldo surfaced a week ago Juventus' share price has fallen by more than 18 per cent. Shares in the Italian champions had risen to an all-time peak on September 19, of 1.67 euros per share - double their price when interest in the Portuguese star was first reported. The ‘Ronaldo effect’ raised the club’s market capitalisation to €1.5bn, despite the club’s overall outlay on Ronaldo being estimated to be around €340million.
Nike and EA Sports are reported to have expressed their concerns over the allegations. Ronaldo, like many footballers and other professional athletes, have complex sponsorship deals in place which are linked to their endorsement of products and services as well as the use of their image. Ronaldo agreed a lifetime deal with Nike in 2016, worth a reported £768 million; at the time, he was only the third sportsman to be handed such a contract, after basketball players Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Ronaldo is also the face of the EA Sports FIFA video game franchise, appearing on the cover of the 2019 game that was released worldwide last week. In addition to expressing their concerns and monitoring the unfolding situation, EA Sports have removed the image of Ronaldo from their website and social media pages following the allegations. The cover stars of EA Sports' biggest video-games series -- FIFA, Madden, NHL, PGA Tour, NBA Live and UFC - all feature on the website's homepage except Ronaldo. The video-game developer has recently removed his image from the FIFA banner, as well as from their social media channels.
It is possible that organisations like Nike, EA Sports and others are reviewing their contracts to determine whether they have a way out of the contract. The majority of these types of agreements will have a 'reputation protection' clause in place which effectively allows a sponsor to terminate the sponsorship agreement without necessarily having to commit to paying the athlete (in this case, Ronaldo) the sums that would become payable under the contract.
Inside World Football describe Ronaldo as 'something of a money machine' which we understand will be a reference to Ronaldo's commercial appeal to sponsors and the ability to generate significant revenue from the use of his image and endorsement of product lines. Irrespective of actual guilt or innocence, such allegations on a global stage are likely to have a long-lasting and damaging impact on Ronaldo's money machine label.
Ronaldo isn’t the first high profile athlete to face commercial scrutiny; in 2010, Tiger Woods lost a number of sponsors in the aftermath of his scandal-plagued year. The main losses were AT&T, Accenture, Gatorade and Gillette. EA Sports followed suit in 2013 when they discontinued the Tiger Woods PGA Tour game franchise.
Sponsors express concern over Cristiano Ronaldo rape claim as Juve's shares dip