What Ronaldo’s three-second Coca-Cola swipe teaches SMEs about perceived brand value

Cristiano Ronaldo coca cola

Cristiano Ronaldo. Source: AAP/Zsolt Szigetvary.

How can a three-second action from a sporting legend wipe billions from a brand’s value?

It’s called the power of influence and perceived value.

If Coca-Cola can subconsciously align with a sporting legend like Cristiano Ronaldo, their perceived brand value goes up. Celebrities play a significant role in the positioning of brands in consumers’ minds.

When brands align themselves with sporting events, they align themselves with the values of sporting individuals or the event as a whole. When it comes to sport, these values are normally health, fitness and wellness.

So what happens when a sporting legend takes a swipe at the strategically placed Coke bottles sitting front and centre — through a paid placement by Coke — on a press table at a big sporting event and decides to promote water instead?

Well, according to media reports, a $4 billion fall in Coca-Cola’s share price.

That’s the power of influence! A three-second gesture from a beloved sporting legend, and boom: billions lost.

Looking forward, it will be interesting to see if Cristiano Ronaldo’s influence has a rippling effect on public opinion regarding not-so-healthy giant brands dishing out the sponsorship cash to align themselves with the perception of health, fitness and wellness.

You don’t need to look very far to notice how ingrained these giant brands are in sporting events. McDonalds, for example, has for decades supported local Australian sporting clubs under their ‘Macca’s in the community’ initiative.

Which begs the question — is it time other, better aligned brands step up? 

Small businesses can learn from Coca-Cola

This brings me to my key takeaways for small businesses:

  1. Know your brand’s values;
  2. Communicate your brand’s values on your website and social media channels; and
  3. Only align your brand with other brands who share similar values.

So why is this important?

Consumers have information at their fingertips and, as a result, can make quick ‘informed’ decisions.

Now more than ever, consumers are seeking and wanting more from brands. They want to align themselves with brands that think and behave just like them. They want a relationship that goes beyond a transaction.

When you can build this relationship, it leads to brand loyalty and takes you from a business (that can be easily replicated) to a brand. It’s easy to copy a business that simply sells or offers something; it’s hard to copy a brand.

Why? Because a ‘brand’ is based on a sum of ‘feelings’. When you build a brand you are no longer just competing on product/service or price.

Knowing your brand values and communicating them effectively is a step in the right direction to building a powerful brand. Not only will it help you attract your ideal customers easier and quicker, but it will help you cut through the noise and rise above your competitors.

The impact of Cristiano Ronaldo’s reaction to Coca-Cola is most likely only going to be a small blow for the giant brand. But for small businesses, finding and partnering with the ‘right’ brands or influencers becomes a lot easier and less risky when a brand knows and lives by their values.


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