Saturday, October 22, 2022

Ronaldo: A brand in crisis

Sometime in 1993, at AUB, I pretended to be interested in football. It was a Monday, and for some obscure reason, I knew Ansar had a match during the weekend, and so I asked "so what did Ansar do?" - my friend - a bit incredulous at my knowledge - answered back "they won 2-0". Then a light went up and I remembered that someone else told me they were watching a Safa match during the weekend, so I pushed my luck and asked again "and what did Safa do?" - this is when my friend cocked his head in exasperation and said - "Tarek, they were playing against Ansar!".

And this ended my pretention knowing anything about football. Until I was branded non-feminist (I am still reeling for this!) for commenting on the above ad for Le Mall which dates back to 2010 when Le Mall had a series of ads for women and football. Just to be clear I had to google Mannschaft to understand the joke in the ad.

So why am I talking on Ronaldo? The football legend. The football poet and a one man brand?

Because he is - and subsequently his brand is - in crisis. The man has "been suspended for storming down the tunnel after refusing to come on as a substitute against Tottenhame on Wednesday" (October 19, 2022) and as of yesterday (October 21, 2022) he was training alone at the Manchester United turf where he is a player.

Michael Jordan - arguably the world's best basketball player - and my knowledge of basketball is only marginally better than that of football, eventually went into baseball (drafted with the White Sox) as he took a break when at the peak of his career in basketball. He went back to his "day job" earning 3 more championship rings after his one and a half years of stint in baseball. As far as I know, Ronaldo has no hobbies he might turn into a side-job of some sort.

Do note, Christiano Ronaldo is worth 500 Million Dollars according to Forbes. So it's not like the man is destitute or anything. But life has its way of catching up with all of us - one way or the other. And last April Ronaldo's companion Georgina Rodriguez gave birth to a set of twins, one of them dead at birth. Ronaldo has 5 children, but grief (and specifically the grief of a lost child) is processed differently from one human to another.

Could this have caused the outburst Ronaldo is having? No one knows and no one can tell, perhaps not even Ronaldo himself. What is sure is that at this point he - and in extenso his brand - is/are in crisis.

Because "Ronaldo" the brand was built around the man, and his actions - and whatever thoughts he wished to convey on his instagram in incredibly well-manicured sentences - are all part of something bigger than just a "person". He is now CR7 - which according to the internet includes denim, eyewear, footwear, fragrances, and underwear - and he is a Nike ambassador landing a 1 Billion lifetime deal in 2016. 

But as with every other profession - you are as good as your last performance, or last goal I presume. And even (to the most updated count) 817 goals are not enough. 

Ronaldo would never accept to be a substitute player. But by hurting his team, he hurt his image. And his image is more important than his play on the football field. 

But then again, what do I know? I am the man who googled mannschaft.

So, what did Safa do?