How could Cristiano Ronaldo take his stunning sports career to even more dizzying heights? By signing with the world’s most notable online poker site as its newest global brand ambassador, that’s how.
Yup, PokerStars has signed soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, famed forward for Spanish club Real Madrid and his Portugal national team, the country from whence he hails.
As we predicted earlier this month, Ronaldo’s social media image showing him playing poker with branded PokerStars chips led us to speculate that the 30-year-old icon was seeking a sponsorship offer.
“I always bring the intensity, flair and determination I show on the football pitch to the poker tables,” Ronaldo says in the signing press release. “I love the game, and I’ve always loved the challenge of beating my opponents one-on-one.Â By joining the world’s biggest poker site, I can test my skills against the game’s best players and become one of them,” he says.
Make no ifs, ands, or bluffs about it, PokerStars is going all-in on growing online poker with a marketing strategy centered around sports and poker celebrities. In early May, the network signed Neymar Jr., another soccer superstar to its roster.
In addition to its Team Pros lineup, PokerStars also features Team SportStars, a group of elite athletes who have brought their competitive instinct to the game of poker.
The current roster includes:
Rafa Nadal: the most well-known member of the team until this week, Nadal has won 65 career tennis victories and 14 Grand Slam titles. He’s currently trying for his 15th major, which would put him in front of Pete Sampras and into second only behind Roger Federer for all-time singles titles.
Fatima Moreira de Melo: an Olympic gold medalist in the 2008 Beijing Games, she has participated in 191 international matches for the Dutch national field hockey team. She’s also the most accomplished poker player on the SportStars squad, winning over $377,000 in total live earnings.
Marcus Hellner: the Swedish cross-country skier has won three gold medals, two in 2010 in Vancouver and another at last year’s Winter Games in Sochi.
Ronaldo: No, not Cristiano Ronaldo, but Ronaldo LuÃs NazÃ¡rio de Lima, a retired Brazilian soccer star who is considered one of the greatest footballers to ever play the game. Many fans of Cristiano who aren’t necessarily tuned into the world of poker have frequently confused the two soccer legends.
The deal to join PokerStars is far from Cristiano’s typical endorsement deal. Nike pays him $15.7 million a year to wear the swoosh, a figure higher than Tom Brady’s annual deal with the New England Patriots, a team he’s led to four Super Bowl championships.
Castrol, the industrial oil manufacturer, pays him millions too, as does Armani, which put him in skimpy briefs for its ad campaign. Cristiano makes so much off endorsements, it’s dauntingÂ to think how much PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker network, is paying him to join its team.
Although Amaya and PokerStars are staying mum on the valuation of the sponsorship, many believe it was Ronaldo who initiated the deal, and that it is less about money per se, as much as giving him a bit of table cred.
His critics have labeled him a know-it-all, conceited, a prima donna, and even downright arrogant and cocky. While it’s hard to imagine a man with 35 million Twitter followers, 17 million Instagram fans and 102 million likes on Facebook would fit that description, his adversaries have nonetheless painted that picture.
If any part of that is true, it could provide some explanation for Ronaldo’s yearning to become part of the PokerStars team, giving him a more eminent position in the game.
Ronaldo (Cristiano) by the Numbers
Born: February 5, 1985 (Age 30)
Place of birth: Funchal, Portugal
Salary/winnings: $52 million in 2014
Endorsements: $28 million in 2014
Relationship status: Single, with various hot model girlfriends, depending on the week
Children: 1 (he’s never identified the mother)
Family: his father died of alcoholism at 52, the main reason Cristiano doesn’t drink