Yep, that’s right. Five-time Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t even retain the rights to his own image, and it was a move that he says has been instrumental to his off-field success.
The Portuguese superstar has been football’s most prolific goalscorer for two decades and at the ripe age of 37, he’s still carrying Manchester United on his shoulders. What’s even more impressive, however, is his strategic decision-making away from the football pitch, ultimately propelling him towards billionaire status.
In 2015, the image rights of Cristiano Ronaldo were acquired by Singaporean businessman and owner of MINT Media, Peter Lim, for an undisclosed figure. At the time, Ronaldo said this was “a very strategic move” and one that will “take the Cristiano Ronaldo brand to the next level – especially in Asia.” But precisely what did he sell?
Image rights encompass everything to do with a person’s likeness, such as their name, signature, voice, image, and any other characteristic which is unique to them. By selling these rights, both MINT Media and Peter Lim control all decision-making power over the use of Cristiano Ronaldo’s image.
Essentially, this means any brand that wishes to associate itself with Cristiano Ronaldo needs to first seek permission from MINT Media. The team then assesses whether the arrangement will be beneficial to the CR7 brand portfolio and if approved, will grant permission in exchange for a very hefty fee.
The decision to sell his rights came after winning his third Ballon D’or award and at a time when European football was becoming increasingly popular in Asia. Being one of the most prominent businessmen in the region, Peter Lim seemed like the perfect fit to provide both the network for Ronaldo to diversify his audience and expand his popularity by entering the Asian market. And it paid off big time.
Cristiano Ronaldo is consistently ranked as the most popular footballer amongst Chinese fans, idolised for his athletic dominance, attractive mug, and luxurious lifestyle. South Korean football fans even attempted to sue Juventus, Ronaldo’s former club, after the Portuguese striker didn’t appear in a pre-season friendly match against a Korean all-star team that took place in Seoul in 2019.
Since the deal was inked circa 2015, CR7 has also been frequently listed as one of the highest-paid athletes each year, which saw him become the first-ever footballer to join the three-comma club in 2021. In other words, while Manchester United might be struggling right now, Ronaldo himself is showing no signs of slowing down.
In partnership with MINT Media and Peter Lim, Cristiano Ronaldo is currently in the early stages of launching Zuju GP – a sports-tech company that promises to build yet another bridge between Asia and the West. Although the details may be sparse, it seems as though users will be able to stream matches from leagues around the globe in a Netflix-like fashion, purchase merchandise, and even engage with players. All in one handy platform. A business with unlimited potential spearheaded by a footballing phenomenon in a market where he is adored.
Not bad for a kid from the streets of Portugal.