Cristiano Ronaldo incurred a substantial pay cut last year when he left Real Madrid for a new challenge with Juventus. Don’t feel too bad for the pride of Portugal, though.
Not only does his contract with the Serie A power keep Ronaldo among the highest-paid footballers in the world, but he also enjoys a steady, lavish stream of ancillary income that further cements him as a cross-cultural superstar without peer in professional sports.
Even that enviable status, however, sells Ronaldo’s truly remarkable monetization of social media short.
Instagram’s Highest-Earning Influencer
It should come as no surprise to most that Ronaldo’s 187.1 million followers on Instagram is a bigger number than that of any account other than the photo-sharing service’s own. He’s been arguably his sport’s single best player for years, with five Ballon d’Or awards – given annually to football’s top individual performer – and multiple league titles across the international stage, and holds global appeal as a sex symbol, routinely appearing in glossy underwear ads for his personal line of clothing and cologne, CR7.
Still, Ronaldo’s unparalleled earnings as an Instagram influencer count as a shock considering his relative lack of fame and appeal in the United States. According to an analysis by Buzz Bingo, he’s made approximately $47.8 million via paid Instagram posts, more than any other user on earth – and it’s not particularly close.
Kendall Jenner has banked just below $16 million on Instagram, a third of Ronaldo’s total and the highest of any celebrity. If he has any legitimate competition for the throne of Instagram profits, it comes from Jenner’s younger sister, Kylie. Though she’s pocketed only $3.8 million overall, Kylie Jenner has earned an average of $1.27 million per post, roughly half a million dollars more than Ronaldo.
A Familiar Foe
Ronaldo is hardly the only footballer profiting off social media.
His longtime foe for the status as the world’s best player, Argentina icon Lionel Messi, has made $23.3 million courtesy of Instagram, second-most among all users. Kendall Jenner and retired English footballer David Beckham, who paved the way for Ronaldo bridging the gap between sporting fame and sex appeal, are the only others to earn more than $10 million off of paid Instagram posts. Brazilian sensation Neymar and the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who came to the states after an accomplished career abroad, are the only other athletes to rank among Instagram’s top-10 earners.
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But it’s Messi who holds the distinction of being the highest-paid athlete in the world. He’s grossing a total of $127 million this year, according to Forbes, putting him just ahead of Ronaldo, who’s measly $109 million ranks second among all professional athletes.
One place for Ronaldo to narrow that gap? Instagram, obviously, where he makes over $300,000 more than Messi per post. Not that Ronaldo, worth an estimated $450 million, needs the additional cash for anything more than bragging rights, of course.