When soccer superstar Ronaldino moved two Coca-Cola bottles placed in front of him at a Euro 2020 press conference, his gesture had a cascading effect on the brand. Ronaldino's gesture cost Coca-Cola’s stock prices to plunge 1.6 percent. The company went from being worth $242 billion to $238 billion--a total loss of $4 billion, according to a report in The Daily Star.
Ronaldino made the gesture on June 15 night when he came to address a press conference at the Puskas Ferenc Stadium in Budapest on Wednesday. He followed that up by holding a bottle of water and shouting 'Agua!' in Portuguese.
Brand Coca-Cola hurt
Sports, like many other popular programmes, thrives on sponsorship. When a star like Ronaldo makes a gesture like he did, it hurts the brand. Harish Bijoor, brand expert and founder at Harish Bijoor Consults said, when a star like Ronaldo indicates his preference in a venue where he is watched and heard by many, it conveys a lot of meaning. What Ronaldo was conveying was about holistic health--about what a sports star prefers to drink, eat and perform on the ground.
"By moving the Coca-Cola bottles as Ronaldo did, the brand gets a negative endorsement. Ronaldo's gesture de-endorsed Coke. Soccer is built for instance on carbonated drinks. Now it is reverse branding. A brand builds soccer and now the latter de-brands it."
Coca-Cola shares fall
The immediate effect is that the shares of the company have fallen. But will it have a long-term impact? "It all depends on how this cascades with Ronaldo himself and other sportspersons. If this becomes a movement, then it is a different story. Then we have a new movement started by Ronaldo called brand de-endorsement. Where it will go from here depends on how many more will be encouraged to do what he did," Bijoor said.
The world of brands is delicate and can be punctured by a small gesture from a well-known international star. "A small gesture is enough in the digitalized world we now live in. A small wink from a film star is enough to go viral and a gesture like Ronaldo's is large enough to de-endorse a brand," Bijoor said.
Platforms like sports conferences, for instance are important for placement of brands. Like the Coke bottles. There is a lot of thought that goes into it--about which bottle is to be placed where. When a sport star decides the brand has no space on the high table, it is a loss for the brand that built many games. "But the travesty is that soccer is built by brands and so are soccer clubs. Possibly Coca-Cola has built many a club and player with its money. Life has moved full circle for the brand, possibly," Bijoor added.