Ronaldo is faced with growing heat from sponsors about rape cases

LONDON – Cristiano Ronaldo was faced Thursday with growing heat from sponsors about an accusation of rape in the United States after Nike and videogamaker EA Sports worried about the behavior of the football superstar, who denied the accusations.

The five-time world player of the year, who had seen the practice ground Juventus in the morning, received public support from the Italian club, who said he would not condemn him about the attack of a Nevada woman from 2009.

The show of support came shortly after Nike silenced in a statement to The Associated Press that described the company's unease toward Ronaldo, which began in 2003. The last conditions signed in 2016 are worth a reported $ 1 billion, and Ronaldo has suggested that it was a deal "for life."

But the Beaverton, Oregon-based company is bothered by details coming out of a lawsuit filed in a court in Nevada last week by the prosecutor, who claims she was raped by Ronaldo in Las Vegas. The police also reopened an investigation.

"We are deeply concerned about the worrying accusations and will continue to monitor the situation closely," Nike said in an email to the AP.

One of the richest and most gifted footballers of all time, Ronaldo wears Nike boots and appears in advertising. The Portuguese captain is also the face of the EA Sports FIFA franchise for videogames, which can be seen on the cover of the 2019 game released last week worldwide.

"We have seen the report in question that describes allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo," EA Sports told the AP. "We keep a close eye on the situation because we expect cover athletes and ambassadors to behave in a way that matches the values ​​of EA."

While other players finish their career at 33, Ronaldo is still in demand at leading clubs around the world. The former Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United made the third major transfer of this career in July, leaving Real Madrid after nine years for Juventus, a movement that cost the Italian club 112 million euros (then $ 132 million).

Ronaldo "has shown his great professionalism and dedication in recent months, which everyone appreciates at Juventus", according to the Italian federation champions. "The events that allegedly date from nearly 10 years ago do not alter this view, which is shared by everyone who has come into contact with this great champion."

Neither Ronaldo nor Juventus have argued Kathryn Mayorga's accusation that she received a payout of $ 375,000 in 2010 after she was pressured by the Fixers & # 39; the footballer to keep quiet about an incident in a penthouse hotel suite.

The investment in players is so great in football that clubs are reluctant to enforce morality clauses by shooting them. Sponsors have already stayed with Ronaldo, although he was guilty of tax fraud in Spain in July and agreed to pay a fine of around $ 20 million.

But now there is a good reputation for the first serious problems.

Ronaldo clearly has a lot to lose. With his chiseled face and body, his slick hair and his Hollywood movie idol look like his talents on the ground, he has brought together 340 million followers of social media to generate revenue with that image.

He has also been ambassador for Save the Children for five years and received international attention in 2016 through a generous donation & # 39; to announce to help Syrians life-saving. The charity said it was "discouraged" by the lawsuit and said it was "getting more information" about the accusation of rape.

In June, Forbes estimated that it has a long record of quantifying revenue from the world's richest people, that Ronaldo earned $ 108 million annually, with salary and winnings that the player earned $ 61 million and approvals still once $ 47 million. His pull puts him in third place among the athletes behind now – retired boxer Floyd Mayweather and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.

"As arguably the best footballer in the world," said Mark Thompson, managing director of the leading sponsoring company, SponServe, "Ronaldo is recognized all over the world and offers sponsors a unique opportunity to maximize impact from any brand commitment."

Ronaldo & # 39; s commercial deals are not limited to internationally recognized brands. He was the face of Egyptian Steel and rode along the pyramids on horseback before delivering lines to the camera in Arabic.

He has also invested much of his revenue in launching and setting up his own products, particularly his CR7 range, which includes hotels, shoes, underwear, perfume and jeans, as well as a growing children's line that he has modeled alongside his son and pushes hard on social media.

His close embrace of social media is one reason why sponsors are so keen to make contact with Ronaldo, who has 75 million followers on Twitter, 142 million on Instagram and 122 million on Facebook.

Some companies that promote Ronaldo can become a niche, such as the SIXPAD training equipment from the Japanese company MTG. But he does more than just pose in the products.

Ronaldo "is actually a part of the company and he is not just the face of SIXPAD," said MTG Europe General Manager Mahdiar Mazidabadi in an e-mail. "Therefore, I can not make any further comments on this issue (accusation of rape), as it is not relevant to our company."

Brands endeavor to protect their image and to be considered good corporate citizens, and they will act quickly if something happens to dilute the value of their brands. EA, for example, Tiger Woods quickly dropped out of one of the most lucrative endorsement deals in sport after having admitted to infidelity in 2013. Cyclist Lance Armstrong was largely abandoned after he announced that he had doping.

Now decisions have to be made about the suitability of Ronaldo as a marketing vehicle and his commercial partners will keep a close eye on future developments.

"What brands are going to do now is to wait and weigh up the impact negativity has on the brand," Thompson said. "They want to protect their property, as well as any exclusivity associated with their endorsement deal, so at this time we are unlikely to see any changes or reflex reactions."


Associated Press Writer Pan Pylas in London contributed to this report.

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