Cristiano Ronaldo’s very public rejection of two Coca Cola bottles during a press conference made major waves around the world and raised questions over the future of sponsored collaborations between sports events and sugary drinks.
And the fact that Paul Pogba chose to do a similar action with a bottle of Heineken beer a day later only helped fuel discussion.
However, when it comes to the Maltese context, a number of considerations needed to be taken before deciding to cut ties with any major sponsor.
The local sport is already lacking in funds, and cutting out potential sponsors following Ronaldo’s stunt could cost Malta dearly.
“While he had an exceptional affect internationally, in the local context it’s not a concern for us, far from it,” Commercial Director at the Malta Football Association Matthew Spiteri Gonzi told Lovin Malta.
Saying he took his hat off to Ronaldo for making his personal stance public – “he’s probably never even drunk a soft drink in his life” – he said the Maltese sector couldn’t afford to start cutting out sponsors who were working within legal parameters.
“From a branding point of view, these companies do tend to get involved in sports for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reasons,” he pointed out. “If we had to be sponsored by McDonalds, for example, we would not shy away from it – we can’t afford it.”
“At MFA level, even at club level, they won’t be so selective with going with specific brands just because they may be seen as contrary to the world of sports – we can’t take that approach, we are too small, we can’t afford it.”
“As long as it is legal, we can’t really be selective on who sponsors us.”
It wasn’t just Pogba and Ronaldo, with Italy’s Locatelli causing his own scene.
However, in a global context, Spiteri Gonzi foresaw these stunts as having potential repercussions on how star athletes and major companies, as well as the sports organisations themselves, will be working together.
For someone like Ronaldo, who has been very public with his disdain for soft drinks, it was inevitable that he would eventually remove any soft-drink bottles placed in front of him, especially if he hadn’t been informed before.
“He clearly felt that he shouldn’t have Coca Cola placed in front of his face,” he noted.
Though the stunts just happened this week, Spiteri Gonzi believed this could change contractual terms between players and sponsors in the future.
“I do think this will have an effect, if and when this happens again,” he said.
Brands like Coke will now start looking at other athletes and wondering how to cover their interests and probably inform athletes not to touch bottles, etc… there will repercussions, for the sponsor, tournament and even footballers.”
Did Ronaldo’s showing with Coca Cola change your view on sugary beverages?