No. Cristiano Ronaldo Didn’t Cost Coca-Cola $5 Billion

There’s a bit more to the story


Nabil Alouani

3 years ago | 4 min read

Drama was something you read in books, watch in movies, or gossip about during tea time. Then the internet came around and gave it enough power to generate real-life consequences.

All of a sudden, a blog post can put a company out of business and a tweet can decide the fate of a currency. Recently, we heard about Cristiano Ronaldo wiping billions of Coke’s value through a gesture he made in a press conference.

There’s a catch with this story though: it’s full of bullshit.

It all started with Ronaldo pushing away two bottles of coke

Coca-Cola happens to be a long-time sponsor of the European soccer championship — a tournament held every four years between 24 nations. Due to the COVID pandemic, the 2020 edition was delayed one year.

Portugal, Ronaldo’s home country, had its first game scheduled on Jun 15. The day before, a press conference took place and that’s when Ronaldo made a gesture that made a lot of noise.

As he sat in front of the cameras, the Portuguese striker noticed two Coca-Cola bottles standing in front of him. He turned left and right looking like someone who’s about to cause trouble and sure enough, he did.

Ronaldo grabbed the coke bottles and pushed them far enough to be out of the viewers’ screens. Then he took the remaining bottle of water, held it up, looked at the camera, and almost yelled “Agua!” meaning “Water!”

YouTube video showing Cristiano Rolando pushing Coca-Cola bottles away and saying, “Agua!”

The 36-year-old who’s known to be an advocate for fitness and health has over 500 million followers across social media. It’s no surprise snippets of the press conference spread like digital wildfire — and then, things got crazy.

Over the next three days, Coca-Cola lost $5 billion in valuation

Ronaldo’s press conference took place on Jun 14. It was a Monday and by Thursday, Coca-Cola’s shares dropped from $56.10 to $54.95. Sure these numbers seem low, but when you zoom out to consider the whole picture you realize it’s a $5.1 billion loss.

Five freaking billion dollars. Gone.

Soon, social media feeds got flooded with headlines attributing Coca-Cola’s loss to Ronaldo’s gesture. Here’s an image that summarizes the claims.


Coincidence? Actually, yes.

For one, “the entire market fluctuated yesterday [Wednesday],” sports sponsorship consultant Ricardo Fort said. “Ronaldo had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

Wait, there’s more.

Coca-Cola’s shares started to plummet before Ronaldo did his thing. It turns out the press conference took place just before a particular date for Coke’s shareholders. It’s called the ex-dividend date and Investopedia will explain it way better than me.

The ex-dividend date for a stock is one business day before the record date, meaning that an investor who buys the stock on its ex-dividend date or later will not be eligible to receive the declared dividend.
Rather, the dividend payment is made to whoever owned the stock the day before the ex-dividend date.

In other words, buying a stock around its ex-dividend date is a bad deal because you don’t profit from it until the following year. That’s why shares tend to lose value around that particular day— which was in Coca-Cola’s case Tuesday, Jun 15.

In fact, Coke’s value was already down 0.9% before Ronaldo stepped into the European Cup conference room. Another strong argument is Coke’s shares going up sometime after the interview.

With such overwhelming evidence, it’s no surprise many media outlets had to update their posts or even remove them altogether — like what happened with The Guardian.

Screenshots from Google and The Guardian website
Screenshots from Google and The Guardian website

What to Make of All This?

Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t wipe billions from Coca-Cola’s value with his gesture, but it’s an exciting story and that’s what makes it dangerous. The truth doesn’t matter if people want to believe the rumor.

Coca-Cola knew it and that’s why they chose to react in a subtle way.

The company didn’t issue any official responses — no social media posts, no press interviews, no nothing. But of course, this doesn’t mean the giant red company straight-up ignored what happened. That would’ve been too unwise.

I’d argue Coke did a lot of work behind the scenes. They must’ve put together a solid defense then tipped business bloggers and sports outlets. Otherwise, I’d have a hard time believing the counterarguments could spread as fast as the initial scoop.

Remember, the case wasn’t exactly obvious. Here’s a reminder of the killer details.

  • The entire market fluctuated just before the press conference.
  • The ex-dividend date caused the dip in Coke’s value.
  • Coke’s shares went slightly up after the conference.

There are two lessons here. The obvious one is don’t believe everything you see online.

The less obvious one is you don’t have to react directly to solve a potential disaster. There are smarter ways to defend your brand and preserve the financial value of your business. Sure, most marketers don’t have the same resources as Coke, but we can steal some of their tactics.

If one of your products or content takes a hit, slow down and put together solid counterarguments before you fire back. Then, ask someone to stand by your side and defend you in public. Like it or not, external voices will sound more credible than you’ll ever be because, unlike you, they don’t have much at stake.

And remember:

“All you have in business is your reputation — so it’s very important that you keep your word.” — Richard Branson


Created by

Nabil Alouani

Business | Psychology | Marketing — What's your favorite quote? Mine is "True masters are eternal students."







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