DAZN, the streaming service touted as a “Netflix for sports”, has recruited Cristiano Ronaldo to promote its product around the world.
The football megastar has agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal to become DAZN’s first “global ambassador”, making him the face of the brand in all its markets including Canada, Germany and Japan.
Chief marketing officer Johnny Devitt told The Drum: “He’s fucking amazing so it was a no-brainer to sign him.”
The partnership was arranged hastily following Ronaldo’s £88m summer move from Real Madrid to Juventus of Italy, where the OTT platform launched earlier this month.
It will be screening the Portuguese forward’s exploits for his new club having struck a three-year deal with Serie A, said to have cost €600m, to show 114 matches a season live in Italy.
Devitt would not disclose the cost of the Ronaldo deal but did admit that signing him “wasn’t in the budget”.
“But the one thing about this place is people see the bigger picture,” he added. “So we had an outline of a plan on how we would activate it and what value we thought we'd be able to get from it and that's happened to look like it would be something commercially viable.”
Activation will not be limited to Ronaldo appearing in TV ads, according to Devitt, who joined DAZN after leaving the CMO post at Paddy Power Betfair in February. “If that's what it reduces to we've failed creatively I would say.”
To launch the partnership today [22 September], DAZN will be running an exclusive video interview with Ronaldo made by Matt Smith, the director behind the acclaimed Rio Ferdinand film Being Mum and Dad.
It is likely that future marketing activity will look to leverage the footballer’s enormous social media fanbase. With 139 million followers, Ronaldo is the second-most popular celebrity on Instagram behind Selena Gomez. He also has 122 million likes on Facebook and 74 million followers on Twitter.
“We want to do something that's going to not feel like your standard setup,” Devitt said. “We've rushed to this part, all parties have, and we've got a bit of time now once the season beds in to establish exactly what it will look like.”
DAZN announced its launch in Italy during half-time in the World Cup final, when it ran a 30-second TV advert starring Italian football legend Paolo Maldini, who has also been enlisted to promote the brand.
On the importance of such endorsements, Devitt said: “Our service and OTT services in general have a big trust factor to [overcome].
“Every new brand in every market that it goes into has to build trust and the biggest stars in the world tend not to associate themselves with products or services that they don't think are as big as they are. There is a fear factor for a lot of people around what the service is [so] having big ambassadors show how straightforward it is to use the service is important.”
Italy is the sixth market that DAZN, owned by UK-based Perform Group, has expanded into following its launch three years ago. Priced at €9.99 a month, the Italian offering includes live La Liga and Ligue 1 football as well as Major League Baseball and NHL.
DAZN is now working on its seventh service, for the US market, which goes live in October with a schedule focused on fight sports. It has made a $1bn investment into boxing promotional business Matchroom to screen exclusive bouts on the platform.
To handle all this activity, Devitt said he would be staffing up his marketing department. “Recruitment is probably the biggest issue for all marketers,” he said. “Anyone who is up for a challenge in a very fast paced rights driven market is very welcome to send their CV into the HR department here.”
You can read a behind-the-scenes feature on DAZN's launch into Italy in the September issue of The Drum, which is published this week and takes a deep dive into the world of video.