Cristiano Ronaldo has shot to the top of Instagram’s annual rich list of celebrities who can charge the most for a sponsored post, with the footballer able to command as much as $1.6m (£1.2m) to endorse a product on social media.
The Portugal captain, who rattled the Euro 2020 sponsor Coca-Cola by removing its drinks from view at a post-match press conference, has been crowned king of the influencers in a list that includes the wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and the singer Ariana Grande.
It is the first time the footballer has reached first place in the annual rankings, which are dominated by US celebrities from the reality TV, film and music industries.
The amount Ronaldo is estimated to be able to charge for a sponsored post climbed significantly last year, almost doubling from $889,000 in 2019. Ronaldo moved from third place in 2019, leapfrogging the previous list-topper Johnson and the second-ranked Kylie Jenner, the makeup entrepreneur and celebrity.
The 36-year-old is estimated to make more than $40m annually from Instagram, more than his salary as a player at the Italian Serie A club Juventus, and his pay-per-post fee has rocketed along with his popularity which has soared during the pandemic.
Ronaldo is the most-followed person on Instagram with more than 300 million fans, having added more than 125 million since the beginning of last year, more than triple the 100 million he had in 2017 when the first “rich list” was compiled.
Brands pushed by Ronaldo on Instagram include the anti-dandruff haircare brand Clear, which he promotes in slick television-quality videos alongside more amateur posts with advice to followers such as: “Keeping a clear head helps me to be on top of my game”.
His combined social media following, including the major platforms Facebook and Twitter, is more than 550 million.
“With the Euros starting earlier this month and a few controversial marketing moves over the last couple of weeks,” Ronaldo’s presence has skyrocketed,” said Mike Bandar, a co-founder of HopperHQ.com, which compiles the unofficial annual list of Instagram’s top earners. “Just a week ago he confirmed his king of Instagram status as he became the most-followed person on the platform.”
The top 10 list includes only one other sports star, Ronaldo’s arch-rival Lionel Messi, who is ranked seventh and is able to charge almost $1.2m a post.
Six of the top earners are women and include high-profile stars such as Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Grande and Selena Gomez. The estimated amount celebrities could charge for a sponsored post climbed considerably last year, fuelled partly by increased online usage as the public sought to alleviate boredom while stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson, the highest-paid actor of 2020, earning an estimated $87.5m, according to Forbes, saw his paid-for post fee rise by $500,000, while Kardashian’s rose by $560,000.
Johnson endorses brands including Teremana Tequila, Gomez has a partnership with the learning company XQ America, Beyoncé promotes Adidas products and Jenner has deals in place with the makeup brand Moon and activewear business Alo Yoga.
“As Covid-19 continues to impact all our lives, it appears that Instagram is one of the few places not negatively impacted by the pandemic,” Bandar said. “With people using the app more than ever before, some could say it was inevitable earnings would peak. With ever-growing follower numbers and the sheer amount of exposure each of their posts have, it is no surprise how valuable content from these celebrities can be.”
Under the UK advertising code, which is enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority, paid promotions on social media are meant to be clearly marked so as not to mislead consumers. The watchdog recommends a clear statement in the post, such as #ad or #advert – Ronaldo’s ads state clearly that they are “paid partnerships” – but there has been widespread flouting of the rules.
Earlier this month, the ASA “named and shamed” British social media stars Jodie Marsh, Chloe Khan, Lucy Mecklenburgh and Chloe Ferry for repeatedly not making paid-for posts clear. The Instagram stars were among 122 UK-based influencers who were given a final warning in March after an investigation found that only a third of paid-for posts were being clearly labelled. Failure to comply with the rules could ultimately lead to fines, or posts being deleted, the ASA said.
In December, nine-year-old Ryan Kaji was named the highest-paid YouTuber, earning an estimated $29.5m last year, according to Forbes. Kaji, who makes his millions from “unboxing” and reviewing toys and games on YouTube, has held the title for the last three years. In total, the top 10 biggest-earning YouTube stars took home $211m in 2020.
HopperHQ compiles the list by analysing factors including average engagement, how often an Instagrammer posts and a range of variables, including follower numbers, to estimate what a celebrity could charge a brand for a sponsored post.
Top 10 highest-earning stars on Instagram
1 Cristiano Ronaldo – $1.6m a post
2 Dwayne Johnson – $1.52m
3 Ariana Grande – $1.51m
4 Kylie Jenner – $1.49m
5 Selena Gomez – $1.46m
6 Kim Kardashian – $1.41m
7 Lionel Messi – $1.16m
8 Beyoncé Knowles – $1.14m
9 Justin Bieber – $1.1m
10 Kendall Jenner – $1.05m