Ronaldo, a health-conscious athlete, held out a bottle of water and said: “Agua.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Ronaldo’s gesture lowered Coca-Cola’s stock price by $4 billion. However, the company’s stock price began to fall even before the gesture, and there is no evidence of a causal link between the gesture and the stock price.
Coca-Cola and Heineken are under attack on social media after two soccer stars visibly passed them over in a tournament sponsored by both beverage makers.
Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo and French midfielder Paul Pogba pushed the bottles of these sponsors away during separate press conferences.
On Monday, before Portugal’s Euro 2020 kickoff game against Hungary in Budapest, health-conscious Ronaldo was caught on camera pushing the soft drinks away from him. He then held out a bottle of water and said: “Agua.”
Later, Pogba, a Muslim, took a bottle of Heineken beer away from him during a press conference.
Newspaper headlines and social media chatter noted that Coca-Cola’s stock price fell on Monday, and attributed it to the actions of the world soccer star. But in fact, there was no real indication that those actions affected the stock price.
Coca-Cola’s stock price immediately fell at the opening bell of the stock market at 9:30 a.m. ET from $56.08 to $55.25 even before Ronaldo’s 9:45 press conference began, just four cents above the low of the day.
During the conference after that gesture, the stock rose slightly, rising to $55.30.
Clips of both incidents went viral on social media, prompting approval of the soccer stars’ gestures.
Ronaldo “set a positive example for young fans and showed his disdain for a cynical marketing attempt to link him to a sugary drink,” the British organization Obesity Health Alliance tweeted.
In response to a request for comment, Coca-Cola sent NBC News a statement from European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, which said the company offers “a range of drinks for different tastes and needs that are available to players throughout the tournament.”
The statement also said players “can choose their preferred drink” at press conferences.
A spokesman for Heineken, the tournament’s official sponsor, responded in an e-mail: “We fully respect everyone’s decision when it comes to their choice of beverage.”
One of the richest athletes on the planet, Ronaldo has a lucrative brand off the field, signing huge endorsement contracts, and with 299 million followers, he is the most popular athlete on Instagram, surpassing even reality TV star Kim Kardashian West and singers Ariana Grande and Beyonce.
Earlier this month, Ronaldo tweeted, “My body is my weapon. It’s the most important thing for me. In soccer we are always told to eat well and train well to have a longer professional career.”
In 2006, Ronaldo starred in a Coca-Cola commercial and appeared in an ad for fast-food giant KFC.
Coca-Cola owns more than 500 beverage brands worldwide, including soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and bottled water.
Ronaldo’s move received praise from sports commentators on social media, as well as from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady.
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) June 14, 2021