Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid’s Portuguese soccer star and cultural icon, is reported to have signed a lifetime sponsorship agreement with Nike. The deal is reminiscent of LeBron James’ deal with the company, signed last year. While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, it is expected to be in the 30 million dollars per year range.

With both Ronaldo and James at perhaps the top of their careers now, the deals represent a new reality in sports- players are not just icons of sport, but they have also become icons of everyday society whose impact transcends the game. In order to receive such deals, these players must represent their personal brands both on and off the field. Indeed, the Real Madrid star’s philanthropic efforts have included fundraising for the Indian Ocean Tsunami victims in 2004, paying for a Canadian child’s specialist cancer treatments in 2012, along with multiple sizeable donations to hospitals and children’s health programs, being named the world’s most charitable sportsperson of 2015

It is becoming apparent that the new strategy is not just for playing sponsorships, but for lifestyle sponsorships. The Portuguese soccer star has become a cultural icon for vast numbers of people throughout the world, and this deal will certainly provide Nike with benefits long after he has finished his playing career. Ronaldo, along with James and Michael Jordan, are no longer sports icons, but rather, are cultural mastheads of our society. These players are getting paid to be more than icons, and certainly, they are living up to that calling.

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