While the whole world was busy admiring one GOAT and his world-class performances in his first few games for Inter Miami, you may have missed what the other GOAT has been up to.
No, we’re not talking about his recent performances for Al Nassr that ultimately led to his first piece of silverware for the Saudi Arabian club last week.
We’re referring to the monumental milestone that Cristiano Ronaldo and his CR7 Brand have just reached.
On August 6, Sporting Clube de Portugal, or just Sporting CP, officially unveiled their brand-new third kit, which features the CR7 logo in place of the normal Nike swoosh.
The release of this shirt isn’t just for no reason, though. August 6, 2023 actually marked 20 years since the Estádio Jose Alvalade, the home grounds of Sporting CP, opened up. Coincidentally, the famous friendly between the Portuguese club and Manchester United took place that day in 2003, as the inaugural match in the stadium.
So what better way to celebrate the historic day in the club’s history than to release a beauty of a football kit that is the result of a three-way collaboration between Sporting, CR7 and Nike?
Keep reading as we dive into a bit more history and share some insight about the importance of this deal for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ronaldo was born in the Portuguese island of Madeira, where he grew up in poverty with his parents and three other siblings. As a youngster, he played for two different local teams, before getting his big break to go on a 3-day trial with Sporting CP in 1997.
Some would leave it at that and say the rest is history, but that’s not exactly true.
Although he would successfully prove his abilities with the Lisbon-based club, he would face plenty of uncertainty. Being away from his family back in Madeira, he began to live a troubled life in school, at one point getting expelled.
To make matters worse, he was diagnosed with a condition known as tachycardia just one year later, which caused Ronaldo to have an accelerated heart rate even when sitting still. If not treated, he would have been forced to give up on football, but a successful surgery meant he could go back to training just a few days later.
Ronaldo would break into the Sporting first team, and at 17 years old, he was already gaining interest from big name clubs like Liverpool. Barcelona and Arsenal.
None of those clubs would end up getting the signature, though. Ronaldo would feature in a friendly against Manchester United in August 2003, the day he officially introduced himself to the entire football world. He put up a stellar performance, causing legendary manager Alex Ferguson to sign the 18-year-old by any means.
As we already know, he made it happen, so this is the point where we can say the rest is history.
Although Ronaldo never spent more than a season as a member of the Sporting first team, he is an icon of the club. If not for their invitation back in 1997, and the subsequent years developing in their famed academy, we may not have the Cristiano Ronaldo that we know today.
It’s only right that the CR7 Brand begins their journey as kit sponsors for the club that started it all for Ronaldo.
For starters, it’s Ronaldo. Anything news related to CR7 has the capability of breaking the internet, so there’s your short and simple answer to the question.
Besides his likeness already being a big deal - and the fact that he began his career at Sporting CP - it goes even deeper. This is only the second time ever that an athlete has had their personal brand on the face of a kit or jersey of any major sport. And we’re not at all surprised who did it first.
The Air Jordan brand is everywhere. A subsidiary of Nike, the company decided to expand their global reach even further by striking an exclusive 3-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain in 2018. Despite some critics questioning what a basketball brand has anything to do with a football club, it was an instant hit.
The partnership officially kicked off on the pitch in September of the same year. PSG stepped out onto Anfield in their Champions League opener in a minimalistic black kit with a grayish-white stripe going down the middle. Unfortunately, they could not live up to the hype behind this collab with a win, as they fell 3-2 to a strong Liverpool side - who would lift the UCL trophy at the end of that season.
Fortunately, there would be revenge. In the return fixture, the Parisians decided to swap black for white, and they were able to come out with a 2-1 win to finally kick start the Jumpman era the way it should.
For this initial season, the Jordan jersey was limited to just their third and fourth kit options. That would change the following season, when they decided to convert their away shirt as well. Their fourth kit for this 19/20 season would remain Jordan Brand.
It wasn’t until the 21/22 season - coinciding with the arrival of one of the GOATs of the game - that the GOAT of basketball would find himself on PSG’s home kit. In fact, that season saw three of their four shirts feature the Jordan Brand. For 22/23, they used Jumpman for two kits.
At the moment, no Jordan jersey has been announced for the 23/24 season. Despite their home and away kits already being made by Nike, rumors and leaks show that the partnership is probably not over yet. Only time will tell if and when these shirts are officially unveiled, most likely in the form of a third and/or fourth kit.
No, we’re not saying it’s a big deal because Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player ever to live and among the most influential names on the planet, did it first.
We’re simply saying that there is huge potential for Ronaldo to - perhaps in the near future - emulate elsewhere what the Jordan Brand has done these last few years. The Jordan x PSG collab is officially considered an exclusive deal, meaning MJ cannot do the same with any other football club until the contract expires.
CR7 may as well take notes here and go the opposite route: securing partnerships with various other clubs. We can imagine this will become more of a feasible business venture after he retires, though. It would be kind of awkward to see multiple big clubs wearing CR7 kits while the guy is still playing, as much as it would be a huge flex.
I mean, just take a look at it.
Black with gold sleeves, sponsors and emblems, and a touch of white to accent; it’s simply stunning. The official name of the shirt is the ‘Lion Skin’, described by the club as “a unique jersey that completes a virtuous triangle between Sporting CP, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nike.”
Another cool detail about this release is the fact that the design is directly inspired by the color scheme Sporting used on much of their training and gameday equipment back when Ronaldo was at the club.
Awkwardly enough, Sporting was sponsored by Reebok back then. What’s more is that they didn’t switch to Nike until just 2 years ago, so this was more than likely calculated by the club to secure this partnership in time for the 20-year stadium anniversary.
We know that this has potential to be a one-off type of situation, but we can’t help but fantasize about what more CR7 x Nike can do if they continue to produce football kits. After all, the Jordan Brand has been designing brilliant shirts for PSG for the last few years, as seen in the previous section.
Which brings us to the final section of this newsletter.
We would be lying if we said we weren’t rooting for Ronaldo in this journey. It almost feels right for him to go down this sort of path. In the same way that Michael Jordan has secured his legacy off-the-court by establishing himself as a household name for more than just his abilities in his respective sport, CR7 can do the same, and perhaps even quicker.
Nowadays, things go viral in an instant. An idea can become a million-dollar business overnight if it happens to be that good. Who’s to say Ronaldo can’t become the next face of celebrity-run sportswear alongside Jordan in a few years time if he really wants to make it happen?
The guy is a marketing genius; not to mention he’s the most followed person on the planet. Almost everything he touches turns to gold.
While he’s out in Saudi Arabia scoring goals for fun and lifting trophies for Al Nassr, he’s making huge business moves in other parts of the world. This is no doubt the beginning of a new era for the CR7 Brand and Cristiano Ronaldo. The doors of opportunity have officially opened, and it couldn’t have come at a better time than the Jordan Year of the 21st century.
He has a couple more seasons in his tank, but these are, without question, preparatory moves for when he finally hangs up his legendary boots.
Cristiano Ronaldo is really 7 steps ahead of the rest at the moment.