Things got worse on Monday, as Coca-Cola terminated a lucrative sponsorship deal with the former superstar after he was seen drinking Pepsi at a news conference, Xinhua reports.
“Coca Cola recognizes the career and the value of Ronaldinho,” the beverage giant said in a statement. “However due to recent developments it has become impossible to continue the partnership.”
Ronaldinho was speaking to the press about an upcoming game with his new club Atletico Mineiro. Two cans of Pepsi were placed on the table in front of him, and the 32-year-old sipped from one of them.
Marketers at Coca-Cola were understandably upset, and they ended the company’s partnership with the former Brazil and FC Barcelona star. Ronaldinho was earning $750,000-a-year from the endorsement deal, which was scheduled to run until 2014.
He left Brazilian club Flamengo in June after filing a lawsuit against the club for unpaid wages. The risky move backfired, as the club launched a counter-suit. The affair will be settled in a Brazilian court, but the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year has seen his reputation suffer.
Ronaldinho was only a free agent for four days before he joined Atletico Mineiro. It is a far more modest club than Flamengo, which estimates that it has over 35 million fans.
Coca-Cola had been tracking the player’s progress, and the company had grown fed up with his antics. The Pepsi incident merely sealed the decision that had been under consideration for some time.
“That was the last straw for the company but I don’t think it was the only reason,” Xinhua reports ESPM marketing manager Marcelo Pontes told Estadao. “He didn’t perform up to expectations and his name was associated more with negative than positive news.”
Ronaldinho dazzled fans around the world for over a decade, but it seems that his star has lost a bit of luster.