Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram is your typical social media account in many ways. There are family photos, vacation shots with friends, trips to the gym and selfies in the sun. But Instagram isn’t just fun and games for the global soccer icon. He has more followers—177 million—than any other person on the planet, and companies pay Ronaldo $44 million a year to pitch their wares, in part because of his massive social presence, which is flooded with ad promotions for his sponsors’ brands.

“Athletes have a bigger influence than ever because of their social media platforms,” says John Kernan, a footwear and apparel analyst at Cowen. “The content creation ability for these athletes is incredible right now. They are very monetizable.”

Take Ronaldo’s longtime rival Lionel Messi. His 215 million social media followers, second only to Ronaldo among athletes, touch every corner of the globe. Messi’s 49 posts featuring Adidas produced 150 million interactions and $6.9 million in ad value for the brand, according to metrics developed by the social media analytics firm Hookit.

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