We’ve reached the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup 2018 and all eyes are on the players that could lead their nation to glory. Brazil have their hopes pinned on the world’s most expensive player Neymar, whilst Portugal captain Ronaldo’s race towards the coveted Golden Boot award came to a sudden halt on Saturday following their defeat to Uruguay.

The World Cup is undoubtedly one of the world’s biggest marketing opportunities. We conducted a comparative analysis of the social media audience of Neymar vs Ronaldo to understand the fans — and ultimately the consumers — behind them. Who are they? Where are they? How can brands use this data to engage with them?

Here’s what we uncovered about the social media audience of two of the biggest stars of this year’s tournament …

How many are there?

On a base of 2.2 billion users between 18 and 65 years old, 125 million are fans of Ronaldo compared to 75 million for Neymar. The social media audience of the two players reveals a gap of 40% between them, in favor of Ronaldo.

How old are they?

Brands often think they know their market, and at the time of conducting our analysis, we assumed Neymar would have a significantly younger audience than Ronaldo. However, the data proved us wrong as the two football stars have a relatively similar distribution in different age groups.

What is the share of women in each player’s social media audience?

While women make up 19% of Neymar’s social media audience, 22% of Ronaldo’s audience are women. Although this gap may appear small, in numerical value it’s actually much larger, representing 27.5 million female Ronaldo fans compared to only 14.25 million female fans for Neymar.

Who is the most popular in his home country?

Amongst Ronaldo’s fans, 1.7 million are Portuguese. Neymar brings together 17 million Brazilian fans, representing the largest community within the player’s audience. Nevertheless, by putting these figures in perspective with the total population of each country, the situation changes — 16% of the total population of Portugal are fans of Ronaldo while fans of Neymar represent only 8% of the total population of Brazil.

Where do their other fans come from?

The social media audience for each reveals that both players are highly acclaimed by fans in countries where football isn’t the nation’s top sport, such as Indonesia, where badminton is the most popular, and India where cricket is most favoured. Neymar and Ronaldo clearly have huge global appeal, acquiring star-status beyond the sport and their role as footballers.

Neymar vs Ronaldo: the consumers behind the fans …

Football fans are also consumers. For some brands, they are a priority target. During the World Cup brands are looking to leverage one of the most watched global events with huge levels of fan engagement. Each social media audience uncovers the consumer behaviour of this target audience, providing key insights that brands can capitalize on.

Nike or Adidas?

Our analysis revealed additional data about sports brands. Among Ronaldo fans, 12.5% prefer Adidas compared to only 11% for Nike. For Neymar, 15% have an interest in Adidas and 13.6% have an interest in Nike. Neymar is tied to Nike until 2022 and Ronaldo has his own of line of  ‘CR7’ Nike clothing. Although both players are sponsored by Nike, their fans have more affinity towards Adidas.

Online shopping?

The average percentage of users in our reference group (18-65 years old globally) who make online purchases is 45%. When we look at the fans of Neymar vs Ronaldo, this figure increases significantly. 58.5% of Neymar fans and 59.5% of Ronaldo fans shop online. Ronaldo has clearly tapped into this, with his CR7 line being sold mostly online.

The Synthesio Profiler audience insights tool analyzes social media audiences based on their interests to produce a data library of relevant affinities. Profiler enables brands to understand the specific characteristics of their target audiences, ultimately driving smarter, and data-backed campaign planning.