It is no secret than many professional athletes make staggering amounts of money. What some fans don’t know, however, is that some players make even more money from endorsing products than they do from their actual professional contracts.
Obviously, netting a deal with the right athlete can be incredibly lucrative for the brand as well. While many companies like to build a product around a player, like a signature shoe or tennis racket, athletes in all different kinds of sports represent unique companies. Here is a list of athletes who have inked very impressive sponsorship deals.
Naomi Osaka Is A Walking Billboard
Still only 21 years old, Naomi Osaka has proven to be a sought after sponsor for various brands. The tennis star has already won both the US Open as well as the Australian Open.
Osaka is especially attractive to companies as she is very popular in both the American and Japanese markets. In addition to deals with brands like Nissin Foods, Citizen, and Nippon Airways she also has a large multi-year deal with Nike.
Stephen Curry Is Married To Under Armour
Stephen Curry, the superstar guard for the Golden State Warriors, has always done things his own way. Despite a short stature and skinny frame, he has still found a way to be a dominant scorer. He’s also unlike many other players in the shoe brand he chooses to represent.
Nike is the goliath in the NBA and has been since the early 1980s. Curry, though, has signed a major deal with Under Armour, a relative newcomer to the sneaker game. Curry’s deal is reportedly worth $130 million.
Derrick Rose Struck While The Iron Was Hot
When Derrick Rose inked his 13-year, $185 million deal with Adidas, he was sitting on top of the world. Then only 26 years old, Rose had recently won the NBA MVP award and had a bright future ahead of him.
Then in 2012, he suffered a serious ACL tear. The one-time superstar player now acts as more of a role player. His shoe deal is much more lucrative than his current NBA contract which will pay him $1.5 million during the upcoming season.
Neymar Has A Signature Shoe
While American athletes often receive huge endorsement deals thanks to the large size of their market, international soccer players have the opportunity to reach an even bigger audience. Considered maybe the best player in the world, Neymar was a huge get for Nike.
Not only did Nike get Neymar to sign on the dotted line, but they also made the Brazilian forward the first soccer star to receive their own signature shoe. Still only 27, Neymar should be a valuable sponsor for quite some time.
Rory McIlroy Is Golf’s Top Endorsement Dog
A number of years ago, Tiger Woods was golf’s preeminent pitchman. After Woods’ marriage scandal and a number of devastating injuries, the spot opened up and Irish-born golf phenom Rory McIlroy jumped right in.
After McIlroy won four major championships between 2011 and 2014, brands lined up to offer him deals. The Irish golfer has signed major contracts with companies like Upper Deck and Omega. In 2017, he also inked a 10-year agreement with Nike.
Basketball star Kevin Durant is no stranger to the process of being wooed. When he entered the league from the University of Texas, he quickly signed a deal with Nike. When that deal ended, he was offered a massive contract from Under Armour which Nike stepped up to match.
Durant has another taste of being wooed again this summer. Despite a devastating Achilles injury, the forward was still offered contracts from a number of teams. Durant will play his next game for the Brooklyn Nets.
Lionel Messi Earns Top Dollar
Lionel Messi has long been known as one of the best soccer players in the world. He has the hardware to prove it too. He is just the second player to receive 5 Ballon ‘Or awards, given yearly to the world’s best player.
And along with that reputation comes plenty of big-time endorsement opportunities. In addition to deals with Huawei Technologies, Gatorade and Tata Motors, Messi also has been a long-time sponsor for shoe giant Adidas.
LeBron James Is The King For A Reason
LeBron James entered the league as quite possibly the biggest basketball phenom of all time. And the forward paid off those expectations by becoming a star while still in his teenage years. And, obviously, brands were knocking his door down.
The biggest deal for the superstar came from shoe company Nike. While the exact terms of the deal are unknown, his agent has hinted that it is worth more than $1 billion. The basketball superstar will also soon star in a reboot of Space Jam.
Tiger Woods Has Been Through A Lot
Since breaking onto the scene in the late 1990s Tiger Woods has been a force in the game of golf. He was at one time an endorsement juggernaut thanks to his incredible plays and squeaky clean image.
That image took quite a hit in 2009 when it was revealed that he had been cheating on wife Elin Nordgren. Many of the brands he represented left his side. The ones that stuck around got a huge payoff when Woods won the 2019 Masters.
Cristiano Ronaldo Scores With Fashion Brands
Cristiano Ronaldo has a lot of things going for him. Since his debut in 2002, the Portuguese forward has scored goals seemingly at will. He is also a strikingly good looking man who is sought out by fashion brands as well as athletic ones.
The Juventus star has a number of deals with brands such as Herbalife, Tag Heuer, and Abbot Laboratories. In addition to those agreements, Ronaldo also inked a lifetime contract with Nike.
Kobe Bryant’s Empire Was Built On Endorsements
Prior to LeBron James, Kobe Bryant was among the first players to become NBA stars straight out of High School. Not only was Bryant an elite talent, but he also had the good fortune of playing in Los Angeles for one of the sport’s most storied franchises.
After his retirement in 2015, Forbes claimed that more than half of Bryant’s $680 million dollars in career earnings came from endorsements. The shooting guard had partnerships with McDonald’s, Mercedes, Sprite, and of course, Nike.
David Beckham’s Endorsements Are Legendary
Like Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham’s good looks had as much to do with his sponsorship deals as his play on the field. Beckham also played for both the English National team as well as legendary English Premier League club Manchester United.
Over the course of his 21-year career, Beckham represented a number of different companies. And some of the companies he repped, like Armani and Breitling, didn’t typically make deals with athletes. Beckham also has a lifetime contract with Adidas.
Bryce Harper Made It Big At A Young Age
Bryce Harper is baseball’s biggest phenomenon in recent memory. The slugger appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at only 16-years-old. He was a shoo-in first pick for the Nationals in the 2010 draft and made the majors for good at 19 years old.
The highly marketable outfielder was offered a number of deals, the biggest coming from Under Armour who signed him to a ten-year pact. During the 2019 offseason, Harper made the move from the Nationals to the Phillies.
Odell Beckham Jr. Is Nike’s New Golden Boy
Odell Beckham Jr. had the benefit of being drafted by the New York Giants, who play in the country’s biggest market. His play on the field has also been outstanding and he consistently makes buzz-worthy plays.
One play, in particular, a one-handed catch during his rookie year, was the kind of thing brands could build around. The main brand to step up the plate and offer Beckham Jr. a mega-deal was Nike. The wide receiver, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns, netted $25 million in the agreement.
Serena Williams Is A True Brand Ambassador
Serena Williams first became a professional tennis player in 1998 at the age of 16. She has been an incredible success and worldwide phenomenon since that moment. And those 22 years of success have netted the tennis star many lucrative endorsement deals.
Among Serena’s multitude of endorsements are pacts with Nike, Wilson, Gatorade, Delta Air Lines, Aston Martin, Pepsi, Beats by Dre headphones, IBM, and Intel. She has made so much money from endorsements and tennis that her and sister Venus even own a stake in the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
Usain Bolt Ran His Way To Money
Being the fastest man in the world certainly comes with some privileges. For Jamaican-born sprinter Usain Bolt, a big part of those privileges are huge endorsement deals. Bolt has pacts with both Virgin Media and watch company Hublot.
His absolute biggest deal, though, is with sneaker company Puma. Puma was a very early supporter of Bolt and first signed him to an agreement back in 2003. The size and length of the agreement has only grown with the runner’s success and he will stay with the company following his retirement.
Russell Wilson Loves Bose
Football players don’t tend to receive the same kind of endorsement deals as tennis or basketball players. Brands prefer to have a sport where they could build products like a racket or a sneaker around a player.
Russell Wilson, though, has proven to be a marketing superstar. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback and 2014 Super Bowl champion holds a number of endorsement deals with various companies. Among those brands are Bose, Duracell, Braun and Alaska Airlines.
Michael Phelps Took Swimming To New Heights
Olympic athletes may only show up in the public eye once every four years. For the biggest winners, though, they shine enough during the games to make their endorsement of a product incredibly valuable. Michael Phelps, who has won more medals than any other athlete, is quite sought after.
The winner of 23 gold medals has represented a number of different companies since breaking on the scene during the 2000 Olympics. His numerous sponsorships include deals with Aqua Sphere, Omega and Under Armour.
Peyton Manning Has Southern Charm
It is a fair debate about whether or not Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all-time. It is inarguable, though, that Peyton Manning is the greatest NFL pitchman of all-time. Thanks to his excellent play, sense of humor and southern charm, Manning is a terrific brand ambassador.
While he retired following the 2015 season, Manning is still commonly seen on TV screens during football season. The most memorable ads for the ex-quarterback include those for Papa Johns and Nationwide Insurance.
Michael Jordan Has His Own Brand
While athletes had endorsement deals before Michael Jordan came around, the deals were never quite the same after the Chicago Bull inked his deal with Nike. Jordan showed brands the massive return on investment they could receive if they ever inked the perfect player.
Jordan’s deal with Nike now runs far beyond just having a signature shoe. The legendary player was given his own brand which now draws in billions of dollars in annual sales and has made Jordan a very rich man.