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25 Sports Celebrities Who Redefined Athletic Endorsements

TristaNovember 17, 2020
David Beckham may be retired, but he still gets endorsement contracts. Shutterstock

14. David Beckham

Most endorsement contracts stop coming once an athlete retires, but Beckham’s star power has not stopped shining since he retired from professional soccer in 2013. In fact, Beckham earned more in 2014, the year after he stopped playing professionally than he had in any year prior.

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Beckham retained his contract with Adidas following his retirement, and he has since signed on with several other companies to promote their brands. He has endorsed Armani’s luxury clothing brand and fast-fashion brand H&M along with Pepsi, Gillette razors, Diageo alcohol, Haig Club Whiskey, and Tudor watches.

This boxer’s nickname is Money, and not only because of the money he makes from boxing. Shutterstock

13. Floyd Mayweather

Mayweather is the premier boxing champion of the modern era, and every fight that he attends attracts millions of viewers. Furthermore, what happens when millions of viewers watch his matches? The companies that organize them make millions of dollars. And he has earned over one billion dollars by playing this game well. 

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Mayweather makes more than enough money in his fights, but he still endorses several brands, most notably Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot. Getting him to support a brand has a high barrier to entry given that his price is far too high for most companies to afford.

Neymar Junior earns one-third of his salary through endorsements. Shutterstock

12. Neymar Junior

Neymar is a celebrity soccer player in Brazil. What does that mean for endorsements? They are going to keep coming as his star continues rising throughout the athletic world.

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In 2019, Neymar earned over $100 million, and one-third of that came from endorsement deals that he signed. Nike signed him as one of the brand’s highest-paid athlete endorsers, and EA Sports pays him handsomely to keep his face on their advertisements. In addition to endorsing athletic brands, Neymar has signed contracts with fast-food giant McDonald’s, financial giant MasterCard, razor company Gillette, and headphones mogul Beats by Dre.

Conor McGregor makes $15 million a year from endorsements alone. Shutterstock

11. Conor McGregor

Irish fighter McGregor is a star in the world of mixed martial arts. Much of his earnings have come from fighting matches. “The Notorious” has reportedly brought in over a hundred million dollars in prizes. Networks love him because he attracts many viewers.

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McGregor’s prolific resume in the MMA world has translated into lucrative endorsements for brands that many people, including those outside of boxing and martial arts, see regularly. He has endorsed Bud Light beer, fast-food giant Burger King, Monster Energy drinks, Beats by Dre, and Reebok.

Novak Djokovic makes money just by wearing crocodile shirts to his tennis matches. Shutterstock

10. Novak Djokovic

One of the best tennis players in the world and of all-time, Djokovic makes $10 million a year from the Lacoste clothing company just by wearing its shirts. He formerly played endorsed Adidas, Uniqlo, and Sergio Tacchini outfits, but Lacoste decided that Djokovic was their man when those contracts ended.

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He also has endorsement deals with Asics shoes and Head tennis rackets and non-sports brands Ultimate Software Group, Seiko, and NetJets. Expect to watch his star continue to rise along with his endorsement deals. You’ll probably see his face a lot more often.

This football player makes six million dollars a year in endorsements. Shutterstock

9. Tom Brady

Brady is more than a professional football player, he is an NFL legend. He spent 20 seasons playing quarterback for the New England Patriots, during which his team played in nine Super Bowls and won six of them. He later moved to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has won three MVP awards in the NFL.

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Brady does not have as many endorsements as other athletes who have a similar resume, but six million dollars a year from lending your face to advertising is nothing to sneer at. Most notably, he endorses Ugg shoes, TAG Heuer watches, and Under Armour athletic apparel.

Rafael Nadal makes an estimated 10 million dollars a year from Nike. Shutterstock

8. Rafael Nadal

Along with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Nadal is one of the “big three” in men’s tennis worldwide. The Spanish professional tennis player is considered number two globally, and he has been playing professionally since 2001. His winning streak of 81 matches is unprecedented, not only for tennis but for any sports.

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Nobody knows how much Nike has paid Nadal for his endorsement, but the amount is rumored to be around 10 million dollars a year. In addition to Nike’s high-profile endorsement, he also has contracts with Kia Motors and Spanish brands Telefonica, Banco Santander, and Babolat.

Many people regard her as perhaps the greatest female tennis player ever. Shutterstock

7. Serena Williams

Serena’s name is ubiquitous with women’s tennis. Since going pro, she has won 23 grand slams, making her the dominant name in the sport. 

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So plenty of companies have been eager to use her name and face to promote their brands. She signed with Nike back in 2003 for a five-year contract worth 40 million dollars and has stayed with them ever since. Besides that, she has deals with financial giant JP Morgan, the Wilson tennis brand, and Beats by Dre. She brings home an estimated 10 to 20 million dollars a year through endorsements.

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6. Odell Beckham Junior

Beckham was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, becoming the first rookie to run 1100 yards, score 10 touchdowns, and catch 75 receptions. Two years later, he caught 100 receptions in one season. 

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In addition to being the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history, in 2017, Beckham signed a contract with Nike that was several times larger than his salary. He also endorses United Sports Brands.

Virat Kohli has $20 million in endorsement contracts. Shutterstock

5. Virat Kohli

Have you ever heard of Kohli? If not, you must not be a fan of professional cricket. While the game is not very common in the United States, outside of some cricket enthusiasts, it is big business in countries such as South Africa, Australia, India, and the United Kingdom.

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One of the cricket world stars is Indian batsman Kohli, who has endorsement contracts worth $20 million. They come from Audi cars, Puma athletic apparel, Pepsi beverages, and Oakley eyewear. The money he makes from endorsements is several times the amount he earns from playing professional cricket.

If you can get a big apparel endorsement from Nike, your salary will increase significantly. Shutterstock

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo 

The “Greek Freak” of the NBA was born in Greece to parents who immigrated from Nigeria. He was spotted by NBA recruiters while playing for youth teams in Athens and entered the NBA draft in 2013. In the 2016-2017 season, playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, he became the first basketball player in the NBA’s history to finish in the top 20 for statistics in all five areas of rebounds, total points, blocks, assists, and scores.

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The Greek Freak has an impressive array of endorsements that have added 28 million dollars to his salary. Those endorsements are for the sports brands Nike and 2K Sports, along with internet TV company Hulu. Nearly 60% of his salary comes from endorsements.

3. Zion Williamson

Williamson played one season at Duke University, in 2018-2019, before being drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA draft. At Duke, he was the ACC Rookie of the Year, ACC Athlete of the Year, and ACC Player of the year, and in January of 2019, he set the scoring record for first-year students in a single game and claimed the Wayman Tisdale Award. His newly begun career in the NBA seems to be just as promising as his college basketball career was.

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Despite being new to professional sports, having only been picked up in 2019, Zion has an estimated $20 million in endorsement contracts. They are mainly sports companies, including 2K Sports, Nike, Fanatics, and Panini. Gatorade has also picked him up along with Mountain Dew.

She brings home 90% of her earnings from endorsements. Shutterstock

2. Naomi Osaka

Osaka’s name may not be as well-known as her counterpart Serena Williams’, but she brings home enough money from endorsement contracts to make up for any difference. She has won three Grand Slam singles championships, and the Women’s Tennis Association considers her to be number one.

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Osaka has an impressive portfolio of endorsements that go well beyond the tennis world. Companies that pay to use her face in advertising include Bodyarmor, All Nippo Airways, Mastercard, Nissan Motors, Nike, Nissin Food Holdings, Yonex, Shiseido, and Procter and Gamble.

Number one will always be Michael Jordan. Shutterstock

1. Michael Jordan 

The man whose name is ubiquitous with endorsements, Michael Jordan’s name is a brand in itself. The professional basketball player is the man behind Nike’s iconic Air Jordans. Before athletes were endorsing brands the way they are today, in 1991, Gatorade signed a deal with Michael Jordan worth $13.5 million, making him the only celebrity spokesman for the sports drink at the moment. This endorsement set the standard for just about every celebrity athlete endorsement to come.

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He had already been featured by Hanes underwear since 1989. However, he remains an ambassador of the underwear company to this day. 

Even though MJ has never had much hair, in 1988, Ultra Star Hair Products signed MJ on to sing in a commercial. His hair was not the point. His celebrity with the Chicago Bulls was. There’s also been Upper Deck trading cards, Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Chevrolet, and General Mills, with their Wheaties box featuring him.  No athlete will ever top MJ. Even those who bring in more dollars from celebrity endorsements will always have to thank him for setting the standard for athletes endorsing brands. 

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