Biggest Athlete Endorsement Deals In Sports History
Our favorite athletes are not only good at the sports they play, they also make a hefty amount of money from their business acumen. Sports endorsements are a way for an athlete to make double, or even triple, what they are making as a salary from their professional team.
The athletes on this list have all partnered with big-name brands to promote their products, whether that entails advertising for them on social media or making sure to wear the brand name at every game. These endorsements, as you’ll see, pay big bucks and can continue to do so even after the athlete is retired.
Endorsement: Under Armour
Value: $4 million*
Steph Curry is the Warriors’ point guard, and he is widely considered to be one of the best shooters in the history of basketball. Curry was once a recruit at Davidson, and he went undrafted, as no one saw his potential. However, that changed dramatically, and he recently became the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
Curry has managed to rake in a lot in endorsements as a result. He signed a deal with the sporting goods company Under Armour, which extends through 2024 and pays him $4 million a year. But, that’s not all he gets, Curry also receives an equity stake in UA.
Value: $1 billion*
Cristiano Ronaldo’s association with Nike has been around for a long time. Over his thirteen years of playing professional soccer, Ronaldo has worn sixty different types of cleats from the sportswear giant, making sure that the camera catches the Nike swoosh every time he takes the field.
Ronaldo made soccer history when he signed a lifetime contract with Nike. This contract will be worth an estimated one billion dollars over time, persisting even after Ronaldo has retired from soccer. This deal is somewhat similar to the one signed between basketball player Lebron James and Nike, with a huge billion-dollar payout over time.
Value: $300 million*
Described by Forbes as a “blockbuster deal,” Roger Federer is now a record breaker. He joins Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods as the only athletes to earn over $70 million a year in endorsements alone. The tennis player used to be joined at the hip with Nike, but that changed in 2016 when their contract expired.
Uniqlo, a Japanese sportswear brand, made Federer a better offer. Their ten-year partnership will be worth around $300 million, persisting even after Federer has retired from the game. Uniqlo has poached several other Nike clients (who you’ll see on this list) too.
Value: $6.5 million*
The rivalry between Adidas and Nike is legendary, and Adidas did have a partnership with tennis player Naomi Osaka until the spring of this year when Nike swiped Osaka from Adidas by offering her a better deal. While Adidas and Osaka were still partners, Osaka made $6.5 million a year from the sportswear company.
Osaka’s switch to Nike surprised people in the industry, who didn’t expect her to abandon the deal that made her millions. However, Osaka chose Nike over Adidas in the end, saying that she was extremely “excited” to work with the company. Adidas moved on with a new spokeswoman: Beyonce.
Value: $200 million*
Tiger Woods is back after a rough go of it over the past decade or so. He signed with Nike for a five-year deal for over $200 million. Nike was one of the few partners to stick by the golf star after he weathered scandal after scandal concerning alleged infidelity and his ex-wife, Elin Nordegren.
However, that is water under the bridge now. Woods signed his first deal with Nike in the late nineties, and the deal he signed in 2013 is double what he got originally. Woods recently won the Masters in 2019, so Nike made a smart move sticking by him.
Value: $12 million*
Lionel Messi is to Adidas what Cristiano Ronaldo is to Nike. Messi signed a permanent deal with Adidas for life, and that deal is expected to pay him over $12 million a year as a result. The soccer star has over 184 million followers on social media, so his posts for Adidas are able to net the sports giant a lot of exposure and money.
It is estimated that $216 million in value has been created by this partnership for Adidas. Messi, who is a member of FC Barcelona, makes an annual salary of 40 million euros ($44.8 million).
Value: $350 million*
Professional soccer player, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior is one of the richest soccer players in the world, having become a professional player in 2009 when he was just seventeen years old. He is signed to Nike, alongside his close friend Cristiano Ronaldo. He is signed to Nike until 2022 officially, with a possible extension until 2024.
Neymar is a member of Paris Saint-Germain F.C. He has had other sponsorship endorsements, including those with Apple, Nike, and Beats by Dre. It is unclear whether Neymar, who is going through some legal issues now and Nike will opt for the ’24 extension.
Value: $185 million*
Derrick Rose is known for having knee problems, but Adidas has stuck by him despite his state of perpetual injury. Rose considered retirement in 2017, but he chose not to. He has continued to play in the NBA, and Adidas has set aside a total of $185 million for their deal with him.
The Adidas/Rose partnership started in 2012, and it is slated to last for thirteen years (and seven seasons) until 2025. If Rose retires, the deal will be off the table, as the brand is protected from having to pay out the money if Rose stops playing.
Value: $40 million*
Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant was dropped by Adidas in 2003 after he ran into some legal difficulties. Nike picked him up in 2003, and Nike has stuck by his side for year after year, signing a $40 million deal with the star athlete. Bryant’s other endorsements include McDonald’s, Nutella, Spalding, and Sprite.
Nike pays Kobe $8 million a year for a five-year deal. In total, this is a pretty big chunk of what he makes from endorsements, which is around $26 million a year. In salary, while in the NBA, he made $25 million a year. He also has his own brand of Nike shoes.
Value: $130 million*
When Michael Jordan first started playing in the NBA after he came out of UNC’s basketball program, he was signed to Nike as a sponsor for $500,000 a year for five years. Since then, Jordan and Nike have been inseparable, though the money has gotten a lot better for both of them.
Now, Joran has a $130 million paycheck from Nike. Jordan and Nike’s partnership in the eighties and nineties was one of the first pro-athlete endorsements to become as lucrative as it did, revolutionizing the whole concept of sports marketing. Jordan’s net worth is now $1.9 billion.