Athletes with the biggest endorsement deals

FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - May 14, 2021 - 12:00am

In 1984, Nike inked Michael Jordan to a 5-year $7 million deal.  The agreement became a blueprint for future sports stars representing large and popular enterprises of sports and leisure footwear and apparels.

Today, every famous athlete is backed by an equally popular brand, signing them to multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts, effectively making these endorsement deals their main source of income.  Here are the athletes with the mostest.

ROGER FEDERER – The Fed Express had been synonymous with Nike just like watches to Switzerland, but he had turned Japanese.  In 2018, Uniqlo signed him to a 10-year, $300 million deal, doubling his 20-year, $150m contract with the Swoosh.   Federer has the best endorsement portfolio in sports and is the first tennis player to occupy the top spot in endorsements by earning more than $100 million annually from Uniqlo, Mercedes Benz, Rolex, Credit Suisse, Moet & Chandon, Wilson, Rimowa luggage, On Running (also an investor), Lindt Chocolates, Procter and Gamble and three other companies.

Two footballers come in next behind the Fed Express, who earned a combined $209 million for 2020.

CRISTIANO RONALDO – Many sports stars don’t have European and global recognition that Ronaldo has, and this had earned him a lifetime deal with Nike reportedly worth over a billion dollars.   He signed with Italian club Juventus in 2018.  520,000 new Ronaldo jerseys were sold within a day after it was released worth over $60m.   He has an annual take of $105 from salaries and deals with EA Sports, Herbalife, American Tourister, Egyptian Steel, Toyoya, Tag Heuer and a few other brands plus earnings from his own clothing line, CR7.  There are hotels in Europe branded along his CR7 line.

LIONEL MESSI – It’s not only a competition on who’s the world’s best football player but also what’s the most popular football supplier.  Like Ronaldo, Messi has an undisclosed lifetime deal with Adidas which could surely equal that of CR7’s Nike contract.   His salary from FC Barcelona is $80m annually and earns $32m more from Turkish Airlines, Mastercard, Pepsi, Budweiser and Gillette.

LEBRON JAMES - At 18-years old, he snubbed a $10m check from Reebok to not meet with Adidas and Nike but the Swoosh had other ideas, which led to a $1 billion minimum lifetime deal they agreed on in 2015.  He’s not the highest paid player in the NBA with his $39.2m but earns an estimated $64m from Nike, McDonalds, Samsung, Beats Electronics, AT&T, RImowa, Blaze Pizza, Walmart, Upper Deck and General Motors Corporation.

STEPHEN CURRY - With a salary of $43m, Curry is the highest paid player in the NBA.  He renewed his contract with Under Armour up to 2024 for an undisclosed amount which could also lead to a lifetime deal.  Aside from Under Armour, Curry have deals wih Rakuten, Vivo, Nissan Motors, Sony, JP Morgan-Chase and Unilever that totals in over $44 million.



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