Lists

30 Athletes Who Are Marketing Powerhouses

Darren - November 15, 2019
Lists

30 Athletes Who Are Marketing Powerhouses

Darren - November 15, 2019

Being an elite sports star obviously brings fame and fortune. For sports stars, it’s not enough just to win trophies and medals. If you want to get rich then you have to be marketable. This is where looks and personality come into play. Companies want somebody memorable to promote their brands. Many athletes make much of their fortunes through sponsorships.

These can be worth millions of dollars. Some sports stars have many sponsors, while others are highly selective about who they want to be associated with. Today, we’re going to look at 30 of the most marketable athletes on the planet. Some of them would have been higher on this list a couple of years ago. Others are rising stars. But they’re all worth a lot of money. Check out the list below.

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30. Sebastian Vettel

The Ferrari star is one of the most recognizable racing drivers on the planet today. He’s also one of the most successful, winning four championships with Red Bull. In an era dominated by Mercedes, this was a massive achievement. The German holds the record for the most consecutive race wins in Formula One history with nine.

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Furthermore, as Lewis Hamilton’s main rival, Vettel is a very marketable figure. He drives for Ferrari, one of the most popular teams in the sport. Many analysts compare the German to his compatriot Michael Schumacher. So it’s no wonder that Vettel has global fame and makes about $40 million per year.

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29. Damian Lillard

This four-time All-Star is one of the best players in the NBA today. The Portland Trail Blazers point guard has represented his team since 2012. Lillard was the quickest man to score 600 in-game three-point goals. Then, he became the eighth player in history to reach 10,000 points and 2500 assists in their first six seasons.

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Being that effective also makes you very rich. Lillard has an extensive portfolio of companies backing him. Adidas is his main sponsor, with a massive shoe deal, but the likes of Toyota, Powerade, McDonald’s and Coach have also enlisted him.

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28. Drew Brees

This 40-year-old veteran might be reaching the end of his career, but he’s still a force of nature in the marketing department. One of the most recognisable players in the NFL, Brees famously damaged his shoulder leading to him joining the New Orleans Saints. But their gamble paid off, as he helped them to Super Bowl glory.

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When you’re around for as long as Brees, you become very famous. This has helped him to attract sponsors like Microsoft, Wrangler, and Pepsi to his brand. As well as his own individual sponsors, Brees also owns several Dunkin’ and Jimmy Johns’ franchises. To sum up, this man knows all about his dollars.

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27. Kyrie Irving

This 27-year-old point guard has one of the best individual records in the NBA. After making his name with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he played for the Boston Celtics before moving to the Brooklyn Nets. He’s an NBA champion as well as a six-time NBA All-Star. Irving also has an Olympic gold medal with the US national team.

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Irving is a massively popular player. As a result, his shoe is an NBA top-seller. In 2017, only Lebron James outsold him. The star is also famous for his representation of Uncle Drew. After appearing in advertisements as the character, Irving starred as Drew in a feature film. He even has partial ownership over the Uncle Drew name.

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26. Chris Paul

The NBA has produced some massive stars over the years, but Paul is one of the biggest. The Oklahoma City Thunders hero has won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, an NBA All-Star Game MVP Award, two Olympic gold medals, and led the NBA in assists four times and steals six times.

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A nine-time All-Star, Paul is one of the highest-paid athletes on the planet. He holds massive endorsement deals with the likes of Nike and State Farm. That’s as well as having the third-highest salary in the NBA. Paul is also the President of the NBA Player’s Union. This man is a force of nature.

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25. Bryce Harper

Harper plays for the Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB after six years with the Washington Wizards. The 2015 National League MVP is also a six-time All-Star. The right fielder’s popularity is undeniable. When he signed for the Phillies, the sales of his jersey broke records across all sports in the first 24 hours.

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Also, his deal with the Phillies is massive. His 13-year contract is worth $330 million, the second biggest in MLB history. Harper also makes more money from sponsorships than any other baseball player. He’s a brand ambassador for Under Armour as well as New Era and Johnson & Johnson.

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24. Kylian Mbappe

French superstar Mbappe is the most valuable soccer player in the world today. If he ever leaves Paris St. Germain, it will definitely be for a world-record fee. Forbes estimated that his transfer value is $240 million. Having led the line for France in their 2018 World Cup win, that should come as no surprise.

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Now 20, Mbappe is developing into one of the most exciting players in Europe. He has a massive deal with Nike, who is his main sponsor. In 2019 he signed a deal with watchmaker Hublot to be an official brand ambassador. But as his fame increases, he’s just going to attract more big names.

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23. Conor McGregor

Love him or loathe him, “The Notorious” is an excellent businessman. McGregor rose to prominence by winning the UFC featherweight and lightweight titles. His brash personality and natural charisma stirred the imaginations of fans around the world. In short, McGregor changed the sport of MMA as we know it today.

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No other MMA fighter has managed to achieve what he has done. Furthermore, McGregor is excellent at promoting his independent business ventures. During the buildup to his fight with Khabib Nurmagamedov, he actively marketed his Proper Twelve Irish Whiskey. He’s also got deals with Reebok, Rolls-Royce, and Beats by Dre.

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22. Phil Mickelson

Mickelson was Tiger Woods’ main rival for almost a decade. He has won every major except the U.S. Open, where he has finished runner-up a record six times. But his net worth is insane. Mickelson’s estimated worth is $375 million. That’s the result of winning five majors and a lot of sponsorship money.

Tiger Woods vs Phil Mickelson
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Success draws the attention of big brands. While he ranks only behind Woods in terms of prize money, Mickelson has made most of his money off the course. Intrepid Financial Partners, Callaway Golf, Amgen, KPMG and Rolex are just some of the prestigious companies that sponsor him.

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21. Novak Djokovic

Serbia’s Djokovic is truly brilliant. His 15 Grand Slam victories make him the third-most successful tennis player of all-time. Meanwhile, his $132 million in career prize money is the highest ever. In short, the man is just a serial winner. Currently ranked World No. 2, he has spent 275 weeks in the top spot.

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Djokovic’s high profile makes him very popular with sponsors. His deal with Lacoste is worth eight figures annually. Furthermore, ASICS, Seiko and racquet manufacturer Head are his other major sponsors. Djokovic has shown loyalty to his brands, with Head sponsoring him even as an amateur.

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20. Khalil Mack

Mack is currently playing as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. The former Oakland Raiders star is one of the most valuable athletes in the NFL today. The Bears signed Mack to a massive six-year contract worth $140 million. A four-time Pro Bowler and former Defensive Player of the Year, Mack is an excellent footballer.

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Moving to another club can have an impact on your value. However, his transfer to Chicago has only made him more valuable as a marketing commodity. Nike, New Era, Mack Trucks, and Panini are just some of the major companies that Mack has secured deals with. It’s onwards and upwards from here for the big man.

Anthony Joshua
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19. Anthony Joshua

If we wrote this list a few months earlier, Joshua would be much closer to the top. But after dropping his titles to Andy Ruiz in one of the biggest boxing shocks of the decade, his stock took a fall. Even so, Joshua is still an incredibly marketable athlete and it’s not difficult to see why. Just take a look at him and it should make sense.

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With his Adonis-like body and statuesque physique, Joshua doesn’t look like an ordinary man. He’s also immensely popular in his native Britain. The likes of Under Armor and Hugo Boss and Jaguar Land Rover all have deals with the former heavyweight champ. Then DAZN signed him in a $1 billion deal with Matchroom.

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18. Tiger Woods

The recent resurgence of Woods has made his sponsors cry out with joy. For a long time, Woods was unstoppable and one of the most marketable athletes on the planet. But a major cheating scandal tarnished his reputation. Meanwhile, injuries inflicted wear and tear on his aging body.

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But Woods is still worth millions of dollars. His incredible Master’s win in 2019 saw Nike earn over $22 million through exposure. Monster Energy Drink and Bridgestone are two of his other biggest sponsors. For almost a decade, he was also the face of EA Sport’s Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game.

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17. Lewis Hamilton

The UK racing driver is a six-time world champion. One of the most recognizable British athletes on the planet, he’s one of the most successful drivers in the history of Formula One. Some even consider him the greatest ever. The Mercedes star holds the record for the most career wins and most points earned.

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Hamilton is a brand ambassador for a whole host of sponsors. He’s the most marketable motorsports athlete in the world. The likes of Sony, Monster Energy, Puma, L’Oreal and Police sunglasses sponsor the Briton. In short, his combined sponsors earn him about $10 million extra per year. Go-karting is definitely a good childhood hobby.

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16. Brooks Koepka

The current world number one golfer is reaping the rewards that come with success. Koepka is the best golfer on the planet right now. He won the US Open in 2017 and 2018. Then he won the PGA Championship in 2018 and 2019 to become the first player in history to hold back-to-back titles in two majors simultaneously.

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Koepka’s rise has been so fast that he almost forgot to get famous along the way. But finally, fame is starting to come his way. Amazingly, he is still without an equipment deal. When that arrives, he’s going to earn millions of dollars. However, some believe his use of specially-tailored equipment is a reason behind his consistent success.

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15. Cristiano Ronaldo

It’s crazy that Ronaldo is almost 35 now. The Juventus forward has been operating at a level beyond the elite for the past 16 years. During this time he’s been one of the best soccer players in the world. He established himself as world-class with Manchester United before a record-breaking era at Real Madrid.

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During this time, he transformed into a marketing powerhouse worth billions of dollars. Furthermore, he was the first soccer player to top Forbe’s list of the World’s Highest-Paid Athletes. With a massive online following, it’s no surprise that he’s worth a lifetime $1 billion to Nike. To sum up, that’s the world’s biggest-ever sponsorship deal for a sports star.

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14. Paul Pogba

Pogba might be one of the most frustrating athletes on this list. Despite his pedigree as a world-class soccer player, his inconsistency drives Manchester United fans crazy. However, he is a World Cup winner with his native France. Capable of brilliant goals, Pogba is truly elite on his day.

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The France international is also incredibly valuable to his sponsors. An Adidas brand ambassador, Pogba will make $40 million over 10 years. His charity work is also significant. Pogba has worked with the likes of UNICEF, Save the Children and the Red Cross in the past. So, he’s not just about the haircuts.

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13. Kevin Durant

Durant is one of the most popular players in the NBA. His shirt is regularly a best seller and he has mega-money deals with Foot Locker and Nike. In short, there aren’t many athletes in the US with as much drawing power as him. Various charities have received millions of dollars from him. Hence, Durant is one of the nicest players in the NBA.

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Currently playing for the Brooklyn Nets, Durant’s resume is extraordinary. He’s a 10-time NBA All-Star and a two-time NBA champion. In 2014, Durant was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. Now 31 years old, he still has a few good years left at the top of the game. Durant is also working on being a partner with his sponsors instead of just a brand ambassador.

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12. Stephen Curry

The Golden State Warriors star is a true NBA visionary. He’s genuinely responsible for revolutionizing the sport by inspiring teams to use the three-point shot as a huge part of their winning strategy. Not only is he smart, but he’s also talented. Curry is a six-time NBA All-Star and a three-time NBA champion in 10 years with the Warriors.

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Curry is one of the world’s most marketable athletes. Rakuten and Palm are two of the major international brands who sponsor him. As well as these, Curry has his own production company. Unanimous Media released their first film – aptly named Breakthrough – in April 2019. It was a financial success.

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11. Tom Brady

The oldest quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl, Brady is a true superstar. Unlike many NFL stars, he’s a globally recognizable athlete. Brady has won six out of his nine Super Bowl appearances. The 42-year-old has won four Super Bowl MVP awards. As a starting quarterback, Brady has never had a losing season.

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Of course, all of this success creates massive recognition. His main individual sponsorship is with the US sportswear company UnderArmour. Aston Martin and Tag Heuer also back this megastar. Brady’s sponsorships are even more valuable because he’s very selective. In short, he prefers to promote his own TB12 lifestyle brand.

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10. Megan Rapinoe

Not many athletes enjoyed 2019 as much as Rapinoe did. The captain of the US women’s national team, she’s one of the most recognizable female athletes on the planet. The Reign FC star is a back-to-back World Cup winner and also claimed the Golden Boot in France. In short, this veteran forward is a true force of nature.

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Rapinoe has become a superstar in a very short time. Nike and Samsung are two of her biggest sponsors, along with Mendi, a woman-owned CBD company. She has appeared on the cover of Body Issue. Meanwhile, Rapinoe uses her fame to help with social activism. She wants to help those in need without a voice.

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9. Aaron Rodgers

The Green Bay Packers quarterback is one of Tom Brady’s main rivals. Statistically, he’s even more impressive than the Patriots star but Brady has the advantage of all those Super Bowl wins. Rodgers does have one Super Bowl ring though. Furthermore, he’s a two-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP. In short, he’s a top-class player.

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But Rodgers is also a brilliant businessman. He launched a $50 million venture with Roth Capital in 2019. What is more, is that he has a minority stake in the Milwaukee Bucks. Adidas, Bose, and State Farm are just some of his many sponsors. Rodgers is one of the most recognizable athletes in the United States today.

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8. Russell Wilson

The Seahawks quarterback is the highest-paid athlete in the NFL today. He holds the record for most wins by an NFL quarterback through seven seasons. Wilson has started two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XLVIII. To sum it up, the five-time Pro Bowler is a true Rolls-Royce of a player.

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As a result, Wilson is a massively lucrative commodity. He has huge commercial deals with a number of massive companies. Alaskan Airlines, Bose, and Microsoft all provide their backing to one of the biggest stars in US sports today. Fun fact: Wilson is the shortest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl. Size doesn’t always matter.

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7. Zion Williamson

Whisper it, but Williamson is on the rise. In short, he looks like the natural successor to LeBron James as the NBA’s biggest star. Kevin Durant has called him a ‘once-in-a-generation athlete.’ That should tell you something about how good this young man can be. The power forward first drew national attention in high school for his earth-shaking dunks.

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Williamson’s high profile at the age of 18 has turned him into a priceless advertising commodity. He’s got a $75 million rookie deal with Nike. Meanwhile, Moutain Dew, Gatorade, and Panini America are just some of the other massive brands who sponsor him. In short, he’s going to earn millions without even playing.

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6. Roger Federer

Federer is the best thing to come out of Switzerland since chocolate. The tennis superstar has won a record 20 Grand Slam titles. That’s more than any other male athlete. He’s also been the world number one for a record 310 weeks. Hence, the Swiss player is one of the most dominant stars in the sport’s history.

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The tennis legend is also incredibly lucrative. In 2018, he ditched Nike for a $300 million deal with Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo. Federer’s other endorsements include the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Lindt chocolate and Rolex. With his squeaky-clean persona and pleasant demeanor, he’s a marketing dream.

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5. Lionel Messi

Messi needs no introduction. He’s been Barcelona’s talisman for the past decade. The Argentine maestro has won an outrageous six FIFA Ballon d’Or awards. But that’s just one of the world records that Messi holds. The 10-time La Liga and four-time Champion’s League winner is simply the best soccer player on the planet.

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He’s also a marketing powerhouse. First of all, just check out his sponsorships. Messi has megadeals with the likes of Gatorade, Pepsi, Adidas, Huawei, and Hawkers. Messi is even going to open up his own theme park in China. That’s just taking it to the next level. But that’s been the story of his entire career.

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4. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez

There’s little doubt that ‘Canelo’ is boxing’s biggest draw at the moment. First of all, he’s a four-weight world champion. This is a phenomenal achievement and it just goes to show why DAZN signed the 29-year-old. His five-year deal with the streaming network is worth $365 million. To sum up, this makes the highest-paying athlete contract in history.

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However, you have to say he’s worth it. ‘Canelo’ has won titles from welterweight up to light-heavyweight. With wins over Sergei Kovalev, Miguel Cotto, and Gennady Golovkin, Alvarez is worth the hype. A power-puncher, he’s also got an excellent finishing record. In short, this makes him a very entertaining fighter to watch.

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3. Naomi Osaka

This Japanese tennis player rose to superstardom in 2018. Now she’s one of the most marketable athletes on the planet. Osaka represents the new generation of Japan and is the face of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She’s a brand ambassador for a host of Japanese and US companies including Nissan, Shiseido cosmetics, and ANA Airways.

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Osaka is of mixed heritage. With a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, she’s an inspiration to a new generation of Japanese youngsters. She’s also a two-time Grand Slam winner. First of all, she defeated Serena Williams to claim the US Open. Then she won the Australian Open in 2019. In short, Osaka is on track to become a megastar.

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2. Neymar Jr.

One of the most frustrating figures in the world of soccer, Neymar Jr. is a mercurial talent. The Brazilian is capable of the sublime but also has a reputation for petulance. Despite this, he’s one of the world’s most marketable athletes. The 27-year-old is his country’s third-highest goal scorer. He’s also got a cabinet full of trophies at club level.

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The PSG star is the face of massive brands like Nike, Gilette, and Beats. To sum up, he rakes in about $35 million per year in endorsements which just goes to show his drawing power. But he actually provides good value. SportsCal estimates that his deal with Nike earns the brand at least $165 million in profit.

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1. LeBron James

Everybody knows James. He’s one of the greatest basketball players of all time, some would even say the very best. First of all, he started out with the Cleveland Cavaliers, before rejoining them after a spell with the Miami Heat. Then he helped the Cavaliers to their first NBA championship in 52 years. Now he’s with the Lakers and continuing his success.

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Off the court, James is a cultural phenomenon. Now 34, his star has never shone brighter even if he’s only got a couple of years left at the top. He teamed up with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lindsey Vonn, and Cindy Crawford to launch Ladder, a health and wellness company. Finally, his lifetime endorsement with Nike is likely to earn him $1 billion.

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