They get paid huge amounts of money to play a game they love. Unlike mere mortals who slave away each day in stiff office attires to earn our monthly wages, these guys do it in comfortable outfits designed to help enhance their respective games. And in doing so, their outfit provider pay them even more money because of the endorsements that these athletes provide.
The ones who will benefit the most are usually those who are taking their sport to new highs. Usually, but not necessarily required. Anna Kournikova was paid a hefty amount during her career and she did not even win a single Grand Slam tournament. In other words, having an attractive face or figure would not hurt your chances of bagging that lucrative endorsement deal.
Neither would a negative reputation totally ruin your chances. Sure, Lance Armstrong endorsements will probably dry out in the light of his doping scandal, but he can take heart with what happened to Tiger Woods who recovered nicely even after all his infidelity. His form in major tournaments are not there yet, but he is still ringing in the cash register with his new endorsement contracts.
So who are the athletes with the biggest advertising contracts? Here is a list of the top five biggest athlete endorsement deals.
5 Derrick Rose, Basketball - $260 million from Adidas
He was the youngest player to ever win the Most Valuable Player award when he garnered the honor in 2011 at the age of 22. His Chicago Bulls team has made the playoffs every year since he arrived in 2008. And Adidas has been with him since his college days at the University of Memphis. In 2012, Adidas extended his contract by 14 years in a deal amounting to $260 million. That’s a huge amount for someone who has yet to win a championship, but the shoe company is betting that he will get one before his career is over. By locking him up until he is 38, it also practically assured itself that Rose would not be lacing up any other sneakers for the rest of his NBA life.
4 David Beckham, Soccer - $160 million from Adidas
He was the face of English soccer for a long period bridging the late 90s to the middle part of the first decade of this century. Sure he had lots of heartaches and misfortunes in his stint as captain of the England squad, ranging from his sending off in the knockout game against Argentina in the World Cup to the slip and missed penalties against Turkey and France. But he has won it all at the club level while playing for big teams like Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan. He also played for the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer in the United States. He was won league titles in England, Spain and the US. He also won the Champions League while playing for Manchester United, supplying the corners for both goals in their last gasp win against Bayern Munich. He is the first British player to play in more than 100 Champions League matches. He also has 115 caps for England, the second most after Peter Shilton.
Can you thus blame Adidas for signing him to a lifetime contract? His appeal extends beyond the sport and he has a high-profile marriage with Spice Girl Victoria Beckham. Adidas already paid half the amount upon the contract signing in 2003. He will also be paid for promotional work, as well as a percentage of the profit. Adidas money accounts for 15 percent of Beckham’s income.
3 George Foreman, Boxing - $137.25 million from Salton, Inc.
He used to be one of the most feared heavyweights at a time when the division ruled the sport. He was a contemporary of legendary fighters, easily knocking out Joe Frazier twice. He met more than his match in Muhammad Ali, however, who took the fight to him when they met in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974. After leaving the sport for almost two decades, he made a sensational comeback at age 45 to win back the crown.
His heft can obviously be attributed to his love for food. The “George Foreman Grill” was invented and was touted as a “Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.” The idea was sold to Salton, Inc., which is now known as Spectrum Brands. He was given $23.5 million in stocks and the rest in five installments of $22.75 million each.
2 Tiger Woods, Golf - $100 million from Nike
Even before turning pro, he was already being regarded as potentially one of the best golfers to play the game. After turning professional, he promptly won the 1997 Masters by blowing out the rest of the field in record-breaking style. Nike, at that time, had already taken a gamble with him by signing Woods to a five-year contract worth $8 million each year.
By the year 2000, Woods had already won five major tournaments, winning each one of the four majors at least once. He was only 25 and he was clearly on his way to breaking the record for most major wins. Nike signed him up again in 2000, giving him a 150 percent raise by offering him $20 million a year for five years. What makes the deal more amazing was that Woods was not even required to play with Nike clubs in his tournaments. The two have remained loyal to each other despite Woods’ infidelity scandals that rocked him in 2009.
1 Lebron James, Basketball - $90 million from Nike
He came straight out of high school in 2003 to join the NBA. He had it all – size, speed, hops, basketball intelligence, offensive skills and defensive prowess. Unfortunately, he also carried a lot of hype going to the pros. People expected great things from him, including delivering a title to the long-suffering sports fans of Cleveland that have been victimized by “The Drive” of John Elway, “The Shot” of Michael Jordan and a tying fly ball by Craig Counsell. Alas, even “King James” was not able to deliver.
Nike has been supportive all the way, however. It gave James a $90 million-contract before he even played a professional game. It also provided him with leeway to design the shoes. James has now realized his potential after winning a ring with the Miami Heat and a new deal may not be far behind.