There’s a lot of money to be made in sport sponsorship and endorsement deals. In the world of soccer, every year billions of dollars are up for grabs for the manufacturers who supply everything from team kits to the balls and shin-pads we buy at the local sporting goods store. In this realm, Nike and Adidas rule, taking in nearly $5 billion between the two of them last year. One part of this industry, often overlooked yet potentially worth tens of millions per player, revolves around soccer boots and the players who endorse them.
In soccer, jersey and team sponsors are out of the hands of the player. Kits are manufactured by the likes of Adidas, Nike, Puma and Warrior. As a player in this instance, you wear what the team wears. However, boots, cleats, shoes – or whatever you want to call them – are the one piece of equipment which are fair game. A player can sign on with any manufacturer of their choosing, usually making a significant profit in the process.
Soccer boots may not be as visible as the jerseys the players wear but manufacturers still spend hundreds of millions to sign players up and get as many of their boots out onto a pitch as possible. It’s an aspect of the sports market that is taken very seriously. Just ask Nike. In the Euro 2012 tournament, while everyone else was watching Spain progress to the title, Nike was tabulating that 59% of all goals scored up to the quarter-finals were scored with Nike boots. Still not convinced? Just a few years ago, Nike sued then Real Madrid midfielder Mesut Özil for wearing a pair of Adidas boots. Technically Özil was out of contract with Nike but the American manufacturer had the right to match any new offers made to Özil before the German midfielder could start wearing a boot from a different manufacturer. Nike won and Özil had to wear ‘brandless’ shoes for part of the season.
Soccer boots are just as important for the player on the pitch as they are for the player’s bank account. The following is a list of 10 famous footballers, the manufacturers they are contracted to and the type of soccer boot they wear while playing.
10 Neymar – Nike, minimum $1 million per year
Brazilian forward Neymar was one of the biggest names to grace the soccer world this past summer. Clubs and fans around the world kept tabs on the 22-year old while he played in Brazil, long before his much anticipated move abroad. The eventual move to Barcelona, amid ongoing controversy, added further drama and excitement to Spain’s La Liga especially considering Real Madrid’s counter with the transfer of Gareth Bale.
Neymar is a marketing dream because he is so well known outside of Europe. Currently, he has contracts with companies like Castrol, Red Bull, Volkswagen and Panasonic. According to Forbes, Neymar has an 11 year deal with Nike worth $1 million per year. Given the Brazlian superstar is in the third year of that deal and currently playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, it is more than likely that figure has been adjusted - we’re just waiting for Nike to release the official figures. As part of this deal, Neymar currently wears Nike’s Hypervenom Phantom boots.
9 Wayne Rooney – Nike, $1.67 million per year
One of the stars of the English Premier League, Wayne Rooney developed his name and reputation while playing for Manchester United. The 28-year old English forward has enjoyed considerable success during his career. Having recently signed a new contract at Old Trafford, Rooney will reportedly make $26 million a year.
Compared to his player’s contract, Rooney makes substantially less from endorsement and sponsorship deals. In part, controversies involving prostitutes, infidelity and on-field antics have cost him deals with Coca-Cola and EA Sports. That said, he still maintains strong ties with Nike. The American sports-wear giant has a deal in place which sees Rooney wear Nike Hypervenom Phantom boots. In exchange for wearing the gear, Nike pays Rooney a tidy $1.67 million per year. Other famous players who wear the same boot include Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Robert Lewandowski and teammate Danny Welbeck.
8 Sergio Agüero – Puma, $2 million per year
Sergio Agüero started making a name for himself with Argentine club Independiente. A move to Atletico Madrid in 2006 and Manchester City in 2011 raised his worldwide profile considerably. The former son-in-law of Diego Maradona, Agüero has developed a reputation for being technically gifted and lethal in front of goal. He scored Manchester City’s final goal of the 2011/12 season, a goal which won the club its first Premier League title.
Helping Agüero to strike the ball so sweetly are the evoSpeed 1.2 boots by Puma. The German manufacturer is well behind Adidas and Nike in the sponsorship department, yet is assembling a cast of high profile players in an effort to grab a bigger share of the market. Agüero is one such player and Puma pay him $2 million per year to wear their boots. Other notable players wearing the evoSpeed 1.2 include Radamel Falcao and Ibrahim Afellay.
7 Lionel Messi – Adidas, $3.34 million per year
Lionel Messi currently plays for Barcelona and is one of the most recognizable footballing figures in the world. Technically gifted and a nightmare for opposition defenders, the diminutive Barcelona forward has more records and individual awards than can be listed here. It is no surprise then that manufacturers compete so fiercely to have Messi lend his name to their products.
Messi initially worked with Nike but when the contract came up, rivals Adidas swooped in for his signature, paying him $3.34 million per season to wear their boots. Barcelona’s magician currently wears the F50 adiZero line of footwear. Adidas has even created a version called the F50 Messi SG. It is only the second shoe to be named after a player in Adidas’ lineup – the first being for David Beckham.
6 Mesut Özil – Adidas, $4.9 million per year
Mesut Özil rose to prominence while playing for Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, as well as the German national team. The creative midfielder’s move to Real Madrid in 2010 raised his profile further. Recently, the 25 year old Özil made headlines when he moved to Arsenal for a team (and German player) record of £42.5 million.
While at Madrid, Özil became embroiled in a legal battle with Nike, then his boot supplier. Disputes between the player and Nike created a situation where Özil spent one season wearing both Nike and Adidas cleats. He recently signed a deal with Adidas for $4.9 million per season. Özil currently wears the Predator LZ II. These are the same boots worn by Steven Gerrard, Xavi and teammate Aaron Ramsey.
5 Cesc Fabregas – Puma, $5.34 million per year
A product of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, Fabregas made his name while playing for Arsenal, in the English Premier League, from 2003 to 2011. He became known as a playmaker, using creativity and passes to unlock other teams’ defences. In 2011, the 26-year old returned to Barcelona where he continues to play today. He has been part of a dominant Spanish national team that has won the World Cup and two Euro Cups since 2008.
Formerly with Nike, Fabregas now has a deal in place with Puma, a company making a real push to take some of the market away from the traditional apparel giants. The midfielder’s current sponsorship contract sees him receive $5.34 million per season. Fabregas has been seen wearing boots from Puma’s PowerCat 1 line. Additionally, he took part in the launch ceremonies for Puma’s new Evopower 1 boots. Others who have been seen wearing these boots includes Marco Reus and Mario Balotelli.
4 Gareth Bale – Adidas, $5.5 million per year
Welsh winger Gareth Bale rose to prominence with Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur between 2007 and 2013. Starting out as a defender, Bale soon found his calling as an offensively minded winger. Over his final few seasons at Tottenham, he became known for his speed, strength and powerful shot. In the summer of 2013, Bale moved to Real Madrid in a much publicized $142.8 million transfer.
Recently, Adidas finalized a six-year contract extension for Bale. The new deal will see the 24-year old get $5.5 million a year and bumps him up the high-earners list when it comes to shoe endorsement deals. Like Messi, Bale footwear is from the F50 adiZero line. Another well known footballer who chooses this boot is teammate Karim Benzema.
3 Mario Balotelli – Puma, $6.9 million per year (estimated)
Mario Balotelli is like a vial of nitro-glycerin; both are useful and capable, yet both can be unstable and unpredictable. Although scoring 87 goals in 216 appearances, the problems Balotelli brought with him have plagued his career from Inter Milan to Manchester City to AC Milan. From red cards to fighting with fans to lighting his house on fire with fireworks to appearing on television in an AC Milan jersey while still a player for Inter Milan, the Italian striker is a handful.
This past December, Puma decided all of those issues were water under the bridge as they signed Balotelli to a deal reported to be in the neighborhood of $6.9 million per year. Puma has yet to release the official figures, but most analysts and papers tend to agree with this figure. In any event, Balotelli’s deal represents another high profile addition to Puma as they move to steal some of he market from Adidas and Nike. In terms of footwear, Balotelli now wears Puma’s Evopower 1 and even sported a specially designed pair, adorned with newspaper headlines from the player’s past.
2 Cristiano Ronaldo – Nike, $8.35 million per year
You just knew Ronaldo would be up here somewhere. The Portuguese forward became famous during his time at Manchester United. There, under the watchful eye of Sir Alex Ferguson, Ronaldo became known for being fast, strong and capable of producing sensational free-kicks. In 2009, he moved to Real Madrid where the World Soccer Player of the Year hasn’t slowed down a bit.
Ronaldo has many sponsorship deals ranging from Castrol and Fly Emirates to Coca-Cola and KFC. In terms of sporting apparel and boot provider, he has a lucrative deal in place with Nike. Currently, the American manufacturer pays Ronaldo $8.35 million per year. This deal is set to expire in 2014 with reports that a new $13.4 million per year deal is in the works with Nike. Ronaldo generally wears Nike’s Mercurial Vapor IX boot, although he also has a number of custom boots belonging to the series, including the Superfly line.
1 David Beckham – Adidas, $11.7 million per year
Through soccer, modeling and his Spice Girl wife Victoria, David Beckham is a world famous celebrity. On the pitch, the 38 year old made his name with Manchester United, rising through the ranks to become one of the team’s stars. In 2003, he continued this journey by moving to Real Madrid and then on to the LA Galaxy in the MLS in 2007. Stints at AC Milan and PSG rounded out an eventful and rewarding professional football career.
Everyone knows who David Beckham is, regardless of whether they watch soccer or not. That is why he commands so much attention from potential sponsors, even at the end of his playing career. While his deal is set to be eclipsed by Ronaldo’s massive Nike deal, Beckham still collects around $11.7 million per year from Adidas. Up until last year, when he played for Paris St. Germain in France, the iconic midfielder wore the Predator LZ boots. Other notable players who wear these include Steven Gerrard, Oscar and Thomas Müller.