Athletes; we all know them, admire them and envy them. We know them because we see their faces almost everywhere. We admire them because they embody the human spirit of never giving up, even in the face of the greatest odds. We envy them because we know they can make in a year what we can never earn in our lifetime, or even several lifetimes.And it’s not just their pay, sometimes their endorsements alone can make them even more money than their actual salaries. So which athletes are currently earning the biggest bucks outside of their usual pay?
12 Serena Williams (tennis) – $1 million from Wilson
One half of the history’s greatest tennis-playing sisters has already signed endorsements with the sports drink Gatorade, Mission Athletecare, the Home Shopping Network and Sheets energy strips. Just this year she signed another endorsement with OPI nails and has invested in the photo App Mobli. One of her most lucrative deals is with Wilson, which, according to Sports Business Journal, paid her between $900,000 and $1 million yearly to endorse their tennis racquets. What’s with all the racquet you say?
11 Venus Williams (tennis) –$40 million from Reebok
The other half of history’s greatest tennis-playing sisters already has endorsement deals with American Express, Avon, Jamba Juice and Kraft. She also signed a $40-million contract with Reebok in 2009. The company has paid her $8 million yearly since then and will continue to do so until the end of this year.
10 Phil Mickelson (golf) –$53 million from endorsers
Others swing and miss, but Mickelson doesn’t. Not even when this right hander uses his left hand to swing. Since turning pro he has won four championships and 39 PGA Tour events, and when it comes to endorsements he’s not missing anything either. In 2007 alone he earned almost $53 million and less than $6 million of that came from his salary. The rest were from endorsements including Barclays, ExxonMobil and Rolex. But his biggest endorser is Callaway Golf which supplies his ball, clubs and putters.
9 Maria Sharapova (tennis) – $70 million from Nike
One of the sport’s most recognizable (and prettiest) faces, Maria Sharapova has been a constant favorite of Nike, which renewed a $70-million endorsement contract with her in 2010.She is also a familiar face in Tag Heuer ads and has active endorsement deals with Evian, Homestead Properties and Cole Haan. She also made a deal with Samsung for a three-year sponsorship recently. She has also launched her own line of candy called – believe or not –Sugarpova.
8 LeBron James (basketball) –$90 million from Nike
It’s good to be king. And that goes more than double for King James. His biggest deals are with Coca-Cola, MacDonald’s and Nike. Nike began to deal with him as early as 2003 with a seven-year $90-million contract that was extended in 2010. But it was only in 2012 after he had won the NBA championship that the other brands came calling. Now King James is also the “brand ambassador” for Dunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins in China, South Korea, Taiwan and India.As if that was not enough he also has a deal with Samsung, did we forget to mention he also partly owns the Liverpool FC football team?
7 Tiger Woods (golf) – $100 million from Nike
Nike took a big gamble with Tiger Wood, signing him to a five-year contract worth $8 million each year even with no victories yet under his belt. But all that rapidly changed after the 1997 Masters and Nike’s gamble paid off, by 2000 he had already won five major tournaments and Nike gave him another deal, $20 million for five years, even though he was not required to use Nike gold clubs in any of his tournaments. Nike was expected to withdraw its endorsement of Woods after his 2009 infidelity scandal after Gillette and Accenture did, but the company decided to stand by him. Obviously,Nike is not out of the Woods yet.
6 George Foreman (boxing) – $137.25 million from Salton, Inc.
It seemed that everybody had counted George Foreman out, that was until he made a successful comeback, two in fact, when he was already in his forties. One was against Evander Holyfield, but while he lost to “The Holy Warrior” on points he was able to take down a much-younger Michael Moorer successfully.Today he no longer throws punches, but rather he throws meat on the grill. And thanks to the “George Foreman Grill” he gets to enjoy his favorite food without all that fat. This promotion was sold to Salton, Inc., now known as Spectrum Brands, and he got $23.5 million in stocks and the rest in five installments of $22.75 million each.
5 David Beckham (football) – $160 million from Adidas
Easily one of the most recognizable faces in football, Beckham personified the sport from his Mohawk haircut to his signature ball bending move.But where do we even starts with his achievements? At a very young age he has captained the English team, played for big teams like Manchester United, AC Milan, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy. He is the first Briton to play in more than 100 Champions League matches, has also won league titles in England, the US and Spain, and has the second highest number of goals for England next to Peter Shilton. Away from the field he has millions of adoring girl fans who love him not for his football skills but for his dashing looks, even though he is married to Posh Spice. So is it a wonder why Adidas wants to sign him up? Not really. Adidas money is estimated to account for a sixth of Beckham’s income.
3 Rory McIlroy (golf) –$200 million (estimated) from Nike
During a press event in Abu Dhabi,Nike has recently confirmed signing one of the largest endorsement deals in history with Rory McIlroy.The northern Irishman has already won two Majors and is seen to be a dominant figure in the sport in the years to come. While no amount was stated, speculation was that the deal could be up to $200 million. Nike also refused to say how many years the contract was in place, only that it was a multi-year agreement. Nike now supplies McIlroy’s with apparel, footwear, head-wear, clubs, balls and other golf accessories. While critics are skeptical on how McIlroy can swiftly transition to Nike gear when he has been using equipment from his previous sponsors Titleist, Oakley and Jumeirah, McIlroy claims his struggle with the adjustment period is over.
2 Derrick Rose (basketball) –$260 million from Adidas
Adidas had been watching Rose closely even when he was still in college in the University of Memphis and took a gamble, immediately signing him up when he turned pro. So far their bet seems to be paying off after he became the youngest player to win the MVP award in 2011 at the age of 22. His team, the Chicago Bulls, has also been making it into the playoffs every year since he joined in 2008, so Adidas may be thinking it may only be a matter of time now before he gets a championship. With that they wrote him up for a $260-million deal good for until 2026.