The next time you decide to feel sorry for any professional athlete who might be under any kind of scrutiny or turmoil, just remember — they’re probably going to be Gucci. Sure, at the end of the day, they’re just regular people too, but come on! They have gotten so rich, to the point where pretty much everything in life is free. Now that’s just absurd.
These are essentially living celebrity superheroes. They command the respect, attention and, most importantly, the endorsements from major corporations that are willing to pay top dollar to slap their faces on their products.
The business decisions they make here can literally become the deciding factor between millions of dollars. In fact, if they play their cards right, they can very well make these sponsorships the main source of bread winning in their portfolios.
It’s not easy to play the game and make it work for you but a select number of athletes are able to swag it out. There are a few things every star player must take into account: marketability, skill and, of course, business smarts. So many athletes make the wrong decision and end up getting less out of the deal than they truly deserve.
But for those savvy enough to negotiate and claw their way to the top of this cut-throat industry, they are literally the ones laughing to the bank.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, 25-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $25.5 Million
From Team: $12.5 Million
From Endorsements: $13 Million
Sponsors: Nike, Gatorade, 2K Sports
Kevin Durant may be one of the most humble, low-key players in the league, but he knows what he’s doing. And even in a small market like Oklahoma City, he is able to generate $13 million in endorsements, which is just a testament to his superstar ability.
From his Gatorade commercials with Dwyane Wade, to starring in his very own movie, “Thunderstruck,” he is surely getting his name out there any way he can. Durant is also into music and has his own studio where he manages and produces his own artists. He can spit himself too. Not a bad side-talent to have for the youngest scoring champ of all time.
Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona, 25-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $39 Million
From Team: $19 Million
From Endorsements: $20 Million
Sponsors: Pepsi, Adidas, EA Sports, Turkish Airlines
Lionel Messi is the undisputed best player in the world. And he has been for the past three years now. His play on the pitch has catapulted him into stardom and he even has his own TV spot with basketball star Kobe Bryant for Turkish Airlines.
He also made the cover for FIFA 13 as the top dog in all of soccer. Sky is the limit for the 25-year-old Argentinean, as he is sure to blow when he decides to take the states over.
Maria Sharapova, Pro Tennis, 26-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $27.9 Million
From Team: $5.9 Million
From Endorsements: $22 Million
Sponsors: Nike, Evian, Samsung
Maria Sharapova is the world’s highest-paid female athlete. Most of that can be credited to sponsors wanting to slap her ass all over their merchandise. But who can blame them? She’s cute as hell and can play the game just as well as any chick in the world. And that’s saying something.
Even if you’ve never seen her play, who can forget her adorable Canon commercials? Hell that made me want to buy the camera. I guess it worked!
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls, 24-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $33.4 Million
From Team: $16.4 Million
From Endorsements: $17 Million
Sponsors: Adidas, Powerade, Skull Candy, 2K Sports
Derrick Rose is something else. I mean who else can take an entire season off and still rake in a whopping $33.4 million? Of that, he receives $16.4 from his Bulls salary and another $17 million in endorsements. $10 million of that sponsorship money comes from Adidas alone. A small price to pay in order to wear their ankle-breaking shoes (not in the good way).
LeBron James, Miami Heat, 28-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $53 Million
From Team: $13 Million
From Endorsements: $40 Million
Sponsors: Nike, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Sprint, State Farm, Glaceau, Audemars Piguet & Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins (Asia)
They don’t call LeBron James the chosen one for just any old reason. This dude has the potential to become, single-handedly, the richest man in all of sports if he continues to capitalize on his success in the NBA.
He has already taken his first steps as a businessman, purchasing some stake in pro soccer team Liverpool and his initial contract with Nike was worth $90 million. Not too bad for a kid coming out of high school.
Tiger Woods, PGA Golf, 37-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $59.4 Million
From Tour: $4.4 Million
From Endorsements: $55 Million
Sponsors: Nike, EA Sports, Rolex, Fuse Science, Upper Deck
Tiger Woods may have taken a blow after his affair scandal, but he has since recovered. And recovered well. Sure timepiece brand Tag Heuer dropped him for his transgressions, but that didn’t stop Rolex for jumping on and signing the star golfer.
Not to mention he has his own video game with EA Sports and his very own Tiger Woods Foundation, which is today a $50 million training facility for young golfers in California. Not a bad venture at all.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid, 28-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $42.5 Million
From Team: $20.5 Million
From Endorsements: $22 Million
Sponsors: Nike, Jacob & Co., Castrol, Konami
Who is more marketable than soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo? I mean sure he’s sus, but what girl doesn’t want to bang him? There isn’t many sponsors out there willing to throw him millions of dollars to have his mug all of their product.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, 34-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $52.3 Million
From Team: $20.3 Million
From Endorsements: $32 Million
Sponsors: Nike, McDonald’s, Sprite, Upper Deck, Spalding
How does Kobe get back on top from that ugly rape charge in Denver? Drop 81 and act like he doesn’t give a f*ck of course. While many sponsors dropped him at the time (it was a wild case), he has definitely recovered and cemented his status as one of the top-earners in the world of sports.
This is one of the guys who really doesn’t depend on his salary to make his bank. Whatever he is doing, just know that he has three mansions worth $18.8 million and takes a helicopter to his games. The man is doing more than okay. Nike’s contract alone is worth anywhere between $40-$45 million. That should be more than enough to cover his wife, children and mistress expenses.
Roger Federer, Pro Tennis, 31-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $52.7 Million
From Team: $7.7 Million
From Endorsements: $45 Million
Sponsors: Nike, Rolex, Wilson, Gillette, Credit Suisse
Roger Federer has capitalized on his success, like every tennis star should. In fact, he is the highest earner in all of the sport. The moves that he’s made have turned him into a top-five earner in all of the sports world.
Most of us can remember him shaving his face in his Gillette commercial campaigns. And in 2010 his endorsement by Mercedes-Benz China was extended into a global partnership deal. At 31-years-old, he has gone as far as he could and is making a killing while doing it.
Floyd Mayweather Jr., Boxing, 36-Years-Old
Annual Salary: $85 Million
From Team: $85 Million
From Endorsements: $0 Million
No one does it like Floyd. This is a dude who doesn’t rely on any endorsements at all, as he manages all of his own deals directly. In fact, he refuses to take any sponsorships. From anyone.
Money Mayweather is always getting the best slice of the pie. I mean he throws cash around like it’s nothing. For him to negotiate $85 million is absolutely ridiculous. Just think about it for one second and kill yourself.