The Most Lucrative Endorsements Ever

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Sports is about money. It’s why you’re paying $60 for a terrible seat that doesn’t even give you a decent view of the floor. It’s why new shoes cost $270 just because they have LeBron’s name on them. It’s why cats line up the night before to buy a pair of retro sneakers.

So let’s take a look at some of the most profitable endorsements ever. These are the guys who have made real bank doing nothing other than smiling and being their successful selves. Guys who have made both their own wallets, and the wallets of those around them, bigger.

David Beckham

Even if you don’t like soccer, you know David Beckham’s name. You might not know where he plays, or what he does, or anything about what he actually does when he’s on the field – but you know he’s married to a Spice Girl, he’s really good, and he is born to sell stuff.

He was the face of adidas, and recently just launched his own line of underwear with H&M. It’s said that when he joined Real Madrid, sales of Real Madrid jerseys exploded in East Asia. To top it all off, adidas penned him to a $160 million lifetime contract, frontloaded, and with a percentage of all sales on his image going forward. He’s not slowing down even after retirement either. For evidence? Profits from the sales of David Beckham jerseys recently topped one billion dollars.

Tiger Woods
The man who made golf cool again.

Okay, not cool, but this a guy who completely turned the game of golf inside out. Before the scandal broke (we all know which one), he was the face of Nike Golf, of Gillette razors, of Tag Heuer. Strong marketing tied Tiger to the Buick Rendezvous’s launch in 2002, and his face was responsible for a strictly average SUV turning into an overwhelming sales success. Gatorade even made a Tiger Woods branded drink. It didn’t sell, but that they thought it would is pretty crazy itself.

Even after the scandal and divorce, Tiger is still worth bank, Forbes estimates his current endorsements are still worth around $65 million annually, and according to experts, if you add his golf tour winnings to what he earns in endorsements, Tiger has recently just passed the one billion dollar mark.

Shaquille O’Neal
There’s no way we could ignore one of the biggest marketing phenomenons during the 90s. Shaq’s relentless assault on our wallets was one of the most sustained pushes for an athlete in recent memory.

Despite the fact he wouldn’t win a thing until he linked up with Kobe in LA, the marketing frenzy around Shaq when he entered the league was unbelievable. As a rookie, Shaq penned a $3 million a year deal with Reebok before he even set foot on court. His estimated rookie earnings just from wearing Reebok, drinking Pepsi, and eating Cadbury bars? $20 million.
 
Shaq was everywhere. Action figures, posters, pinball machines, clothes, sneakers, and even a few movies. Is there any better indicator of Shaq’s status as one of the biggest endorsement gets, than the fact he was allowed to star in not one, not two, but three movies? To top it all off, the Shaqtus has shown no signs of letting retirement slow him down. Retros of his Shaq Attaq sneaker in 2013 demolished all secondary market predictions, and you better start camping out now if you want a pair of Shaqnosis Retros.

George Foreman, and his Grill
We surprised you a bit with this one yeah? But for real, anybody who lived in a dorm room knows at least three guys who owned one of these grills with George’s smiling face on it. Back in ‘94, with Foreman in the middle of a comeback at age 45, the grill guys decided Foreman would be the perfect pitchman. Why? His renowned love of food. Dude was like an older Shaq, who loved to pound down burgers before fights. Look, it was the 90’s. Boxers weren’t as into nutrition, we guess.

Foreman himself cashed out in 1999. At the grill’s peak, the champ was taking home $4.5 million a month on his grill endorsement. There’s no doubting the grill made money. But it just wasn’t as cool as our #1.

Air Jordan
It is the shoes. From the moment Mike stepped onto the court in these, we all knew sneakers were never going to be the same ever again. Everything about Jordan just went from cool, to cooler. The banned bred 1s, Cement 3’s, the Spike Lee directed ads, Olympic VIIs, Playoff 8’s, all the way up to the Space Jam XI’s. The Jordan brand singlehandedly created the sneaker game as we know it today, and spawned an entire generation of imitators and a completely new black market.

As for Mike, he’s doing pretty damn well in retirement. Jordan is still earning something in the neighbourhood of $60 million annually from his royalties deal with Nike.

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