Sports stars are some of the most generously paid and wealthy people on earth. More often than not, sponsorship payments outweigh their salary from their club, tournaments or championships. Largely due to the rise of social media, many sports personalities are paid in excess of $1 million for a single Instagram post. Overpaid? Maybe, but there is no denying that these icons captivate and attract millions of eyeballs to watch them perform their craft. Here’s a look into some of the biggest sponsorship deals signed in history.
Rodger Federer – UNIQLO, 10 years, $300 million and On Running, 3% stake.
That’s a lot of zeros, but you read that correctly. Federer dumped dominating sportswear powerhouse Nike for UNIQLO, and it wasn’t a mistake; instead, he consequently signed two deals with $600 million. Federer was being paid around $10 million annually by Nike. However, the two decided to part ways, and Federer was snapped up by UNIQLO in a deal that sees him paid $30 million annually for 10 years, totalling $300 million. Federer continued wearing Nikes on his feet during training and grand slams while being unpaid, but not for long. On Running swooped in with an offer even Roger couldn’t refuse, a 3% stake in the company, which was valued at around £220 million in 2021.
Image: The New York Times
LeBron James – Nike, Lifetime, $1+ Billion
One of the most iconic names in the game of basketball and sports worldwide, LeBron James’ first ventures with Nike kicked off with a 7-year, $90 million deal, but he has come a long way since he was just a kid from Akron. The next contract saw LeBron James raking in USD$30 million from Nike per year but had a concluding date. This was until the billion-dollar sports conglomerate put an offer on the table that King James could not refuse. In 2016, an extremely rare ‘lifetime deal’ was signed by both parties, seeing James earn a total of $1 billion throughout his lifetime, at $30 million a year. This was widely seen as a huge risk from sports brands as they were basically betting on their franchise star not participating in or enduring any scandals. The exact details of the deal are unknown, whether the contract will end at the $1 billion mark or continue until death. LeBron boasts many other financial achievements, most notably that of his 2% stake in Fenway Sports Group, which is the majority shareholder in Liverpool FC and Boston Red Sox. Some additional sponsors of James include 2K Sports, AT&T, Beats Electronics, Coca-Cola, GMC and KIA Motors.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Nike, Lifetime, $1+ Billion
He’s the most followed man on social media and the most recognised name of the 21st century. Cristiano Ronaldo has graced the topflight leagues in England, Spain and Italy and tasted success with Portugal, which have all seen him earn hundreds of millions over his career. Sponsorship money, however, has always been especially kind to CR7. In November 2016, Nike announced their lifetime deal with the Portuguese megastar. This is largely due to Ronaldo’s social media impact and impression. Hookit reported that up to 2016, Ronaldo’s presence on social media generated over 25 billion impressions for Nike. An example of the tremors Cristiano can make is his post following Portugal’s 2016 EUROS campaign, which saw them take out first place in which the post alone generated $5.8 million for Nike. According to experts, Ronaldo is unlike any other athlete when it comes to sponsorships. In 2016, his media value was placed at $177 million, blowing second place Steph Curry out of the water, coming in at $88 million. Some of Ronaldo’s other sponsors include Herbalife, DAZN, Tag Heuer and Armani. It is unclear how much Nike will pay Ronaldo per year, but it will more than likely see him retire or soon become a billionaire.
Image: @cristiano Instagram Nike sponsored post, following Portugal’s success at EUROS 2016
Tiger Woods – Nike, Gilette, Gatorade and many more – $60 million
Tiger burst onto the scene in 1996 and has been a household name in golf ever since. Woods, commonly referred to as the most talented golfer to ever swing a club, has been well paid for his skills since his emergence, but not without a hiccup or two. Tiger signed a lucrative deal with Nike that once saw him earn $100 million a year from Nike alone, but it has since dropped to an estimated $22.5 million. Woods has been at the centre of multiple controversies, most notably, the cheating scandal of 2009. Nike stuck with Woods through this time, unlike many other of his sponsors. However, the deal is worth significantly less now, largely due to multiple drunk driving offences and Woods’ decline in his quality of golf. Some more of Tiger’s current sponsors include Accenture, AT&T, EA Sports, Gatorade, Gillette, Golf Digest, NetJets and Tag Heuer. Tiger’s net worth is currently around $850 million, and this is incorporating some big money purchases such as a $25 million superyacht, a $48 million Gulfstream G550 private jet, and a Florida mansion with a built-in golf course.
Steph Curry – Under Armor, Rakuten, Callaway Golf – Minimum of $44 million
Razzle dazzle sharpshooter Steph Curry has captured eyeballs all around the world, having cemented himself as likely the best shooter in basketball history. His current net worth is reported at $160 million. However, we believe this is substantially less than the truth. Curry’s sponsorship deals are typically not leaked; he has always been a relatively private and reserved person. Some of his sponsors include Rakuten, Callaway Golf, FTX and Infiniti. Among all these, his main sponsor is Under Armor which reportedly earns Curry roughly $44 million annually. Add this to his $45.78 million salary from the Golden State Warriors, and you’re looking at a very wealthy 3-point god.
Image: Under Armour
*All $ figures are in USD.