13 athletes who make more money endorsing products than playing sports

  • Tiger Woods earned $US42 million from endorsements with Bridgestone, Monster Energy, Nike, and TaylorMade.
  • LeBron James takes home $US52 million from deals with companies like Nike, Coca Cola (Sprite), Beats By Dre, and Kia Motors.
  • Part of Roger Federer’s earnings includes a mega-deal worth a reported $US300 million over 10 years with Japanese clothing company Uniqlo.
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Athletes are among some of the highest paid individuals in the world. In the past few months alone we have seen enormous contracts signed by MLB stars Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, along with NFL player Russell Wilson.

But despite these healthy salaries, some players make a lot more from sponsorship deals and endorsements.

Using Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest paid athletes, we found 13 who earned more money off the field.

LeBron James made 61% of his earnings from endorsements.

Total Earnings:$US85.5 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US33.5 Million

Endorsements:$US52 Million

Three-time NBA champion James made waves this past offseason when he switched coasts and joined the legendary Los Angeles Lakers. He also surpassed none other than Michael Jordan for fourth on the all-time scoring list. But his off-court exploits are pretty impressive as well.

James secured deals with companies like Nike, Coca Cola (Sprite), Beats By Dre, and Kia Motors. The 34-year-old was also an original investor in Blaze Pizza, a rapidly growing franchise hailed by analysts as “the Chipotle of Pizza.”

James is also the co-founder of the multimedia company Uninterrupted and boasts his own production company Spring Hill Entertainment. His 2% stake in English Premier League team Liverpool F.C. continues to grow in value.

Roger Federer made 84% of his earnings from endorsements.

GettyRoger Federer.

Total Earnings:$US77.2 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US12.2 Million

Endorsements:$US65 Million

Federer added another Grand Slam in 2018 to bring his total to a record-breaking 20– the most in men’s tennis history. The Swiss superstar is just as impressive in his endorsement portfolio.

He has had long-standing relationships with Credit Suisse, Jura, Lindt, Mercedes, Moet & Chandon, NetJets, Rolex, Sunrise, and Wilson.

After ending his decades-long partnership with Nike, Federer signed a mega-deal worth a reported $US300 million over 10 years with Japanese clothing company Uniqlo. Pasta giant Barilla also recently signed on as a sponsor in 2017.

Stephen Curry made 55% of his earnings from endorsements.

Total Earnings:$US76.9 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US34.9 Million

Endorsements:$US42 Million

In 2017, Curry became the first NBA player in history to sign a $200 million contract with a $US201 million five-year deal with the Golden State Warriors.

The bulk of the two-time MVP’s income is a result of several lucrative endorsements. Brita, Chase, JBL, Nissan/Infiniti, Under Armour, and Vivo are among Curry’s partnerships.

In 2018, his newly created production company Unanimous Media struck a film and television deal with Sony Entertainment.

Read more:
Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors to win their first championship in franchise history

Kevin Durant made 56% of his earnings from endorsements.

Ezra Shaw/GettyKevin Durant.

Total Earnings:$US57.3 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US25.3 Million

Endorsements:$US32 Million

Durant has picked up two championship rings since joining the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2016. But Durant moved to the Bay Area for more than just the hardware.

Silicon Valley is the center of technology and innovation, and the 30-year-old has positioned himself for life beyond basketball. He and business partner Rich Kleiman started the Durant company, which has over 30 investments plus media production company Thirty Five Media.

The baller also has endorsements with Alaska Airlines, American Family Insurance, Beats By Dre, Nike, and Panini.

Read more:
The NBA offseason is already seeing the ripple effects of Kevin Durant’s injury

Tiger Woods made 97% of his earnings from endorsements.

Total Earnings:$US43.3 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US1.3 Million

Endorsements:$US42 Million

One of the biggest sports stories of 2019 so far has to be the triumphant return of Woods to the winner’s circle at the Masters.

With his win, Woods ended an 11-year major championship drought – a period fraught with personal strife and multiple injuries.

This is also great news for the 15-time major winner’s sponsors, which include Bridgestone, Monster Energy, Nike, and TaylorMade.

Rafael Nadal made 65% of his earnings from endorsements.

Julian Finney/GettyRafael Nadal.

Total Earnings:$US41.4 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US14.4 Million

Endorsements:$US27 Million

The king of the clay court added yet another French Open title to his impressive haul in 2018, taking his total number of Grand Slam wins at Roland Garros to a whopping 11 and 17 overall – second only to Roger Federer.

Nadal’s consistency and longevity have made him an attractive spokesperson for brands like Babolat, Banco Sabadell, Kia Motors, Nike, Richard Mille, and Telefonica.

Phil Mickelson made 90% of his earnings from endorsements.

Total Earnings:$US41.3 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US4.3 Million

Endorsements:$US37 Million

Mickelson is ranked second all-time on the PGA Tour’s money list, yet most of his income is derived from endorsements.

The golfer, popularly known as Lefty, has deals with biopharmaceutical company Amgen, ExxonMobil, Greenbrier, Intrepid Financial Partners, KPMG, Rolex, and human resources firm Workday.

Fans got to see a bit of his silly side in a now-viral commercial for performance menswear line Mizzen+Main, a company he holds an equity stake in along with NFL superstar J.J. Watt.

Jordan Spieth made 73% of his earnings from endorsements.

Total Earnings:$US41.2 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US11.2 Million

Endorsements:$US30 Million

Spieth is only 25, but he has already compiled a list of impressive achievements in his short career. By the age of 24, he had won three different majors – the first to do so since golf great Jack Nicklaus.

His success and marketability have landed him endorsements with AT&T, Coca-Cola, Rolex, and Titleist.

In 2015 Under Armour tore up Spieth’s old contract and replaced it with a ten-year deal which has paid significant dividends for the company. The Texan also had the honour of being only the fourth golfer featured on a Wheaties cereal box.

Rory McIlroy made 90% of his earnings from endorsements.

Total Earnings:$US37.7 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US3.7 Million

Endorsements:$US34 Million

Four might just be McIlroy’s lucky number.

The Northern Irishman is a four-time major winner who is one of just four golfers to win four majors by the age of 25.

In 2017, he signed a ten-year $US200 million extension with Nike solely for apparel now that the footwear company is out of the golf equipment business. The move opened up yet another endorsement stream for McIlroy.

He signed another ten-year $US100 million deal with TaylorMade for the use of their golf bags, balls, and clubs.

Kei Nishikori made 95% of his earnings from endorsements.

Minas Panagiotakis/GettyKei Nishikori.

Total Earnings:$US34.6 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US1.6 Million

Endorsements:$US33 Million

Nishikori is the pride of Japanese tennis. The 29-year-old won bronze at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio – the first Japanese tennis player to medal in 96 years.

At the 2014 US Open, he became the first Japanese male to reach a Grand Slam final.

Nishikori boasts a vast endorsement portfolio which includes Asahi, Jaguar, Japan Airlines, Lixil, Nike, Nissin, NTT, Procter & Gamble, Tag Heuer, Uniqlo, and Wilson.

Some of his sponsors like Japan Airlines and Nissin are also doubling as sponsors of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, so look for Nishikori to play a prominent role.

Usain Bolt made 97% of his earnings from endorsements.

Shaun Botterill/GettyUsain Bolt.

Total Earnings:$US31 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US1 Million

Endorsements:$US30 Million

The nine-time Olympic gold medalist (eight after a relay teammate tested positive for an illegal substance) is a force on and off the track.

Despite retiring from competition after the 2017 World Athletics Championships, Bolt continues to be a lightning rod for endorsements.

He signed with German sportswear company Puma as a teenager, and that relationship has been extended several times throughout his career. The most recent deal expires in 2025.

Virat Kohli made 83% of his earnings from endorsements.

Getty ImagesVirat Kohli.

Total Earnings:$US24 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US4 Million

Endorsements:$US20 Million

Kohli is considered to be one of the best batsmen in the world. The Indian cricketer has won several major awards including the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Cricketer of the Year, ICC Test Player of the Year, ICC ODI Player of the Year, and the Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World.

All these accolades have translated into big bucks from sponsors like Audi, Oakley, Pepsi, and Puma. In 2018 he signed on as a brand ambassador for ride sharing app Uber – making him the first across the Asia Pacific region.

Novak Djokovic made 94% of his earnings from endorsements.

Clive Mason/GettyNovak Djokovic.

Total Earnings:$US23.5 Million

Salary/Winnings:$US1.5 Million

Endorsements:$US22 Million

The 15-time Grand Slam winner is the first Serbian to reach the top of the ATP rankings and win a major singles title. He has been rewarded handsomely for his efforts.

In 2017 he signed on as the brand ambassador for French clothing label Lacoste after ending his longtime relationship with Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo. The deal is reportedly worth $US9 million per year. Other sponsorships include a footwear contract with Asics.

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