The 15 Biggest Endorsement Deals in Sports History

By Frank Ewere

The 15 Biggest Endorsement Deals in Sports History

LeBron James, Kevin Durant
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Fans and non-sports individuals often lament the fact that athletes get paid so much. But other companies don’t care. Athletes are one of the best marketing tools a company can use to market their product. Here are 15 of the biggest endorsement deals in sports history.

15. Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy golf
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15. Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy golf
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Rory McIlroy signed a triple-digit 10-year deal with Nike in 2013. Nike believes that McIlroy will continue to progress as a golfer, and he will one day be a global brand that can elevate the Nike brand.

14. Roger Federer

Roger Federer tennis
Susan Mullane - USA TODAY Sports

14. Roger Federer

Roger Federer tennis
Susan Mullane - USA TODAY Sports

Roger Federer is one of the best tennis players ever. He has many endorsement deals and many of his deals cover 10 years. Some sponsors pay him an estimated $45 million a year.

13. Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade Heat
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13. Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade Heat
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Dwyane Wade might have taken a slight pay cut this offseason, but it’s not like he will be begging for money. Wade was lured away from the Jordan Brand, and he signed a new deal with Chinese footwear company Li-Ning. The deal is reportedly worth an annual base of $10 million for 10 years. Wade will also receive equity in the company as well.

12. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods golf
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12. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods golf
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Tiger Woods has signed several contracts with Nike over his career. He signed a deal of five years and a reported $40 million in 1996. In 2001, he signed another five-year deal in the triple digits. In 2013, he signed his fourth contract with Nike. Unfortunately for Nike, Woods doesn’t appear to be able to win big anymore.

11. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant Lakers
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11. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant Lakers
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Kobe Bryant currently has endorsement with Nike that will allow him to make $15 million per year until the end of 2019. With Bryant’s intellect, he will be sure to stay relevant in society and continue to help Nike.

10. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi soccer
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10. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi soccer
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Soccer isn’t too popular in the United States, but it is still the most popular sport in the world. One of its most popular stars, Lionel Messi, is endorsed by Adidas. His deal is worth $140 million and it is over seven years.

9. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo soccer
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9. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo soccer
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Another popular star in soccer is Cristiano Ronaldo. His deal with Nike is over $105 million and it is over a five-year span. With his looks and charisma, he will certainly help Nike attract all kinds of customers.

8. George Foreman

George Foreman boxing
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8. George Foreman

George Foreman boxing
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In 1999, Foreman signed a $137.5 million deal with Salton Inc. After such a large deal, Foreman has had a large influence on the wellness industry, and it all began with grills.

7. David Beckham

David Beckham celebrity
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7. David Beckham

David Beckham celebrity
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David Beckham retired from soccer in 2013, but he will be paid for the rest of his days. Beckham signed a $160 million lifetime contract with Adidas and was paid nearly half of the money upfront.

6. Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard Trail Blazers
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6. Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard Trail Blazers
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Damian Lillard signed a contract extension with Adidas in 2014. The deal is worth $100 million and it is over 10 years. Although Lillard’s endorsement deal isn’t as big as others, Lillard is a young player and this will surely be the first of many endorsement deals.

5. Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose Bulls
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5. Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose Bulls
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Derrick Rose signed a 13-year, $185 million Adidas shoe deal in 2012. And yet, before training camp this season, Rose still complained about needing to think about the future of his children.

4. James Harden

James Harden Rockets
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4. James Harden

James Harden Rockets
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James Harden agreed to a 13-year deal with Adidas this summer worth $200 million. Harden played well the previous year, but this year he's declined. Perhaps the money caused him to lose heart.

3. Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant Thunder
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3. Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant Thunder
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Kevin Durant signed a monumental 10-year deal with Nike in 2014 that could be worth up to $300 million, including royalties. Now that Durant is taken care of financially, the only thing left for him to do is win championships.

2. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan Hornets
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2. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan Hornets
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Michael Jordan has been able to use his valuable name in order to build an empire with Nike’s Jordan brand. Jordan has made an estimated $480 million from Nike from 2002 to 2012. Jordan even made more money last year selling sneakers than he made his entire playing career.

1. LeBron James

LeBron James Cavaliers
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1. LeBron James

LeBron James Cavaliers
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Earlier this month, LeBron James signed the largest single-athlete deal in Nike’s 44-year history. The endorsement deal is a lifetime deal. Early in James’ career, he signed a seven-year, $90 million contract with Nike before he was drafted in 2003. In 2010, James re-signed with Nike and reportedly earned up to $30 million annually. With the influence that James has across the world, he will surely be worth the investment.

Frank Ewere is a Beat Writer for the New Orleans Pelicans on Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheFrankEwere, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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