Athlete endorsements aren’t new. Ever since Red Rock Cola hired Babe Ruth to endorse its soft drink brand in the 1930‘s, companies have utilized athletes to pitch their products and serve as company spokespersons. It is estimated that companies spend close to one billion dollars on athlete and celebrity endorsements each year and for good reason. Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to purchase products endorsed by athletes than products not endorsed. Athletes are role models and consumers tend to believe athletes, especially those with a positive public image.
The top superstars today can earn much more in endorsements than in salary. For instance, in 2008, Tiger Woods earned close to $6 million on the PGA Tour and close to $100 million from endorsements. It’s no surprise that he leads the list of top athlete endorsers. Arguably the most popular athlete in the world, Tiger resonates with people across all demographics. Among his deals are Nike, Accenture, Gatorade, EA Sports & Gillette.
Among the other top athlete endorsers are Phil Mickelson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Payton Manning.
The top two female endorsers are race car driver Danica Patrick and tennis star Maria Sharapova. What’s interesting about Danica is that she’s not a dominant force in the sport of auto racing. In fact, she’s only one won race in her career, the 2008 IndyCar race in Japan. Her popularity is largely a result of her being a female in a male-dominated sport. Among Danica’s deals are Marquis Jet, Tissot, Peak Antifreeze, Kaenon, Alpinestars and GoDaddy.
Two of the top retired athlete endorsers are Michael Jordan and Cal Ripken Jr. Jordan earns an estimated $40 million per year in endorsement income and, before Tiger Woods, was considered the “King of Endorsements”. Jordan’s deal with Nike in 1984 launched what would become the most successful athlete endorsement campaign in history. Jordan’s other deals include Gatorade and Hanes .
An often overlooked but very effective athlete endorser is boxing legend George Foreman, who’s George Foreman Grill is among the top selling houseware items in the U.S. each year. During the height of his boxing career, Foreman earned $20,000 in endorsement income. With his grill, he’s earned hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, Foreman originally was to receive a percentage of grill sales, but through-the-roof sales of his “Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machines” prompted Salton to buy him out for a reported $137.5 million.
There’s no doubt that companies are spending less on athlete endorsements in the current economy. However, that’s just a temporary slowdown. As the economy picks up, so too will endorsement opportunities for athletes. Companies are going to have to differentiate themselves from the competition. And what better way to do that than to have an athlete in your corner who people trust and admire.
PFP is a top celebrity booking agent for booking athlete endorsements, sports stars and celebrities. If you would like to find out how to hire an athlete for a speaking engagement, appearance, endorsement, autograph signing or special event call PFP Sports and Celebrity Talent Agency at 800.966.1380.