The rule of thumb amongst these companies go: “The bigger the icon, the higher the sales for our products.” It’s actually amazing how these influential athletes leave an impact on a product affecting the consumer’s perception and purchasing capacity. As people hail them and their talents, so do the products they endorse. It’s enough for them to buy shoes thinking that the fastest man in the world wears the same shoes as them. Or to buy the shirt the strongest weightlifter has.
This business strategy sustains million-dollar sports industries because of this predictable consumer behaviour. Brands are established based on its products’ association to the athlete endorsers they had signed up and customized for. But what happens to the real game they are supposed to play when they get busy making themselves famous and known for these endorsers? Do their abilities as an athlete get compromised to give way for more deals with these companies? Let’s take a closer look.
Here are examples of athlete endorsements that changed the game.
- In 1919, Chuck Taylor, then 17 years old, was playing for high school basketball tournaments when All-Stars Converse came up with the first non-skids. The supposed high-performance athletic shoes made specifically for basketball. He was about to soar high as a professional basketball player when All-Stars Converse offered him a job to endorse their shoes during stadium events and major supporting causes. He accepted the job and toured the country promoting the shoes while doing basketball workshops, basketball clinics, meeting up with clients and made guest appearances. As young as he was and probably, not aware of business deals just yet, he didn’t get anything from the 600 million pairs he sold over time. Because of over 40 years that he had dedicated to Converse company, getting involved in how to improve it for the better and continuously endorsing it in full effort, the Converse All-Stars was named after him and is now widely known as ‘Chucks’. It is still massively reproduced until today simultaneously offering it in leather (instead of the usual upper cotton canvas) and in a variety of colours. Nowadays, sales of basketball sneakers highly rely on who is it customized after. That’s why brands run after who is the best in each sport to represent the quality and performance their products provide probably because of All-Stars success.
- Despite the fact that point guard, Russell Westbrook has numerous awards, one of them being the most valuable and loyal player in the NBA, he doesn’t get exempted from wanting the endorsement limelight in the end. For the longest time since high school, he never failed to conform to the bouts of playing as a team until he reached the professional courts. But when Durant left OKC Thunder to become a more famous player in pursuit of product endorsement deals for himself, Russell’s performance started to get noticed to be for himself as well by being a ball hogger. He totally changed the game as spectators have perceived making it more of “me than we”. He gained some fame for himself which attracted huge endorsers like Nike/Jordan. Always willing to pay a lot for their brand to be carried by one of the bests, ranking equal second-most in all triple-doubles from his 138 regular playing seasons and his 10 playoff triple-doubles ranking fourth-most all-time was enough for Nike to keep him branded. Being the 5th highest paid in the NBA with a worth (less his assets) of $100 million dollars, he’ll be a 29-year old earner of a $38.6 million and probably become one of the richest athletes in America beating James Harden and LeBron James.
- If you would actually google who is the best athlete in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo would probably be enlisted top 2 only next to Lionel Messi. A lot of people know that Ronaldo leads soccer globally. But statistics prove that Lionel Messi deserves the top spot. But is this because Ronaldo puts more time in endorsements rather than being out in the field perfecting his skills? Perhaps. Because it’s undeniable that he earns a whopping US$35 million dollars/year (US$5 million over his salary from Juventus/year) from the endorsements alone. As compared to Lionel Messi who is paid US$80 million by salary and only US$27 million dollars in endorsements.
Majority of the fans know Cristiano Ronaldo by face more than his rival Messi too because, on top of his endorsements, Ronaldo has lots of charity events tied up to his multi-awarded list of achievements and is mostly seen on advertisements and is supported by EA games all the way than anybody else. He is also known to have supported various sporting corporate events. Although a lot would agree that Messi already earned US$500+ doing nothing as you finish this article, his name doesn’t resonate as much as that of Ronaldo. The real question is, could have the stats been any different if Ronaldo was more focused on his game and not in the endorsements?
These are but a few of the athletes that earn more from endorsements than their salary. There are a lot of controversies that athletes would rather make a name for themselves that way than from what they do. It’s a demeaning practice for anybody who chooses to earn this way but besides the fact that you can’t be an athlete forever, business is still business.