Sporting ability can be really lucrative. The world’s best sports’ stars are able to sign contracts with top-end teams owned by billionaires, or compete in some of the globe’s biggest and highest-paid competitions. However, this is just pocket change for many of the best players because the real money is in endorsements. Although the exact figures are often hidden in mystery, here are probably 10 of the highest paying sponsorship deals of all time.

Most expensive sponsorship deals

10. Neymar and Nike (R13 million per year)

Brazilian footballer, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, is the first footballer to create a line of shoes with Nike’s famous Jordan brand. The 11-year deal, worth R145 million, brought the world the Nike Mercurial Vapor XI Neymar FG. This goes towards pushing his net worth to R2 billion.


9. Rory McIlroy and Nike (R30 million per year)

Northern Irish golfing legend, Rory McIlroy, has always been on the endorsers’ radar. Having topped the world golf rankings for 95 weeks, he’s received notable attention which has earned him funds from organisations such as Omega and Upper Deck. However, once again it’s Nike that has brought in the big guns… which is not unusual as you shall see from the remaining endorsements on the list. In 2013, McIlroy signed a 10-year contract for around R3.6 billion, with Nike extending the partnership in April 2017 for another 10 years. All of this works towards McIlroy’s net worth of R1.5 billion.

Rory Mcilroy Nike

8. David Beckham and Adidas (R73 million per year)

The English footballer, with his attractive Posh Spice wife by his side, has always been a magnate for high-end endorsement deals. His biggest once-off contract was with Armani, netting him more than R300 million between 2008 and 2011 as their global ambassador. Despite retiring from professional football in 2013, Becks continues to rake in the deals, making more than 1 billion in 2014 alone. His net worth now stands at around 6.5 billion.


7. Kevin Durant and Nike (R146 million per year)

The Nike brand has traditionally loved American professional basketball players and they have spent billions proving this. In 2007, Kevin Durant signed a seven-year contract with Nike for R870 million and, just as Under Armour were about to swoop in and sign Durant, Nike upped their offer to somewhere in the region of R4 billion for a 10-year extension. His net worth is now sitting at around R2 billion.


6. Kobe Bryant and Nike (R146 million per year)

Former American professional basketball player, Kobe Bryant, has clocked up R5 billion in endorsements from Sprite, Sony, Nintendo, Mercedes Benz and McDonalds. But, of course, Nike threw the most weight with a R580 million, four-year deal in 2003. He has worked his way to a net worth of R5 billion.

kobe bryant nike

5. Tiger Woods and Nike (R293 million per year)

Although the Tiger Woods brand – and golf – went through a major slump in 2009 when the American golfer’s private life was exposed, and the serial cheating scandal came to light, however not all his sponsors dropped him. Nike stood by Woods, continuing a partnership that began with a R579 million, four-year contract in 1996, extending it past 2013. Between 2001 and 2006, Woods reportedly made R1.4 billion.


4. Lionel Messi and Adidas (R14.6 billion for lifetime)

Considered the world’s greatest football player, the Argentinian has attracted a number of lucrative endorsements, including R400 million in 2016 alone. The five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or was earning R144 million a year from Adidas. More recently, Messi has signed a lifetime deal with the world’s second largest sportswear brand, the value of which is unknown as yet, but speculation is that it’s in the R14.6 billion mark. This will go towards his R4.9 billion net worth.


3. LeBron James and Nike (R14.6 billion for lifetime)

The biggest competitor to Adidas, Nike signed American professional basketballer, LeBron James, in a lifetime deal, believed to be the biggest endorsement deal of all time. The details haven’t been revealed, although James’ business partner, Maverick Carter, revealed it was more than R14.6 billion. Nike has been a long-time supporter of James, paying R1.4 billion from 2011 to 2015.

LeBron James and Nike

2. Cristiano Ronaldo and Nike (R14.6 billion for lifetime)

Nike and Portuguese professional footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo, began a partnership in 2003 which continues to this day. It’s no wonder, because as a ‘walking billboard’, Ronaldo attracts some 240 million global followers on social media, driving up sales for the Nike brand. The globe’s biggest influencer has just signed a lifetime deal with Nike, also believed to be in the value of R14.6 billion.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Nike

  1. Michael Jordan and Nike (R1.4 billion a year)

And to where it all began… with Nike and American basketball player, Michael Jordan. The first deal in 1984 was for just R7 million over five years, as well as stock options. Some three decades on and the Jordan brand continues to generate billions in annual sales for Nike. It’s estimated that his deal with Nike makes him R1.4 billion a year.

Michael Jordan and Nike

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