Nike is among the most popular sports brands in the world. Their entry into the market revolutionized the shoe industry, helping them achieve their status today. Yet, another part of the company’s success is its strategic and lucrative deals, signing some of the biggest names across different sports to promote their products. As a result, Nike’s popularity grew with fans seeing the iconic swoosh sign on the jerseys their favorite player wore. Here, let’s check out the most famous athletes who partnered with the sports giant.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
With 470 million followers on Instagram, Portugal’s soccer megastar Cristian Ronaldo is by far the most famous athlete sponsored by Nike. Highly regarded as the greatest footballer in the sport’s history, Ronaldo’s incredible skills earned him his vast fanbase across the world. Already wearing nearly 70 cleats for Nike, CR7 has a lifetime contract with the swoosh brand, amounting to $1 billion. Today, he continues to generate hefty revenues for the brand and remains the most influential sports celebrity in their books.
2. Lebron James
Like Cristian Ronaldo, NBA’s current biggest superstar Lebron James also has a lifetime deal with Nike worth $1 billion, which he signed last 2015. It’s good to note that Nike has already signed James out of high school with a $90 million deal in 2003, which was followed by an extension in 2010. With their current deal, it only means that their partnership is set to last even after the King retires from the league.
Based on a report, James’ line, including apparel, accessories, and shoes, generates $600 million for the brand annually. Though it’s only a chunk of what the Jordan line is raking in for the company, it is fast-growing, and Lebron is closing in on Jordan’s number.
3. Michael Jordan
No other endorsement deal can parallel the lucrativeness and popularity of Michael Jordan and Nike’s partnership. It all started in the late 1980s when Jordan brought Air Jordan to the world and changed the landscape of the sneaker scene a hundredfold. Only estimated to make around $3 million in its initial year, Air Jordan generated a whopping $126 million.
Today, the Jordan brand and its flashy shoes with the famous “Jumpman” logo bring in around $2.2 billion in revenue annually, making it the bestseller for Nike. Meanwhile, Jordan, now a retired player, still receives an estimated $100 million each year, thanks to Air Jordan.
4. Tiger Woods
Considered to be one of the best golfers of all time, Tiger Woods first signed with the Nike Golf brand in 1996 when he was just 19 under a five-year contract worth $40 million, which made him the highest-paid black golfer. Woods resigned from the sports giant in 2001, 2006, and 2013. Though several issues and injuries curtailed Woods’ career in the past decade, the brand stuck with him. Today, their over-25-year partnership remains to be fruitful for both sides, and Woods still brings in an estimated $20 million annually from Nike.
5. Kobe Bryant
Often compared to Michael Jordan during the initial years of his career, Kobe Bryant carved his own name and became the greatest Lakers player the NBA had seen. Originally signed by Adidas, he eventually moved to Nike, who gave him his own signature shoe line. It became one of Nike’s most popular shoes and brought the company millions in revenue.
6. Maria Sharapova
The only female athlete on this list, Maria Sharapova’s massive success on the tennis court made her a tennis phenomenon and one of the most popular women’s sports celebrities of all time. She has the Career Grand Slam: US Open, Australian Open, and French Open, plus an Olympic silver medal.
Taking advantage of her marketability, Nike signed Sharapova for an 8-year endorsement deal in 2010, which gave Masha $8.75 million per year. Sadly, the partnership ended after Sharapova’s admission to a failed doping test. Despite such, “The Siren” is still among the most famous that don the swoosh logo.
7. Rafael Nadal
A legend in the tennis world and the holder of most Grand Slam titles, it’s no surprise that Nike has also sponsored the King of Clay and let him display the swoosh on the court. Nadal earns $10 million a year in his contract with the company that has been one of his biggest sponsors since he started his career two decades ago. Attesting to the Spanish tennis player’s influence, Nadal also has endorsement deals with Kia, Babolat, Emporio Armani, and Santander.
8. Kevin Durant
Back in the world of basketball, Nike also sponsors Kevin Durant, another player who has become a hot name in terms of marketability and business day. Fortunately, Durant has long been a fan of the swoosh in his entire career. He signed a $60 million deal with Nike but not without turning down a $70 million offer from Adidas in 2007. Today, Durant has his shoe and clothing line with Nike – the KD brand.
9. Russell Westbrook
Nike is never short of NBA superstars in its amazing array of celebrity endorsers. In 2017, Russell Westbrook inked a ten-year extension with Nike’s brand Jordan after his MVP season the same year. Thus, making him the icon of the company’s subsidiary until the 2025-2026 season. Renowned for his quirky fashion sense and frequent appearance in fashion shows, Westbrook is also reported to have his own line of on-court shoes and off-court merchandise.
10. Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks quarterback superstar and Super Bowl XLVIII champion is one of the most influential NFL athletes. In 2016, he signed a long-term deal with Nike, and his RW3 line had produced a great array of apparel, accessories, and shoes. Each year, he earns $35 million a year from the partnership. It’s little wonder why he dons the Nike Swoosh that has been an inevitable part of his Seattle Seahawks uniform.
Since the beginning, Nike has secured deals with some of the most renowned sports stars, giving the company leverage in promoting themselves and their products to the consumers. As competition with other brands like Reebok, Adidas, and Under Armour is tough, we can expect to see more popular players entwine with the company to bring the swoosh brand closer to the people across the world.