Athletic prowess often goes hand-in-hand with tenacity, discipline, and a winning mindset. Many athletes, having excelled in their respective sports, channel these attributes into successful business ventures after leaving the competitive world.
Let’s explore ten such athletes who have made significant strides in the business landscape.
LIONEL MESSI – $130 MILLION
- On the Pitch: $75 Million | Business Ventures: $55 Million;
- Age: 34 | Sport: Soccer | Nationality: Argentina.
Lionel Messi’s significant collaboration with Socios, worth $20 million annually, complements his brand associations with giants like Adidas, Budweiser, and PepsiCo. Last year, he made headlines by being named Hard Rock International’s inaugural athlete ambassador.
This move significantly contributed to his financial gains, aligning his off-the-field earnings with those of Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time in nearly a decade.
2021 saw Messi clinching the Ballon d’Or, highlighting him as the pinnacle of men’s soccer. His transition to Paris Saint-Germain has been challenging, with Messi registering nine goals in 32 matches, a departure from his 38 goals in 47 games during his last stint with Barcelona.
Nevertheless, under his leadership, PSG clinched the French Ligue 1 championship.
- On-Court Earnings: $41.2 Million | Business Ventures: $80 Million;
- Age: 37 | Discipline: Basketball | Origin: U.S.
While the Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James as a key player, didn’t reach the playoffs this year, his achievements outside the basketball arena have been unparalleled.
Notably, he played a principal role in “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and shifted his acclaimed talk show, “The Shop,” from HBO’s platform to YouTube. A notable business move was in October when he divested a major stake in SpringHill, the company producing these ventures, valuing the firm at approximately $725 million.
This strategic move elevated his estimated net worth to a staggering $850 million. Diversifying further, he endorsed Crypto.com at the beginning of the year and was featured in a Super Bowl advert alongside a digital rendition of his past self. James’ entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop there.
He plunged into investments with Tonal, a home fitness brand, and StatusPRO, an innovative startup specializing in virtual reality sports training tools.
- On-Pitch Earnings: $60 Million | Entrepreneurial Ventures: $55 Million;
- Age: 37 | Discipline: Soccer | Origin: Portugal.
Cristiano Ronaldo, much akin to Lionel Messi, has had a challenging debut season with Manchester United, finding themselves in the sixth position in the Premier League.
With past affiliations to Man U from 2003-2009, there’s buzzing speculation about a potential move for Ronaldo in the upcoming transfer season. A significant portion of Ronaldo’s financial prowess is attributed to his monumental social media footprint, boasting a staggering 690 million followers.
This has positioned him to command premium partnerships with giants like Nike, Herbalife, and Clear shampoo. Additionally, he’s an advocate of Tatel restaurants and prominently represents ZujuGP, an upcoming digital soccer platform.
- On-Pitch Earnings: $70 Million | Business Acquisitions: $25 Million;
- Age: 30 | Discipline: Soccer | Origin: Brazil.
Despite netting his 400th career goal, Neymar, similar to Messi, has faced criticism post Paris Saint-Germain’s unexpected Champions League departure. As the World Cup in Qatar beckons, Neymar hints at it possibly being his curtain call.
Off the pitch, he enjoys premium sponsorships, notably with Puma and Red Bull, and is the highlight of Netflix’s documentary, “Neymar: The Perfect Chaos”. Venturing into the digital realm, Neymar has explored NFTs, associating with NFTSTAR and acquiring two Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs.
- On-Court Earnings: $45.8 Million | Business Ventures: $47 Million;
- Age: 34 | Discipline: Basketball | Origin: U.S.
Stephen Curry, this NBA season’s top earner, is set for a significant salary increment post his recent four-year, $215 million extension with the Golden State Warriors. His on-court earnings are projected to elevate to nearly $60 million by 2025-26.
Venturing into the financial domain, Curry’s partnership with FTX also incorporated an equity component. He further expanded into the world of blockchain, launching a unique NFT series associated with his signature sneakers and metaverse integrations.
On the media front, Curry’s Unanimous Media forged a collaboration with Comcast NBCUniversal recently.
- Court Earnings: $42.1 Million | Business Ventures: $50 Million;
- Age: 33 | Discipline: Basketball | Origin: U.S.
Renowned Brooklyn Nets player, Kevin Durant, garners an impressive annual revenue of approximately $28 million via his partnership with Nike. This figure is rivaled only by LeBron James among their contemporaries.
Recent collaborations with entities like Coinbase, NBA Top Shot, and Weedmaps showcase Durant’s diversified portfolio. However, it’s his media enterprise Boardroom and investment entity Thirty Five Ventures that truly exemplify his entrepreneurial spirit.
Recent stake acquisitions include the NFT marketplace OpenSea and the digital wellness initiative Future. Supporting the SeatGeek’s SPAC alliance, Durant, along with his consistent business ally, Rich Kleiman, has revealed intentions to inaugurate their SPAC, which currently awaits its inaugural acquisition.
- Court Earnings: $0.7 Million | Entrepreneurial Initiatives: $90 Million;
- Age: 40 | Discipline: Tennis | Origin: Switzerland.
Despite injuries confining Roger Federer’s appearances in recent years, his global influence remains undeterred. The erstwhile top tennis maestro continues to be a sought-after ambassador for elite brands, including Uniqlo and Rolex.
Federer’s foresight led him to invest in the emerging Swiss footwear brand On back in 2019. This venture celebrated its IPO recently, amassing over $600 million. Federer’s hands-on approach was evident when he collaborated extensively with the On team, dedicating efforts towards the conceptualization of a dedicated tennis shoe.
- Ring Earnings: $85 Million | Business Initiatives: $5 Million;
- Age: 31 | Discipline: Boxing | Origin: Mexico.
Hailed as boxing’s prime attraction, Canelo Alvarez commands staggering earnings, with his dual pay-per-view triumphs last year accounting for over $40 million. His ventures extend beyond the boxing arena; a prominent association with Hennessy and a budding taco venture in Mexico exemplify his entrepreneurial spirit.
Expressing plans to venture into the Californian market and with the announcement of a forthcoming chain of fuel stations, Alvarez’s business acumen becomes evident. Additionally, Canelo Promotions, in collaboration with Matchroom Boxing and DAZN, aims to curate a series of boxing events in Mexico.
- Game Earnings: $31.9 Million | Entrepreneurial Pursuits: $52 Million;
- Age: 44 | Discipline: Football | Origin: U.S.
Tom Brady’s brief hiatus from football was a short-lived affair, spanning less than six weeks. His return was a boon for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, especially after his stellar performance during the 2021 season. Off the field, Brady’s business ventures are flourishing.
His NFT initiative, Autograph, successfully garnered $170 million in a recent Series B funding. Religion of Sports, a production endeavor co-founded with Michael Strahan and filmmaker Gotham Chopra, recently announced a collaboration with Skydance Sports. Brady’s secondary production outfit, 199 Productions, is gearing up for the release of the film, 80 for Brady.
Expanding into fashion, he launched a brand aptly titled BRADY. Beyond his football career, Brady has secured a lucrative association with Fox Sports as a commentator. Reports suggest this association could potentially earn him a staggering $375 million over a decade, surpassing his on-field earnings across his 22-season-long NFL tenure.
- Court Earnings: $39.9 Million | Business Ventures: $41 Million;
- Age: 27 | Discipline: Basketball | Origin: Greece.
Standing out among his peers, Giannis Antetokounmpo remains the sole top-ten figure still embracing his 20s. The Milwaukee Bucks’ MVP, honored twice, committed to a five-year contract in December 2020, valued at $228 million – a record-setting amount within the NBA.
His entrepreneurial flair is evident through his involvement in WatchBox’s funding round, amassing $165 million. Giannis has also ventured into the NFT domain, partnering with NFTSTAR. Additionally, endorsements from WhatsApp and Google’s Pixel 6 phone further expand his portfolio.
Audiences can anticipate a closer look at his journey in the biopic, Rise, slated for a Disney+ release in June.
The athletic arena has historically showcased individuals with unparalleled determination, discipline, and a zeal for success. As highlighted in this exploration of ten eminent athletes, their excellence is not limited to the field, court, or ring.
Venturing into the entrepreneurial domain, these sports legends have leveraged their fame, business acumen, and innovative spirits to dominate the commercial world.
From the digital realms of NFTs to the tangible worlds of fashion and food, their endeavors underline a consistent theme: the same tenacity that propelled them to sports stardom drives their business achievements. It serves as an inspiring testament to the boundless potential of athletes beyond their traditional arenas.