Where Sports and Retail Collide

Athletes are arguably more valuable to brands than any other celebrity type. The highly publicized deals for top professional athletes are in the millions and hundreds of dollars.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online MBA program.

How corporate partnerships with athletes has become a game-changer in the realm of revenue and influence.

Adidas and Lionel Messi

Adidas is the second-largest sportswear manufacturer in the world. In 2016, they generated $21.3 billion in revenue. Lionel Messi has scored over 500 goals with FC Barcelona and has won five Ballon d’Or awards, items that demonstrate why he’s considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

In 2017, Messi signed a lifetime contract with Adidas worth nearly $1 billion. The year before, Messi produced $53.5 million in value for Adidas on social media alone. Their collaborative influence is evident through Adidas’ @TeamMessi Twitter account, which aims to create global fan movements to inspire athletes and celebrate everything Messi.

Nike and LeBron James

Nike is the largest sportswear manufacturer in the world, generating $34.3 billion in revenue in 2017. LeBron James has won three NBA championships and is a four-time MVP. He also carries a strong personal brand, one that transcends sports and moves into business, entertainment, and philanthropy.

Nike and James created a collaborative partnership in 2015, when James singed a lifetime endorsement deal worth over $1 billion. In 2014, Nike sold an estimated $340 million worth of James’ signature sneakers. James also uses his fame and his exposure as a cultural influence through the brand; in 2017, he wore white and black “Equality” sneakers when his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, played a game in Washington, D.C.

Puma and Usain Bolt

Puma makes performance and sports-focused lifestyle products for running, training, fitness, football, cricket, golf, and motorsports. Usain Bolt is an eight-time Olympic gold medalist from Jamaica who holds world records in 100m, 200m, and 4x100m races, records that justify his reputation for being the world’s fastest man.

Bolt’s contract with Puma earned him $10 million per year through the 2017 World Championships. After that event occured, Puma’s expected revenue for the year jumped to between €235 and €245. Bolt’s influence with the brand can be found in its Forever Faster campaign, which recognizes athletes as individuals for their personalities as well as their athletic performances.

Gatorade and Serena Williams

Gatorade is the “sports fuel” company that holds 46 percent of the world’s sports drink market. Serena Williams is one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, and has won a record 23 Grand Slam titles to back that claim. She also earns $13 million a year from all of her endorsements.

The two collaborated through “Sisters in Sweat,” an ad campaign that featured Williams. The ads with Williams target young girls, encouraging them to keep playing sports. Doing so will lead them to become healthier, happier, and more successful in life.

Nike and Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is an NBA Hall-of-Famer and winner of six NBA championships. He’s also one of the highest-paid athletes in sports history. In 1984, Nike offered Jordan a five-year endorsement deal worth $7 million. It was a smart move – revenue from Nike’s Jordan brand was an estimate $2.5 billion in 2015. Nike’s Jordan Brand is also part of Wings, a partnership with Triple Threat Mentoring that aims to help young people succeed through education and mentoring.

Fitbit and the Minnesota Timberwolves

Fitbit became the first fitness tracking device company on the market when it debuted in 2007. It offers wireless, wearable activity trackers like fitness wristbands, watches, clips, and headphones, which are synced with the Fitbit website and smart device mobile apps. Its products track activity, exercise, food, weight, and sleep.

In 2017, Fitbit announced a three-year partnership with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves,, the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, and the NBA G League’s Iowa Wolves. The Fitbit Stat Tracker enables fans to follow player stats and highlights, become involved with community events and participate in Fitbit Challenges. The teams’ partnerships influence the corporate sphere, as Fitbit has begun selling wearable fitness trackers and software to employees as part of several companies’ wellness programs.


Ever since Michael Jordan’s initial endorsement deal with Nike in 1984, the union between professional sports and advertising has become increasingly lucrative. In addition to increasing revenue for brands and offering more products for consumers, these athletes and companies are making an impact in sports, culture, and fans’ lives.

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