Top Athlete Endorsements and Sponsorships in the Fast Food Industry

FastFood_Blog

The fast food industry has become a hot market for athlete and celebrity endorsements in recent years. From Cheeseburgers and fried chicken to ice cream and junk food in general, Athletes have been able to promote their favorite fast food as influential brand advocates. Food companies have recognized that athletes, both professional and at the amateur level, are a big part of their consumer base. 

As many indulge within the industry on a near-everyday basis, strategic partnerships have been forged to help shine a light on social causes, community service initiatives, new menu items, and everything in-between.

Here are the top athlete fast food endorsements in terms of social following:

Taco Bell

Total Athlete Following: 187 thousand

Trea Turner | MLB

Instagram Following: 129,000

Twitter Following: 58,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 187,000

Having stolen a base in the 2019 World Series, Turner is no stranger to the “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotion that has been rolling between Major League Baseball and Taco Bell for years. The shortstop took the opportunity to partake as a fan of the promotion, indulging in his own free taco this year.

Zach Ertz | NFL

Instagram Following: 736,000

Twitter Following: 498,000

Facebook Following: 139,000

Total Following: 1.3 million

Zach and Julie Ertz: name a more accomplished athlete couple. Both are world champions in their respective sport, an accomplishment that is fueled by their next-level competitiveness. That fire translates over to the commercial realm in the pairs’ VISA spot

As a proud sponsor of the NFL and partner of the USWNT, VISA brilliantly showcased the unity between the two (as well as the Chase VISA contactless card) and the gamesmanship that they employ within their daily lives.

Dunkin Donuts:

Total Athlete Following: 215 thousand

Amanda Leveille | NWHL

Instagram Following: 3,000

Twitter Following: 2,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 5,000

The NWHL goalkeeper brings her comedic personality to her social media, donning her full game gear within every post. It has made for quite the endorsement deal with Dunkin as she has appeared waiting in drive-thrus and sipping coffee

Grant Williams | NBA

Instagram Following: 143,000

Twitter Following: 67,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 210,000

The Boston Celtics has been enjoying the fruits of his endorsement deal with the Massachusetts-based coffee chain. Williams has played off of his younger standing within the team by bringing breakfast and listening to veteran teammate Marcus Smart. His activeness was further rewarded with a nice coffee care package.

Pizza Hut

Total Athlete Following: 890 thousand

Aaron Donald | NFL

Instagram Following: 800,000

Twitter Following: 90,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 890,000

Donald has been a brand ambassador for the pizza chain since 2019. Within that time, he has activated the partnership through a commercial spot and light-hearted social media (including hosting a pizza party!)

Popeyes

Total Athlete Following: 4.3 million

Stefon Diggs | NFL

Instagram Following: 971,000

Twitter Following: 333,000

Facebook Following: 56,000

Total Following: 1.3 million

Diggs celebrated the return of the popular chicken sandwich by adorning pregame cleats that paid homage to the delicious fast food restaurant.

Deshaun Watson | NFL

Instagram Following: 1.5 million

Twitter Following: 1.4 million

Facebook Following: 187,000

Total Following: 3 million

In 2019, Watson sustained an eye injury, mid-play, against the Oakland Raiders. After beating the Jacksonville Jaguars one week later, Watson announced in the post-game interview what helped him heal from the injury so quickly: Popeyes’ new spicy chicken sandwich. The sandwich, which coincidently returned to the menu that same day, made waves throughout the food industry upon the popular menu item being back after popular demand.

Chipotle

Total Athlete Following: 12.9 million

Chase Young | NFL

Instagram Following: 832,000

Twitter Following: 184,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 1 million

Young has stepped up as a leader both on the football field (named a captain towards the tail end of his rookie season) and off it. Before he was even an official member of the NFL fraternity, Young helped to feed 300 front line workers at the same hospital he was born at.

Once he became a member of the Washington Football team, he featured within their “Unwrapped” series discussing his love for his hometown team and how he stays motivated.

Marcus Smart | NBA

Instagram Following: 580,000

Twitter Following: 298,000

Facebook Following: 217,000

Total Following: 1.1 million

Smart, an avid Chipotle connoisseur, played a prank on his then-rookie teammate Romeo Langford. As the rookie went through the process of ordering, he was informed that he was on the hook for $4,500 of Chipotle burritos for the Celtics’ front office and team that was phoned in by Smart. The veteran guard, who was hiding in the back office listening in on the conversation, relieved the rookie of his financial obligations and told him to pick up the next one. 

Trae Young | NBA

Instagram Following: 3 million

Twitter Following: 853,000

Facebook Following: 351,000

Total Following: 4.2 million

Young rang in his Chipotle partnership by showcasing the chain’s 53 real ingredients. He did this by decreeing a TikTok challenge where users could win 53 burritos and tickets to an Atlanta Hawks game if they could make a 53 foot shot. 

In a more lighthearted note, he showcased how often he frequents the restaurants as his celebrity card ceased to work at one point.

Christian Pulisic | English Premier League

Instagram Following: 3.4 million

Facebook Following: 2.7 million

Twitter Following: 559,000

Total Following: 6.6 million

The 2019 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year partnered with the food brand in early 2020, debuting with a limited-edition recipe of his favorite Chipotle order. As the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll, the USMNT star partnered with Chipotle to send lunch to frontline workers at the hospital where he was born. 

Recently, the Chelsea star featured in the restaurant’s “Unwrapped” series to discuss his love for the food and how it helps to fuel his game.

Subway

Total Athlete Following: 13.2 million

Derek Watt | NFL

Instagram Following: 309,000

Twitter Following: 107,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 416,000

The trio of Watt brothers have starred in a multitude of Subway commercials for the brand. Each one plays off of a featured Subway sandwich and shows the good-natured sibling rivalry that exists amongst the three.

TJ Watt | NFL

Instagram Following: 881,000

Twitter Following: 378,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 1.2 million

Additionally, the Watt brothers were brought together via Zoom as Subway allowed the entire Watt family the opportunity to give thanks and reminisce about their football success over the years.

JJ Watt | NFL

Twitter Following: 5.5 million

Instagram Following: 4 million

Facebook Following: 2.1 million

Total Following: 11.6 million

The eldest Watt brother has been featured on Subway’s social media through snappy GIF’s and quirky memes.

Blaze Pizza

Total Athlete Following: 151.1 million

Lebron James | NBA

Instagram Following: 76.9 million

Twitter Following: 48.7 million

Facebook Following: 25.5 million

Total Following: 151.1 million

LeBron invested into the concept pizza chain back in 2012. The initial deposit of $1 million grew to a value of $25 million by 2017. When including endorsement payments, the stake would balloon to $35-40 million. 

And endorse he does. James has generated buzz by going “undercover” as shift worker Ron. He has been a forward-facing advocate for the brand both behind the counter and through word of mouth.

The combined social following for this list of professional athlete endorsers is a whopping 403+ million. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, this social following, and the impact that these athletes can have, will only stand to grow as the power of genuine authenticity and cause-market continues to persist.

McDonalds

Total Athlete Following: 267.2 million

Joe Marler | NASCAR

Instagram Following: 168,000

Twitter Following: 104,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 272,000

Marler stars in a cheeky commercial spot for McDonalds UK, calling attention to a free fries promotion on the My McDonalds app. The advert shows Marler drawing the connection that “McDonald’s Fries are crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside – just like me.”

The combined social following for this list of professional athlete endorsers is a whopping 403+ million. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, this social following, and the impact that these athletes can have, will only stand to grow as the power of genuine authenticity and cause-market continues to persist.

Sterling Shepard | NFL

Instagram Following: 617,000

Twitter Following: 108,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 725,000

Shepard took to social media to shoutout McDonald’s celeb campaign: the Travis Scott meal which features the rapper’s favorite meal: medium Sprite, a quarter pounder with bacon, fries and barbecue sauce. The wide receiver professed his love for dipping his fries in BBQ sauce, a guilty pleasure for sure.

Neymar Jr. | Ligue One

Instagram Following: 144 million

Facebook Following: 70.5 million

Twitter Following: 51 million

Total Following: 265.5 million

Neymar’s affiliation with McDonalds has stretched back to his earliest playing days, long before he became a global superstar. The Brazilian volunteered his time for a day inside one of the golden arched restaurants to serve Happy Meals to kids for a day.

And even with after one of the greatest victories of his career, he was still lovin’ it. Craving food, he still craved the iconic burger chain over Burger King, Carl’s Jr, Wendy’s or anything else in the vicinity. During Barcelona’s victory parade celebrating the 2015 Champions League Final win, Neymar called upon the fans to help deliver him a Big Mac while he was atop the team bus. As the vehicle wove its way through the city, the fans came through, delivering the iconic burger to the superstar.

The combined social following from the athletes listed above topped 449+ million. With fast food, QSRs, and casual eating growing more quickly and creatively than ever before, the trend of athletes collaborating on these food partnerships will only continue to grow bigger and better.

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