Top Athlete Endorsements for Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods

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The land of CPG brands and products is a favorite for athletes to venture into. With many already expressing a natural love and affinity for their favorite brands, it makes for a natural partnership for them to explore. Athletes have come a long way from making breakthroughs on Wheaties boxes. Now some are even taking the helm at creating the vision for certain brands, if they aren’t creating their own brand themselves.

In particular, the apparel world offers a unique and personal approach for athletes to convey their favorite marketing messages and designs for the world to wear. Nike, adidas, Reebok, Under Armour, Puma are a few of the top brands that athletes score signature shoe lines. With Michael Jordan in mind, players are even further compelled to forge their own legacy.

Many athletes on this list are regularly featured in Forbes’ annual list of highest-paid athletes. With big pockets and yielding powerful influence outside of just their own “sports bubble,” sports marketers have been forced to become more creative than ever in an effort to  set new campaigns apart from the mundane. Now more than ever, retailers and CPGs want to invoke that sense of familiarity for customers. It goes beyond purchase intentions. Fans want to represent the same brands that their favorite athletes do.

Secret Deodorant

Total Athlete Following: 3.4 million

Crystal Dunn | NWSL

Instagram Following: 318,000

Twitter Following: 136,000

Facebook Following: 4,000

Total Following: 458,000

Dunn joined fellow NWSL players in their blunt call to action for viewers to tune into the NWSL Challenge Cup this past summer, citing the lack of women’s sports coverage and a decreased emphasis in support for the sport.

Carli Lloyd | NWSL

Instagram Following: 1.1 million

Facebook Following: 948,000

Twitter Following: 907,000

Total Following: 2.9 million

Instagram Following: 1.1 million

Facebook Following: 948,000

Twitter Following: 907,000

Total Following: 2.9 million

Having spent much of her career as one of the most popular and recognizable athletes of the USWNT and NWSL, both of whom are sponsored by Secret, Lloyd serves as an avid endorser of the Procter & Gamble brand. 

She can be seen advocating for others to hashtag #RaiseItUp in an effort to champion the strong women in their lives.

Old Spice

Total Athlete Following: 7.9 million

Cole Custer | NASCAR

Twitter Following: 52,000

Instagram Following: 39,000

Facebook Following: 28,000

Total Following: 119,000

Custer shows his comedic chops within his Old Spice sponsorship, displaying outrageously thick hair to capture the essence of the brand’s Thickening System. It’s the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #SponsoredObviously that truly takes the campaign over the top.

Iman Shumpert | NBA

Instagram Following: 2 million

Facebook Following: 1.2 million

Twitter Following: 667,000

Total Following: 3.8 million

Cleverly leveraging the star power within the Shumpert household, the NBA player involved his equally famous wife within his product endorsement post to show the power of the brand’s 4in1 Body Wash.

Karl Anthony Towns | NBA

Instagram Following: 2.9 million

Facebook Following: 575,000

Twitter Following: 575,000

Total Following: 4 million

Towns’ involved his girlfriend within his sponsored post, showcasing the accidental nature of using Gentleman’s body wash that is also “perfect for your lady“.

Gillette

Total Athlete Following: 17.6 million

Jalen Hurts | NFL

Instagram Following: 697,000

Twitter Following: 326,000

Facebook Following: N/A

Total Following: 1 million

Hurts has an involved endorsement deal with the grooming brand. On his social media, he shared conversations with Deion Sanders and Gillette barber Faheem Alexander as he discusses with each of them the importance of thorough preparation and honing the mentality of #EverydayisGameday.

Tua Tagovailoa | NFL

Instagram Following: 933,000

Twitter Following: 374,000

Facebook Following: 76,000

Total Following: 1.3 million

Tagovailoa appeared in an epically narrated Instagram post sponsored by Gillette where the metaphor of “being ready to run” captures the boldness of the brand. 

Recently, the Miami Dolphins quarterback kicked off the New Year by hosting a virtual barbershop with Barry Hairston of the Gillette Barber Council. The event benefited the Boys & Girls Clubs in the Palm Beach area as Tua spoke to the kids about self-confidence and how to show up prepared every day.

Romalu Lukaku | Serie A

Facebook Following: 6.8 million

Instagram Following: 6.3 million

Twitter Following: 2.1 million

Total Following: 15.3 million

Lukaku represents the grooming brand through his athlete endorsement of the King C. Gillette product line. The souped up version of the classic Gillette line blends well with the #StyleLikeaKing campaign being launched throughout Italy.

Budweiser

Total Athlete Following: 38.8 million

Dwayne Wade | NBA (retired)

Facebook Following: 12.3 million

Twitter Following: 9.4 million

Instagram Following: 7.1 million

Total Following: 38.8 million

The 3x NBA Finals champion has had his hand in many Budweiser campaigns. For starters, Wade is the co-founder of Budweiser Zero. Designed with athletes in mind, the living Miami Heat legend has further utilized the new product as a platform to champion social justice. 

Earlier this year, the former professional athlete met with Budweiser Senior Brewmaster Natalie Johnson about how the brand can help increase diversity throughout the beverage industry. Together, the pair established the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Budweiser Natalie Johnson Scholarship Program in order to provide 25 black college students with annual scholarships within the alcohol industry. In addition, 5 of those students will gain experience as interns within Anheuser-Busch’s Brewery Trainee Program.

And who could forget the wonderfully emotional commercial that the brand ran amid Wade’s retirement in 2019. The spot featured five everyday people from outside the basketball world that were personally touched by Wade’s generosity off the court.

Rolex

Total Athlete Following: 51.8 million

Tiger Woods | PGA TOUR

Twitter Following: 6.5 million

Facebook Following: 3 million

Instagram Following: 2.4 million

Total Following: 11.9 million

Woods has spoken about his affinity for Rolex and how the watches have been apart of his career both on and off the course as his achievements have changed over time. The watch brand signed Woods as a celebrity endorser in 2011. The deal represented a show of trustworthiness as it was Woods’ first major endorsement deal since his publicized scandal in 2009. It’s a wonderful story that has come full circle as Woods’ wore the signature watch throughout his legendary 2019 Master’s win.

Roger Federer | ATP

Facebook Following: 18.2 million

Twitter Following: 12.7 million

Instagram Following: 8 million

Total Following: 38.9 million

Federer epitomizes class both on and off the court. Having held a long-time sports celebrity endorsement with Rolex, the tennis phenom truly intertwines the symbolism of wrist watch prestige with the sheer dominance that he’s displayed through the years.

Under Armour

Total Athlete Following: 78.9+ million

Jordan Spieth | PGA TOUR

Twitter Following: 1.9 million

Instagram Following: 1.5 million

Facebook Following: 503,000

Total Following: 3.9 million

In 2015, Jordan Spieth signed a 10-year deal to endorse Under Armour to create a line of shirts, hats, and shoes in the golf space.

Tom Brady | NFL

Instagram Following: 7.8 million

Facebook Following: 4.6 million

Twitter Following: 1.3 million

Total Following: 13.7 million

The 6x Super Bowl champion defected from his Nike deal to join forces with Under Armour in 2010 to wear the brand’s apparel and create his own line.  His endorsement deal with Under Armour reportedly was paid to him mostly in company stock, which has risen over 400% since 2010.

Steph Curry | NBA

Instagram Following: 32.3 million

Facebook Following: 14.8 million

Twitter Following: 14 million

Total Following: 61.3 million

Steph Curry is widely known as the “face of Under Armour’s footwear line” and currently has a successful shoe line with the brand known as the Curry 7 Collection. On top of that, he and Kelley O’Hara serve as the faces of the company’s new “Rush” line which utilizes infrared technology to conserve athlete’s energy.

Coca-Cola

Total Athlete Following: 173.9 million

Jordan Spieth | PGA TOUR

Twitter Following: 1.9 million

Instagram Following: 1.5 million

Facebook Following: 503,000

Total Following: 3.9 million

Spieth has held his sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola since 2016. The 2015 Fedex Cup winner has been featured across television advertising, digital media, point-of-sale, out-of-home, experiential marketing, and packaging. Spieth has highlighted the brand on his social media as well.

Alex Morgan | Women's Super League & USWNT

Instagram Following: 9.3 million

Facebook Following: 5.8 million

Twitter Following: 3.9 million

Total Following: 19 million

The World Cup and Olympic champion is extremely familiar Coca-Cola. Morgan has partnered with the brand for the majority of her career as she became the first female footballer to be sponsored by the company in 2011. 

The newly minted Tottenham Hotspur has parlayed her success on the international stage in activating different campaigns with Coke. On the Olympic stage, Morgan was named a “6-Pack” athlete with the company ahead of the 2012, 2016, and now 2020 Olympics. She has also taken the sponsorship a step further by hosting the Coca-Cola Soccer Camp following the USWNT’s Olympic Gold victory in 2012. 

On the World Cup stage, Morgan spread awareness with the rest of the USWNT through the #BelieveWithUS campaign. The journey was further activated by making Believe Bands from the red-adorned nets featured in #SheBelievesCup matches. Coca-Cola continues to put their money where their mouth is as they have fervently backed the USWNT and thrown their support behind the women in the red, white, and blue.

LeBron James | NBA

Instagram Following: 76.8 million

Twitter Following: 48.7 million

Facebook Following: 25.5 million

Total Following: 151 million

The Los Angeles Laker has had an illustrious history with the soft drink brand ever since he rose to stardom on that famous Sports Illustrated cover at just 17 years old. His initial endorsement deal in 2003 was worth a whopping $12-15 million. The collaboration continued throughout the 4x MVPs career including when he was with Miami (teaming up with Sprite for a customized “Sprite 6 Mix” flavor) as well as with a foray of additional marketing campaigns.

Gatorade

Total Athlete Following: 344.9 million

Serena Williams | WTA

Instagram Following: 12.7 million

Twitter Following: 10.8 million

Facebook Following: 6.6 million

Total Following: 30.1 million

Back in 2017, Williams teamed with Gatorade to spread awareness through social media for the #SistersinSweat campaign. More than just a spokesperson, the mission focuses on keeping girls in sports longer throughout adolescence and showcasing the positive impact sport can play in a women’s life. Perhaps the best collaboration with Gatorade has been the “Like a Mother” tribute which chronicles the 23x Grand Slam winners’ return back to the court after becoming a mother.

Dwayne Wade | NBA (retired)

Facebook Following: 12.3 million

Twitter Following: 9.4 million

Instagram Following: 7.1 million

Total Following: 38.8 million

In his lone season with the Chicago Bulls during the 2016 NBA season, Wade made it a point to highlight his hometown city and to further give back to the community he loves. The two parties collaborated on a short film “Sounds of Hope” which highlights how basketball helped to fuel Wade as a youth and keep him within a positive outlet and away from negative influences.

Lionel Messi | La Liga

Instagram Following: 175 million

Facebook Following: 101 million

Twitter Following: N/A

Total Following: 276 million

Arguably the best footballer in the world (if not of all time), the Argentine certainly has had an interesting summer regarding where he will be taking his talents in the near future. 

On the marketing side, Messi is doing quite well for himself. He has parlayed his success on the pitch into quite the litany of partnerships off of it. Regarding his Gatorade endorsement, the phenom featured in commercials that showed off his goal-scoring prowess and his legendary status next to fellow GOAT’s, all without breaking a sweat.

The world of hydration and athletic performance will only continue to move forward. As nutrition is perfected, the superstars will shine brighter. More marketing dollars will be allocated to capitalize on the growing trends of the current and future athletes. Because if Gatorade is any indication, the stars of tomorrow are already here today.

Pepsi

Total Athlete Following: 362.4 million

Raheem Sterling | English Premier League

Instagram Following: 7.4 million

Facebook Following: 5.9 million

Twitter Following: 2.6 million

Total Following: 15.9 million

Sterling is no stranger to success off the pitch having crafted quite the sports sponsorships portfolio for himself as he has aligned with Clarks Originals Shoes, Lucozade Sport, and Gillette. With Pepsi, The Englishman has appeared alongside fellow footballers Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba, and Mo Salah in promotion of the brand’s partnership with the UEFA Champions League. Sterling has appeared on his social media advertising PepsiCo’s Pepsi Max whilst answering questions about his footballing career.

Paul Pogba | English Premier League

Instagram Following: 42.7 million

Facebook Following: 19.7 million

Twitter Following: 8.1 million

Total Following: 70.5 million

The World Cup winner joins Mo Salah, Raheem Sterling, and Lionel Messi as one of a handful of athlete endorsers in Pepsi’s UEFA Champions League campaign with a clever ad spot and impromptu #PepsiCanBalance challenge. In the end, we are all winners (especially those who he has endorsement deals with) whenever Pogba is able to leverage his footballing skills and fashion sense on social media.

Lionel Messi | La Liga

Instagram Following: 175 million

Facebook Following: 101 million

Twitter Following: N/A

Total Following: 276 million

Arguably the greatest (ever) footballer on Planet Earth, Messi’s endorsement contract deal with Pepsi has ranged throughout the majority of his career as he has been the poster boy within spots revolving around the 2010 and 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This year’s campaign centers around the ever-growing popularity of the prestigious UEFA Champions League. The theme employs some of the cooler visual advertisements you will see. Centering around the #ForTheLoveOfIt, the brand has activated virtual challengesbranded cans, a crispy GIF for his 700th career goal, and beautifully timed LED sigange inclusion within clutch game highlights.

And let’s not forget the viral moments and seemingly impossible trick shot that Messi has produced within the last few months of this campaign. These include a supposed hidden talent in ping pong, a bottle flip you wouldn’t even dare attempting, a #PepsiCanBalance trick that would make any magician proud, and one shot that has to be seen to be believed.

The athletes on the list above make up a colossal 760+ million social following across all platforms. With retail moving further and further into cause-related and campaign focused campaigns, the opportunities are endless for the emerging world of social media-driven athletes.

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