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The Highest-Paid Athletes and the Brands Paying Them for Advertisements



Whether you’re just starting out or already established, ads can help your brand reach its target audience and stay relevant to its customers. One way to do this is through celebrity endorsements. This means that you approach celebrities and pay them to become your brand ambassadors. This is a mutually beneficial partnership: you get to grow your potential customer base, and the celebrity gets an extra source of income. 

If you’ve ever wondered why Lady Gaga always wears Tiffany & Co. jewelry on red carpets, you now know why.

Celebrity endorsement is popular across different industries, including sports. Brands partner with athletes because they are generally seen as positive role models. On the other hand, this kind of partnership increases an athlete’s income and gives them validation and recognition for their work and position in the world. 

Below, we shall highlight five athletes and the brands paying them for ads. Keep reading to discover who is paying who to sell their products. 

Roger Federer – Rolex

When the most recognized and valuable luxury watch brand partners with one of the greatest tennis players in history, you can expect nothing short of excellence. The Federer – Rolex partnership stands out in the world of celebrity endorsements. It is one of the most high-profile and successful endorsement deals and has been running for over a decade. 

Roger Federer became the world’s highest-ranked tennis player in 2004, an admired achievement by Rolex, a brand that prioritizes excellence. Two years later, in 2006, Federer signed a 10-year ambassadorship contract worth $15 million with Rolex.

This partnership is perfect because the two parties have a natural alignment. For example, they are both Swiss, which gives them a common ground for a relationship. Also, Federer is known for his craftsmanship, elegance, and sophisticated style; qualities that also distinguish Rolex from its competitors. 

Rolex could not have asked for a better ambassador than Federer. Not only is he highly successful, owning the most Australian Open titles after Novak Djokovic, and is considered one of the most legendary Australian Open champions, but he also represents the brand with dedication. He is always donning the latest Rolex watches on or off the court. He never tires of posting photos and shout-outs to the brand online and even participates in Rolex-sponsored events like the Rolex Paris Masters tournament. 

Michael Jordan – Nike 

Michael Jordan and Nike are like old friends. The deal that confirmed the basketball player as a brand ambassador of Nike was signed in 1984 when Jordan was just a rookie player in the NBA. At the time, Nike was a rising basketball shoe brand, and it saw great potential in the young, charismatic player. 

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Just after Jordan was signed as an ambassador, Nike created their innovative and iconic Air Jordan shoe line dedicated to him. Today, Air Jordans are still popular, generating billions of dollars for both the athlete and the brand.

Lionel Messi – Adidas

In the sports shoe industry, what Jordan is to Nike, Lionel Messi is to Adidas. Though not as long-standing as the Jordan – Nike deal, the sponsorship deal between the Argentine soccer player and the sportswear brand is also one of the most significant ones in the history of athlete endorsement. 

First signed in 2006, the deal has been extended several times. Both parties benefit sufficiently from this deal: Adidas capitalizes on Messi’s explosive success to create a brand image of excellence, while Messi, already one of the highest-paid living athletes, enjoys the benefit of an additional source of income. In 2017, the deal was extended into a lifetime contract worth $1 billion.

Kylian Mbappe – Hublot

Mbappe is a 25-year-old French soccer player who has recently risen to stardom. He was only 19 when he signed this iconic deal with Hublot in 2018, a luxury Swiss watchmaker. 

At that point, he had just helped France win the 2018 FIFA World Cup, becoming one of the most talked-about athletes of the time. A relative newcomer in the watchmaking business, Hublot saw an opportunity in the young athlete to give their brand a youthful image.

Neymar – Puma

The Neymar – Puma endorsement deal shocked the world in 2020 because, at £23 million annually, the deal was one of the largest individual sponsorship contracts in sports. Also, by signing the deal, Neymar officially broke away from his long-standing former partner, Nike.

Neymar frequently stars in Puma ad campaigns and always wears their boots on the pitch. Because of this partnership, the sportswear company could re-establish itself in the business.


Brands and athletes have a mutually beneficial relationship. They need each other to advance their images and open themselves to more opportunities. Brands need celebrity athletes because their fanbase is a pool of potential buyers for their products or services. Conversely, with endorsement deals from brands, celebrity athletes can have an additional source of income and a better-curated media presence. 

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