Once the final buzzer sounds and superstar athletes head to the locker room after the game, their official job is over. However, today’s top professionals have more than transcended simply the sports sphere; they are full-blown celebrities, as famous for their personalities, fashion choices, and lifestyles as any famous figure on a movie screen. We are in a day and age where the dividing line between the sports and entertainment realms is becoming more and more blurred. Today’s top athletes aren’t simply great role models and sports speakers, but they also now double as savvy business men and women who pursue the opportunity to become involved in new career paths through many different avenues.
Endorsements and sponsorships are no longer limited to what we expect to see from a sports stars such as fast food commercials or sports equipment ads. To that end, athletes are now more willing than ever to invest in up-and-coming businesses and create ventures of their own. One of the reasons that Lebron James was willing to take a pay cut to boost the Heat’s roster to help win championships is because he actually makes more money from his lucrative endorsement deals than he does dribbling the ball. Most recently he profited $30 million off of Apple’s acquisition of Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones; many speculate that it is quite possibly the most a professional athlete has ever received from an equity deal in history. NBA champion and TNT sports anchor Shaquille O’Neal has been involved in a number of ad campaigns and maintained quite the successful acting career. He is also known as a sharp entrepreneur and humanitarian whose dealings in real estate have included helping local families in Orlando reclaim their foreclosed houses on more affordable terms.
Sure these guys can play, but their different business interests continue to pique public interest. Superstar Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is partnering with the luxury retailer Barneys, utilizing his bold and creative style to design several menswear collections that will be sold across the nation. While you would think the high-end store would go with a model or celebrity affiliated with fashion, they instead picked a professional basketball player and Russell is also lending his fashion talents to design a line of underwear for King & Jaxs. You might be thinking really Russell, an underwear line? Truth is, the guy leads the style revolution in a league that probably boasts the sports sphere’s most fashionable athletes so the connection is not as obscure as it is at first read. Athletes like Russell who become pioneers in their sport for things other than their incredible talent often tend to make the perfect brand ambassadors and inspire others as great motivational speakers to pursue each one of their life’s goals.
More and more players are focusing just as hard on cashing in on endorsement opportunities off the court and utilizing their opportunities for speaking engagements and appearances as they are in honing their skills as athletes. Nowadays no one bats an eye when they pick up Essence magazine and Gabby Douglas is on the cover, or when Blake Griffin and Mike Trout pop up on a Subway commercial. When athletes make themselves readily available to the public through advertisements and business ventures, they increase their fan-base tenfold and this snowballs into more speaking engagements, more appearances, and more endorsement opportunities for these stars. It’s a directly related rise to the top; the more iconic, the more important these athletes should become in the eyes of prospective endorsers and thus, the more opportunities they will have to extend their personal brand and impact others. Ain’t that right, MJ?