Last week, headlines were made when Manchester City player Jack Grealish penned a new boot deal, the most lucrative ever for a British player. However, although he will now be paid £10 million a season to wear Puma boots for the next five seasons that is not the most lucrative in the sport. There are some very familiar names who earn more by wearing and endorsing a particular brand of footwear.
Grealish had been with Nike since he was a teenager, but he has now switched to Puma, the German company who, significantly, have been Manchester City’s kit supplier for the past four years, and for whom manager Pep Guardiola is a brand ambassador.
It is a further reminder, if one were needed, how much top sportsmen can earn from product endorsements, which, in some cases, dwarf what they get from doing the “day job.”
One example of this is Roger Federer, who may now have retired from tennis, but who remains one of the highest paid sportsmen in the world, with sponsorships and endorsement deals extending well into the future.
And David Beckham is another who continues to be the face of many brands, although it has been a decade since he hung up his boots.
Grealish himself is already associated with the Gucci luxury fashion house, and the headphone specialists Bose.
Who earns more?
Although Grealish now earns more than any other British footballer from endorsing one particular boot manufacturer, his is by no means the most lucrative.
Indeed he may only need to look across the other side of the City dressing room at Erling Haaland, to find the player who is set to earn double than him.
The Norwegian’s striker’s current deal with Nike ended in 2022, but, despite interest from both Adidas and Puma, he is set to sign an extension with the American company rumoured to worth £20 million a year.
The more goals he scores, the more marketing opportunities he opens up both for himself and his sponsors.
Adidas have been endorsing Lionel Messi since he was a teenager at Barcelona back in 2006. They have now agreed a lifetime deal with the Argentine superstar, which is worth an estimated £18 million a year, and he even has his own sub-brand of boot known as “Adidas Messi,”
They have calculated that, as in the case of Nike’s very popular Air Jordan brand that people will still want to wear their footwear, long after the player who inspired them has retired.
Needless to say, Messi merchandising has been flying off the shelves ever since he led them to World Cup glory last December.
Another one to have signed a lifetime deal is Cristiano Ronaldo. In his case, back in 2016, when he was still a Real Madrid player, he became only the third sportsman, after Michael Jordan and LeBron James, to agree such a deal with Nike.
Worth an estimated US $1 billion at time, this works out at an average of around £15 million a year.
Whilst he may now be playing his football in Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo has more followers than any other on Instagram – 558 million and counting. That means his influence is unparalleled for a brand like Nike.
He has always worn different types of Nike boots, most of them branded with his proprietary CR7 logo.
Mbappé is another one to have signed his current deal with Nike when he was still a teenager back in 2019. That is worth £140 million over ten years, which is worth £14 million annually. Given how his profile has risen since then, Nike may argue that they got a comparative bargain.
The size of the market
Whilst these figures are large, they need to be put into the context of the overall market for football boots and cleats, which is estimated to be worth around £3.1 billion currently, with projections that it might reach £4.1 billion by 2028. With all the major manufacturers scrabbling for their share of this highly lucrative pie, any tie-ups with leading stars which can help persuade consumers to buy their particular brand of boot over that of their rivals is well worth the money.
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