Watt might be originally from the state of Wisconsin, but he'll always be welcome in Houston after crowdfunding more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief. Not bad, considering his initial goal was just $200,000.
Oprah. Madonna. Prince. LeBron. There aren't a whole lot of people you can recognize with just one name, but the four-time MVP is one of them. His brand is one of the most powerful in the world, and he has gotten the most out of it while investing in massively successful operations like Beats by Dre and Blaze Pizza.
Big Baller Brand's father-son team is one of the most fascinating entrepreneurial experiments in all of sports. Can one family build a brand around itself in real time? That's what the Balls are trying to do with Big Baller Brand. The family already released the signature shoe for Lonzo Ball, just before his rookie year for the Los Angeles Lakers. Meanwhile, little brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo are ditching college to play pro ball in Lithuania, and they have made a deal to sell their authentic jerseys on Amazon.
Because he's well known for his impressive longevity as a football player, it only makes sense that Brady has built that reputation into a health and fitness brand. That brand includes his website, TB12Sports.com, and his book, The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance, which was No. 1 on Amazon and the New York Times' Best Sellers list. Brady has also appeared in movies and television shows like Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons and Family Guy.
Known as "the nicest guy in the NBA" while playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant has gone from soft-spoken youngster to media mogul in the past few years. He's contributed to The Players' Tribune on multiple occasions, earning notoriety for the way he engages on Twitter and starting his own YouTube channel. Co-founder of The Durant Company, which encompasses a number of tech investments.
Williams has been a part of all sorts of fascinating entrepreneurial endeavors, including creating her now defunct "Aneres" ("Serena" spelled backward) fashion apparel line, voicing a character in Avatar: The Last Airbender, starting a charity and buying minority ownership in the Miami Dolphins.
You expect incredible athletes to make tons of cash through endorsement deals and monster contracts. What you don't expect is for them to jump to an entirely different sport and take center stage at an event that an estimated 50 million people watched. McGregor didn't win his fight with Floyd Mayweather, but with a rumored $100 million payday and a performance none of the experts predicted, we say that a kid who grew up dirt poor in Ireland did pretty damn good for himself.
Williams' plan when facing opponents or business opportunities is to be a relentless attacker. As described in her recent Entrepreneur magazine cover story, “Her style is built around continuous offense, which requires split-second decision-making, commitment to choices and a kind of champion's amnesia that allows her to remain undisturbed by failure -- and unrelaxed by success.”
It's remarkable to realize that Spieth is just 24 years old, because it already feels as though the Texan has been dominating the golf landscape for a decade. The top-ranked golfer helped Under Armour have the Most Valuable Player in every major American sport in 2015, along with Stephen Curry, Bryce Harper and Carey Price.
With 78 World Cup victories, Vonn has more World Cup wins than any other woman in history. She's used that success to help make her one of the most marketable stars in all of winter sports. She's earned endorsements from HEAD, Oakley, Red Bull and Oakley and has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and the 2010 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
The two-time NBA MVP has played his entire career in the tech heaven of the Bay Area, and he's taken advantage by investing in tech startups like Slyce, CoachUp and Bubble.
Brees has one of the most diverse entrepreneurial portfolios on the list. A best-selling author who earns millions in endorsements every year, Brees also owns several Jimmy John's franchises and has a 25 percent stake in Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar. He has founded the Brees Dream Foundation, which has given over $25 million in charity, and served as co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition under President Obama.
The reigning National League MVP might break the Yankee record for most home runs in a season, but even if he doesn't, he's already broken an MLB record: the largest total contract in baseball history. Stanton's deal pays out $325 million contract over 13 years. And that's before you consider his endorsement deals with Nike, Majestic, Rawlings and more.
Dwyane Wade isn't just a powerhouse on the court. He's also one of the best-dressed athletes in all of sports. It only makes sense that his understanding of fashion would inform his partnerships and entrepreneurial ventures. He's worked as a designer for The Tie Bar and D-Squared and is a part-owner of Stance Socks.
Aaron Rodgers has been one of the most marketable athletes in America, and his "Discount Double-Check" with State Farm Insurance is among the best-known athlete-sponsor combinations. Rodgers also spends much of his time with charity, including the time he won $50,000 for Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc. on Celebrity Jeopardy.
Sharapova's career seemed like it was over when she tested positive for a banned substance (meldonium) before the 2016 Australian Open, leading to a 15-month suspension. While she has returned to the court, Sharapova could always fall back on her numerous endorsement deals or her candy business, Sugarpova.
Newton has earned big checks from Under Armour and Gatorade, but one of his coolest ventures is the Nickelodeon show All in with Cam Newton, in which Newton helped children achieve their dreams, from helping an aspiring singer meet Broadway stars to introducing a future politician to Michelle Obama.
Growing up in a single parent household, Kershaw was afraid he wouldn't be able to afford college. It turns out, he didn't need to. Kershaw went straight from high school to the MLB Draft, and now he makes in the ballpark of $35 million per year, thanks to his Dodgers contract and endorsement deals with Under Armour, Mercedes-Benz and Wilson. He's used that money to found and fund Kershaw's Challenge, which helps underprivileged children across the globe.
Anthony has plenty of the sort of endorsement deals you expect from high-profile athletes, but he has some surprises in there, too. For example, he has made appearances in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and Sons of Anarchy, and his Melo7 Tech Partners LLC has a wide investment portfolio that includes Lyft, SeatGeek and DraftKings.
For an international sport like tennis, where the four major tournaments occur in three different continents, it's important for players seeking endorsements to appeal to a wide swath of people. Nobody does this better than Federer, who speaks six languages (Swiss, German, English, French, Italian and Swedish) while also being arguably the best tennis player ever. He is often considered the most marketable tennis player off the court. Federer has used his brand for more than just endorsements, though. The Roger Feder Foundation has raised millions for disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and Queensland floods.
In addition to endorsements from Bauer, Tag Heuer and Bread & Boxers, Lundqvist co-owns a Tribeca restaurant called Tiny's. In 2013, he launched a line of apparel and accessories called the Crown Collection, with proceeds benefiting the Garden of Dreams Foundation. He founded Henrik Lundqvist Foundation, a non-profit that supports children and families.
Beckham is one of just 20 athletes to ever appear on the cover of a Madden football game. In November of 2017, Beckham released his first lifestyle shoe with Nike, which is one of his endorsers along with Head and Shoulders, Footlocker and Lenovo.
FaZe Temperrr (aka Thomas Oliveira) and other e-sports rock stars blazed a new path of innovative gameplay through Call of Duty trickshotting. The team's fanbase quickly grew and, at this writing, FaZe Clan collectively has over 7.5 billion views across their channels. Under Temperrr's guidance as FaZe's CEO, the team has scored endorsement deals and produces its own merchandise.
Harper is seen as a nonconformist -- his stated mission is "make baseball fun again." He has been on the warpath to break through the old-school tradition of understatement in baseball. His philosophy: Get fired up and the fans will follow.
Tebow might not have made it to the big leagues yet, but the minor leaguer and former NFL quarterback's brand is one of the most impressive in all of sports. Tebow has used that brand to sign a multi-year contract with ESPN as an announcer and to create the Tim Tebow Foundation, which supports children all over the world.
One of the most recognizable names in women's golf, Wie has set her self apart with her incredible abilities. (She won the 2014 U.S. Women's Open), her intellect (she graduated from Stanford) and style (Golf Magazine named her "The Most Stylish Woman in Golf" this year.)
Unorthodox from his swing to the way he wears his socks up over his knees, Pence isn't concerned with how he looks -- he's just concerned with getting things done. And having earned two World Series rings during his time with the Giants, it is clear he's on to something. Fans of opposing teams have embraced Pence's freewheeling (okay, wacky) nature. A few years back, a trend started where fans would hold up signs at games that read things like "Hunter Pence Eats Pizza With a Fork," "Hunter Pence Picks the Hamburger in the Hot Dog Race," "Hunter Pence Likes Godfather 3" and "Hunter Pence Still Has A Blockbuster Card." Pence embraced who he is, and the world of baseball has embraced him back.
The reigning NBA MVP is known for his unique fashion taste and eccentric personality, and his business ventures feed off that unique taste. His Mountain Dew commercials urge his audience to be themselves, and he has invested in social media news company Blend.
Bennett doesn't just hawk activewear or sports drinks on TV. Instead, he's focused much of his entrepreneurial endeavors on a more creative pursuit. His company, The Imagination Agency, creates children's books, comics and animated films, in addition to being a digital app.
Reeves-Maybin was a tackling machine at Tennessee and after battling through an injury-plagues 2016 season, was selected by the Lions in the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite being a beast on the field, he is described by friends as analytical, thoughtful and even-keeled, which are all valuable traits to have in the entrepreneurial world. Reeves-Maybin is the brand ambassador and equity partner of fantasy sports startup YouRulz.
The Olympic and World Cup champion Morgan is almost as impressive off the soccer pitch as she is on it. Her book series The Kicks has been published by Simon & Schuster, featured on The New York Times bestseller list and turned into an Amazon series. She's also partnered with UNICEF Kid Power to fight child malnutrition, and counts Nike and Coca-Cola among her many partners.
ESPN reported that Prescott makes nearly five times more in endorsements than he does in annual salary. Pepsi, 7-Eleven, Campbell's Chunky Soup and more major sponsors have signed up to work with the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, and Prescott has also trademarked his name for promoting motivational speeches.
"Determined" is the perfect word to describe Miller's playing style and personal outlook. Miller was a star quarterback at Ohio State until a shoulder injury sidelined him. After surgery and a lengthy recovery, Miller's spot as quarterback was taken. Rather than hanging up his helmet, he pivoted to wide receiver and thrived. In the 2016 NFL Draft, he was selected by the Houston Texans. In keeping with that relentless drive to find success, Miller is a partner in two startups and is deeply involved in the burgeoning world of cryptocurrency.
Morgan earned an MBA from the University of Miami and recently co-founded Huddle Ventures, which helps athletes monetize their influence and serves as a social impact platform dedicated to empowering young, minority entrepreneurs. Last year, Huddle Ventures sent 100 students to SXSW to help them experience the tech festival.
Named 2017's Female Player of the Year award by the Golf Writers Association of America, Thompson gets attention for her skills, along with her fearless approach to media, such as her appearance on the cover of Golf Digest wearing only a towel for a shirt.
In 2010, Marshall signed a five-year, $50 million contract -- the highest ever for a wide receiver. He had financial security and stability, and he had depression. In an incredibly honest essay written for The Players Tribune, Marshall described his struggles with mental illness and violence, and how he found his calling to help others and remove the stigma of mental illness with his foundation PROJECT 375.
Patrick dropped out of high scholl to pursue a career behind the wheel -- and the gamble certainly paid off. In 2008, she became the first (and only) woman to win an IndyCar Series Race. Patrick's ferocious drive to win on the track translates to her approach to everything she does -- from running businesses to creating iconic moments in advertising.
Rabil is one of the best lacrosse players in the world -- he's won two Major League Lacrosse MVPs and two titles. But he might be just as well known for his business ventures, including his must-listen Suiting Up podcast, which features other sports figures like Bill Belichick and Venus Williams.
For over eight years, Jenkins has dedicated his time and energy to helping others, through his foundation. In February 2017, Jenkins was awarded the NFLPA's Byron “Whizzer” White Award for his charitable efforts off the field.