We all know the big names across the sports world. Manning. Brady. LeBron. Durant. Big Papi. Crosby. Ovechkin. Woods. Mickleson. Messi. Ronaldo. These are all big names not because of what they do on the field, but what they do off of it.
All of these athletes have made appearances on TV and in entertainment and are often looked to as big faces for endorsements of various brands and companies. A big name athlete associated with your brand can go a long way to leaving a lasting impression in the eyes of fans.
However, what will happen when these athletes retire? Who will be there for brands to turn to in order to market their products? Below are a list of 10 that I thought of that could be the “next faces” of sports marketing and athlete endorsements across all spectrums. Who do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Odell Beckham Jr.
- WR, New York Giants
- Notable Endorsement: Nike
In 2015, the wide receiver draft class was predicted to be a deep one. That proved to be true on the field, as may rookie receivers made an immediate impact. However, arguably none made more of an impact that Odell Beckham Jr. Despite the Giants not making the playoffs, Beckham put up the best stats, had the catch of the century, and quickly became famous for his pregame trick catches.
While not hanging out with Dude Perfect, he’s out there making Nike gloves look good. He signed a deal with the equipment company before the season began. His brand is only going to grow as well. Nike won’t be the only ones calling for him and as long as he keeps making plays and remains as fun as he has been since he started, he could be an enticing endorser for brands.
- QB, Seattle Seahawks
- Notable Endorsements: Microsoft, Bose, Alaska Airlines
Young. Successful. Super Bowl champion. Well-spoken. Russell Wilson has the potential to be a superstar in the NFL. After being a successful player for two different schools in two power conferences, he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, thrust into the starting role right away, and has helped manage the Seahawks to three straight playoff appearances.
As a result of this success, brands want to get behind the exciting pro. Microsoft throughout the season used him and the Seahawks to push their products, such as the new Surface. Bose used him playing against Clay Matthews to push for their new headphones. And if his success continues, his outgoing, engaging persona will make for a great ambassador for many different products.
- PG, Golden State Warriors
- Notable Endorsements: Express, Under Armour, State Farm
From college to the pros, Steph Curry has been known for having an incredible jump shot and being a terrific floor manager as a point guard. It arguably has not shined brighter than it has this year, where he is the front runner for MVP, set the NBA record for most 3’s in a season, and helped Golden State have the best record in the NBA.
If you have been to a mall with an Express lately, you have also probably seen his face plastered all over the front of the stores. He is the newest ambassador for the clothing company, endorsing his favorite shirts and styles. He also has appeared in TV spots for Under Armour, State Farm, and others. As his popularity grows, even though he is not a dunker, his marketability will grow with more buckets and more wins.
- PF, Milwaukee Bucks
- Notable Endorsement: Gatorade
As one of the more exciting prospects to be drafted in 2014, Jabari Parker showed nothing but incredible potential in high school and in his one year at Duke. After being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, his time on the court was limited due to injuries. While he may not have won Rookie Of The Year, he still can make a big impact in the future in a town yearning for success.
Gatorade was not afraid to jump on him and use him in their latest line of commercials. Using his story of going from high school to today, his background of fighting through hard times in a career in sports can be used as a selling point. And if he lives up to the hype and helps make the Bucks true contenders, Gatorade won’t be the only one to use him.
- OF, Los Angeles Angels
- Notable Endorsements: Nike, Subway
Trout has taken baseball by storm in his few years that he is been in the league. He has won the MVP, made the All Star Game every year, and has led baseball in WAR. In an earlier post I wrote, he is arguably the “face of baseball” amongst those still active in the league, and he can only go up.
With that success comes more demand to be in the spotlight. Subway, as they have done with young athletes in the past (RGIII), signed him to push their food to healthier audiences. Nike has designed their own cleats centered around him, emphasizing the speed he brings to the outfield and basepaths. As he continues to be a star, look for more brands to jump on board to the point where he could potentially reach Derek Jeter-level stardom.
- OF, Washington Nationals
- Notable Endorsements: Under Armour, Gatorade
Before Harper was the #1 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Nationals, he was blasting 500-foot home runs in college and setting himself up for an exciting career. And while he might not be at the level Trout is quite yet, he is fun to watch on a very talented team. Plus, he is not shy one bit about his on-the-field and off-the-field personality.
As a result of this young talent and his watchability, brands are willing to jump behind him and ride the wave of his popularity. Both Under Armour and Gatorade picked up on the young star and designed exciting ads centering around him. If the Nationals finally reach the potential many predict them to have and Harper shines, brands could turn to him for an exciting, brash player willing to give 110%.
- C, Lake Erie Otters
- Notable Endorsements: Reebok; BioSteel Sports
Hockey super-prospect Connor McDavid is the kind of talent scouts drool over. He has been deemed the best prospect since Sidney Crosby, and even then McDavid posted better numbers in junior hockey than him. The Edmonton Oilers were lucky enough to win the lottery to get the chance to draft him so it will be interesting to see if he lives up to the hype.
Before he was even in the NHL, however, Reebok signed him to a mega-endorsement, landing the next great player for the forseeable future. BioSteel Sports Supplements has already put him in commercials. The big issue is that he will be going to a team that has a history of messing up top talent in recent years. Plus, Edmonton is not a big market and plays at awkward times (they were not shown on NBC or NBC Sports all season). However, if he takes the Oilers to the point where Gretzky did AND he is able to take on USA superstar Jack Eichel & Buffalo a couple of times, he has massive potential in more than just Canada.
- 2015 Masters Champion
- Notable Endorsements: Under Armour, AT&T
After being the second-youngest person to win The Masters and posting the lowest score ever this past year (and in just his second one), Jordan Spieth’s stock shot through the roof. After a very successful college career at Texas and having 3 tour wins before age 22, he is showing early signs of potential of becoming the next great American golfer.
Maybe that’s why Under Armour decided to invest so much in him. In early 2015, they signed a 10-year deal with the golfer. This also sets up the idea of a potential competition between him and another great young golfer: Rory McIlroy. USA vs Europe in the Ryder Cup. Under Armour vs Nike. This could be very VERY exciting and I’m sure UA will not be the only business that wants to get their hands on him. The PGA is counting their blessings as we speak.
- LW, FC Barcelona
- Notable Endorsements: Beats, Nike
Since 2008, soccer has been dominated by two names: Messi and Ronaldo. They are the face of everything, both on the field and off the field. Now, in terms of commercial appeal, Neymar is close to joining that list. He was the face of Brazil during the World Cup and since he is now on one of the biggest teams in the world, FC Barcelona, and doing incredibly well, the only way to go is up. (Also, fun fact of the day, we were both born on February 5, 1992. If someone is close to him and can tell him that we’re twins, that’d be awesome).
Now because he was the face of Brazil during the World Cup, needless to say he was everywhere on TV and the internet. Brands like Beats by Dre and Nike jumped on the opportunity to use him and other world superstars as their cover boy. Now, he is only 23 and is Lionel Messi’s left-hand man. As soccer become increasingly popular here in the United States, with the MLS getting more exposure and the BPL has drawn huge numbers on NBC Sports, he could be showing up on American TVs regularly and soon.
- UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion
- Notable endorsements: Reebok, MetroPCS
In 2012, the UFC made headlines by starting their own women’s bantamweight division and started signing the top fighters from all over the world. There has not been a better face for this division than Ronda Rousey. She is undefeated, has never gone the distance in a fight, and many consider her to be the biggest draw the UFC has right now. Her popularity will only grow.
Mainstream culture has certainly jumped on the hype train, as she has appeared/will appear in the new Fast & Furious and Entourage movies. She already has endorsement deals with Reebok & MetroPCS. Look for that number to increase. If she continues to be the biggest draw in the sport, bigger brands might want to jump on board. Also, with the Women’s World Cup approaching, if brands are looking to target the female demographic, she could be a popular choice to use.