Branching out: How Athletes Expand their Brand

Lebron James and Cristiano Ronaldo

When he decided to get into the alcohol business, Conor McGregor became more than just a UFC fighter and former champion. The “Notorious One” got behind a brand of Irish whiskey, Proper No. 12, and went to work promoting it. 

Unlike with NFL stats, it isn’t hard to parse the numbers to determine if McGregor has been successful outside the octagon.

Since launching the brand, McGregor and his partners have sold over six million bottles of whiskey. They would later end up cashing out by selling a majority share of the stock in the company for $600 million last April. 

As social media has grown, more athletes have begun branching out of sports to capitalize on their name recognition by getting involved with businesses.

Knocking Out the Fat

George Foreman was once the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, known for his tenacity in the ring. Foreman’s personality outside of the ring in retirement didn’t reflect anything menacing. Foreman’s friendly nature held push an invention of Michael Boehm of Batavia, Ill., over the top.

Foreman got into the grilling business and became a pitchman for what became the Foreman grill in 1994. Since he got involved with the product, over 100 million grills have been sold. It ended up being a lucrative proposition for Foreman. Salon Inc. gave him a $138 million buyout to use his name in 1999. Before that, he was earning 40 percent on the profit of each grill sold. 

Kobe Bryant, Oscar Winner

When Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant retired from basketball, he immediately hopped into the business world. While Bryant only had four years of post-basketball work before he died in a helicopter crash, he showed a keen business sense. He purchased a stake in a beverage company later bought by Cola-Cola, which grew his investment from $6 million to $200 million.

In media, Bryant started Granity Studios, which was going to develop television shows, films, and novels. One of the short films produced by Bryant’s company, “Dear Basketball,” was nominated and won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

Ulysses finds a different path

Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman never made more than $350,000 in a season during an NBA career that spanned from 1975 to 1987 with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. However, once his post-playing career started, he had a strong foundation.

While playing in the NBA, Bridgeman worked with Wendy’s and learned their business model. Bridgeman would own over 100 Wendy’s and Chili’s restaurants when he got out of the league. Bridgeman would accumulate a net worth of over $600 million and later bought Ebony and Jet magazines after they declared bankruptcy in 2020.

What’s in a name?

Many athletes utilize their jersey number and name to build a brand. Tom Brady, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Steph Curry are just a few athletes who have come up with logos and lines of apparel to help sell merchandise. Ronaldo’s CR7 brand includes lines of footwear, underwear, denim, and fragrances.

Brady, who has the TB12 brand and 199 productions, has a diverse line of products. On the TB12 side, it isn’t just limited to apparel. He also has protein bars and snacks, supplements, electrolytes, workout equipment, and recovery tools. His 199 Productions is a brand that will look to develop media like films and tv shows.

Anyone want some pizza?

Becoming investors in pizza franchises is something many athletes have branched out into. LeBron James is the co-owner of 19 Blaze pizza franchise. Shaquille O’Neal and Peyton Manning have also gotten into the pizza business, becoming owners of Papa John’s franchises. O’Neal is on the Board of Directors for Papa John’s.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Lahore Times.

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