Celebrity sells, but popular culture is a fickle creature and celebrities can fall from grace in an instant. Sports stars are something different, whilst we might say of a celebrity that they are famous for being famous, we can never say that of a sports star. We know that sporting achievement is the result of exceptional gifts and complete dedication; we know that sports stars are remarkable human beings. So, when a sports star becomes an ambassador for a product the effect is global and immensely powerful.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Three-time winner of the FIFA Ballon d’Or, 372 goals in 360 appearances for Real Madrid, Ronaldo is the highest paid, most famous athlete in the world. Not surprisingly he’s in huge demand as a product ambassador: his name is linked to Armani, Castrol, Coca Cola, KFC and Emirates Airlines. He is part of the TAG Heuer ad campaign, ‘Don’t Crack Under Pressure’ and the Formula 142mm Chronograph Ronaldo Special Edition watch is produced in his team colours of red and green. Following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan and James LeBron he became the third athlete to sign a lifetime deal with Nike which will make him the world’s first sports billionaire.
Serena Williams – In terms of the strength of her reputation, Williams is the female sports star who comes closest to Ronaldo. Arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time, with 21 Grand Slam singles titles and multiple doubles titles, Williams was ambassador for Puma for five years before switching to Nike in a $40 million endorsement deal signed in 2013. Like Ronaldo her name is also linked to a string of other products, including Gatorade, Wilson, AudeMars Piguet and Delta Airlines.
Boris Becker – Former tennis world number one and six times major singles winner, Becker is also an enthusiastic and successful poker player. In 2013, he won more than €90,000 at the poker table, so it is perhaps a natural progression that he should become ambassador for partypoker. ‘I’m equally competitive at the poker table as I was on the tennis court…I’m hoping to use my experience on the tennis court to my advantage.’
Ronda Rousey – Watched by over a billion households in a hundred and fifty-eight countries, Mixed Martial Arts is one of the fastest growing spectator sports in the world and despite her shock defeat at the hands of Holly Holm, Rousey remains its biggest female star. She confounds stereotypes by being a glamorous woman who is successful in a violent, brutal sport. She’s also not afraid of a challenge outside of the octagon as she proved when she became the first woman in twenty-two years to host Saturday Night Live. In December 2016, she became Pantene’s newest brand ambassador for their campaign which runs with the slogan: ‘Don’t hate me because I’m strong. Strong is beautiful’.