Advertising and fame go hand in hand. Major brands have a vested financial interest in hiring popular people, especially athletes, to help pitch their products. Marketing studies have determined that celebrities and well-known figures offer a higher trust factor when consumers are making a decision whether or not to buy a product. That’s why you’ll see many of your favorite athletes in ad campaigns on television commercials, on billboards, and in magazine ads.

Football players from both Europe and South America have become among the most famous celebrity pitchmen in the business because of their mass appeal and global awareness. They are the best on the pitch and as a result, they’re highly-paid pitchmen to help promote and endorse brands from the largest companies in the world.

Robin van Persie (Netherlands), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Wayne Rooney (United Kingdom), and Fernando Torres (Spain) are among the most recognizable faces in the international sporting world. Those five are also the most sought-after to provide celebrity endorsements and they are highly compensated as the faces of billion-dollar brands.
The top footballers also happen to each play for Premier League franchises worth over a billion dollars. According to valuations by Forbes, Real Madrid is worth $3.2 billion (Ronaldo), Barcelona $3.1 billion (Lionel Messi), Manchester United $3.1 billion (Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie), and Chelsea $1.2 billion (Fernando Torres).


EARNINGS (Forbes): $18.7 million

Robin van Persie from the Netherlands is considered one of the top strikers of his generation. Videos of his remarkable goals on YouTube are among the highest watched. Robin van Persie has drawn comparisons to Marco van Basten, one of the greatest players in Dutch history.

Robin van Persie has international marketability because he plays on the Dutch national team. Plus, he also played for the most popular team in the English Premier League. Robin van Persie was one of the highest-paid players in the league when he played for Arsenal and Manchester United. He currently earns a sizable income from his celebrity endorsements in the United Kingdom and in Europe. According to Forbes he earned over $3 million as the pitchman, while his footballer salary (with bonuses) was over $15 million.

The Dutchman’s major sponsors include Adidas, Pepsi, and Mercedes. According to their 2015 findings, Repucom listed Robin van Persie fourth overall on the list of the most marketable footballers in the world. Even though more men watch football than women, Robin van Persie also has a high appeal toward female viewers, which gives him even more versatility as a marketing and brand ambassador.

Andrew Walsh from Repucom explained, saying, “Sponsors shouldn’t just look at the most famous players to market their brands but actually at how perceptions shift between countries and population demographics to ensure the biggest return on their investment. Take appeal as another defining criteria of public perception. Globally…more women than men say that they actually like these players. This makes them especially effective brand endorsers for products aimed at this target group.


EARNINGS (Forbes): $79 million

Ronaldo might be the most popular athlete in the world right now. Of course, he only needs to go by one name: Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese scoring machine, earns a hefty paycheck playing for Real Madrid (his salary and bonus was worth $52.2 million). According to Forbes, Ronaldo also raked in $26.8 million in endorsements. His roster of clients is a list of Fortune 500 Companies and the largest international brands such as Armani, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Emirates, Nike, Motorola, KFC, PokerStars, Tag Heuer, Castrol, Herbalife, and Konami.

When he’s not working on his international sports campaigns with Nike, Ronaldo can be found playing Texas Hold’em at the popular card room provider PokerStars. Ronaldo instinctually applied his football skills to the poker felt and then applied any new-found poker lessons to the pitch. He has also recently launched his own underwear line, which has further contributed to his marketing appeal.

Repucon listed Ronaldo at the top of their list of the most marketable footballers in the world. Ronaldo scored 77.46m the highest Global DBI Score for most recognizable supserstar, which translates into a Global Awareness score of 83%.


EARNINGS (Forbes): $70 million

Lionel Messi is famous in both hemispheres (North and South) and on every continent including Antarctica. Messi won the UEFA Best Player in Europe award for the 2014-15 season, and the Argentinian star plays for Barcelona, where he is one of the league’s highest-paid players ($48 million salary and bonuses). Off the pitch, Messi endorses major brands such as Adidas, Dolce & Gabbana, Pepsi, EA Sports, Samsung, Gillette, and Turkish Airlines. According to Forbes, Messi earned $22 million in endorsements.

Messi also gets a lot of exposure from EA Sports’ popular FIFA video game. Millions of kids all over the globe want to be Messi so they can score a lot of goals when playing FIFA on their consoles.


EARNINGS (Forbes): $25.8 million

Recently Wayne Rooney scored his 50th career goal for England, which put him at the top of the list for most career goals. Wayne Rooney is the most recognizable person in England, even more so than the Queen herself!  Rooney sells millions in merchandise, and his jersey is always at the top of the sales chart.

Rooney was listed as the second most marketable footballers by Repucon. Rooney scored the second highest on their global awareness score, and was only behind Ronaldo.

The highly-popular footballer for Manchester United is trusted by major corporations. As a brand ambassador, Rooney can be seen in ads for Samsung, Coca-Cola, Nike, and EA Sports. Rooney earned $19 million in salary and bonuses, but he also netted $6.8 million in endorsements.

Rooney also has a publishing deal with Harper Collins. Even the prestigious literary powerhouse thinks they can benefit from Rooney’s visibility.

EARNINGS (Forbes): $18.3 million
Fernando ‘El Nino’ Torres is one of the top players from Spain. Torres played for both Liverpool and Chelsea, where he commanded a sizable contract. His current salary is $14.8 million including bonuses.
According to Forbes, Torres earned $3.5 million as a brand ambassador for Pepsi, Adidas, Chevrolet, Gatorade, Aviva, Banco Gallego, Kellogg’s, Pringles, Pepe Jeans, and Toshiba. His signing with Adidas was well documented. Torres used to be sponsored by Nike until the 2014 World Cup. At that time, Adidas sponsored the Spanish national team and Torres switched from Nike to Adidas. During the World Cup, Torres was the center piece of Adidas international ad campaign. After the World Cup, Torres continued to endorse Adidas.


Over a stretch of six years, either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo won the FIFA/Balloon d’Or award for best player in the world. Messi plays for Barcelona and Ronaldo plays for Real Madrid. Those are two of the most valuable franchises of all of professional sports including the NBA and NFL. Messi and Ronaldo have been adversaries on the pitch, but that competition has also spilled over into the advertising world.

Messi and Ronaldo also represent competing brands in the lucrative but fiercely competitive athletic shoe and soft drink markets. Messi reps Pepsi and Adidas, while Ronaldo is the face man for Coca-Cola and Nike. The two also represent competing fashion lines and airlines. Messi is the pitchman for Turkish Airlines and Dolce & Gabbana, whereas Ronaldo is a part of worldwide campaigns for Armani and Emirates Airlines.


To sum up, five of the most popular footballers in the world are from different countries, yet they all have international appeal. They gained exposure playing for the top teams in the world, which is why many international brands trust them to help promote their products. Football is the one sport that is played universally around the globe and in the fast-paced marketplace, you need a familiar face attached to your product.

Robin van Persie, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, and Fernando Torres are among the best in the world, and they collectively represent and help promote brands from the largest corporations in the world.

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