Have you ever supported a professional athlete’s business venture off the court or field? You may…and may not have even known you were doing so. If you have guzzled down an Arnold Palmer, grilled on a George Foreman, or sported some Air Jordans, then you are lining the pockets of a famous athlete!
A new report by sports betting and casino aggregator aGamble ranks the current and former professional athletes with the best “second acts.” We analyzed 100 athletes with some of the highest net worth to determine which have grown their net worth the most beyond their sports careers.
Top 10 Successful Athletes Outside of Sports
There’s a heavy physical toll to being a professional athlete, and athletes know their bodies will not be able to keep up with their sport forever. Professional athletes’ sports careers are often short-lived. Some will face injuries while others age out of their sport as younger, more able-bodied athletes enter the playing field. So, many athletes focus on additional pursuits off the field!
The most successful athlete in this regard is Arnold Palmer. The PGA golfer earned around $1.86 million during his career, but while he wasn’t on the links he was working on lucrative endorsement deals and inventing a drink that became the legendary ‘Arnold Palmer.’ The golfer invented the self-named drink mixing lemonade and iced tea, and it definitely paid off. His net worth is $700 million, a 375% increase from his golf career earnings.
While people will cheer and bet on athletes during their professional careers, many fans don’t remember athletes in their post-career endeavors. Most don’t recognize the second and third most successful athletes: Junior Bridgeman and Vinnie Johnson. The former NBA players both chose different ways to invest their money off the court and profited big time. Bridgeman funneled his cash into fast-food franchises, and Johnson created an automobile supply company called the Piston Group.
Popular Products and Businesses Connected to Athletes
In a survey of over 1,000 Americans, we asked them about popular products and businesses connected to athletes. When shown pictures of Junior Bridgeman and Vinnie Johnson, more than 90% of survey takers did not recognize them.
Unsurprisingly, Michael Jordan is one of the most recognized athletes. Nearly everyone knew he was a professional basketball player, and many people sport his popular shoe brand. 1 in 5 Americans own Air Jordans.
While 68% have enjoyed an Arnold Palmer, about 1 in 4 had no idea the man behind the drink was a famous golfer. 1 in 2 respondents have played Tony Hawk games such as Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam, but more than 1 in 10 didn’t realize Tony Hawk is a professional skateboarder in real life… not just in a video game!
Top Products Americans Purchase From Athletes
One thing is for sure: most Americans wanna be like Mike and other famous athletes. 2 in 3 have bought promoted by a former or professional athlete, and people are willing to spend a lot of money on these products. On average, Americans have spent $245 on products endorsed or created by athletes in 2023.
The top purchases are clothing and shoes, followed by food or drinks, and sports equipment. 1 in 5 bought these products after seeing athletes promote them on social media. Gen Z and Millennials do this more often than older generations (similar to their interest in online sports betting).
However, not everyone is sold on these products. Nearly 3 in 5 (58%) don’t think athletes genuinely use and believe in the products they endorse.
Post-Career Opportunities & NIL Laws
While most Americans know athletes for their time playing professionally, 1 in 3 know these athletes more for their post-retirement careers. 1 in 5 shared they know Charles Barkley best for his broadcasting career than for his time in the NBA.
Many athletes end up going into broadcasting after playing professionally, but Americans don’t feel like everyone gets the same shot. Overall, 78% think former male athletes are given more job opportunities after retiring than female athletes. Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) think former female athletes should get more broadcast and commercial opportunities.
When it comes to college athletes, 2 in 3 Americans believe they should have the same endorsement possibilities as professional athletes. Specifically, 81% of people support name, image, and likeness laws, but 1 in 4 felt that these NIL laws will ruin college sports.
The world is at the fingertips of many college, professional, and retired athletes. After getting notoriety and money from their sport, they can do a lot more with their lives after retiring. Whether it’s investing in companies or launching their own products, you may not even realize you’re supporting a famous athlete’s entrepreneurial pursuit!
In June 2023, we surveyed 1,048 people about their knowledge of athletes. Respondents ranged in age from 19 to 94 with an average age of 42. 45% were women, 53% men, 1% non-binary, and 1% would rather not say.
To determine the athletes with the best second acts we analyzed 100 current and former professional athletes with a net worth of $60 million or more. We then gathered each athlete’s estimated career earnings and analyzed which athlete had the biggest growth beyond their sports career.
When using this data and research, please attribute by linking to this study and citing agamble.com