Swoosh: Nike Athlete Endorsements

SponsorPulse Staff
  • March 16, 2023
  • SponsorPulse Staff
Learn more about the often symbiotic relationship between brands and athletes as we recount some of Nike's biggest athlete partnerships over the years.
ICYMI: Nike is the undisputed champion of sports sponsorship. Their targeted focus on cultivating lasting relationships with athletic power players has served as a magnet attracting industry G.O.A.T.’S their way for years.

The prestige of a Nike sponsorship can do wonders for an athlete's career, whether they’re a NIL basketball player or a championship-winning NBA star with the ring to show for it. It’s undeniable—Nike sponsorships propel athletes to household name status.

Partnering up with fan favorites and rising stars also has a positive impact on Nike's bottom line too. Using consumer data, we uncovered how consumers feel toward brands that partner with some of their favorite athletes.

Here are some of the top Nike Sponsored Athletes in the Game:

Naomi Osaka

After winning her first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, endorsement offers began piling up for the Japanese tennis player. But shortly after winning the title, the former Adidas rising star traded her trefoil logo for a sleek Nike swoosh. 

While Osaka rakes in a reported $10M a year from the deal, Nike has supported her more than just financially. When mental health challenges saw the athlete skipping press obligations and ultimately withdrawing from the French Open, Nike released a statement: “Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognize her courage in sharing her own mental health experience”. Fact: The respect Nike shows their athletes is second to none. 

When it comes to numbers, 56% of US residents are aware of Naomia Osaka. Among those aware, 57% like her, and 25% would support the brands she partners with.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant has been partnered with Nike since the day he first set foot on an NBA court. At the start of his career, Durant partnered with Nike for $60M over 7 years. The partnership has only expanded as Durant has proven himself as one of the top basketball players across the globe. 

Just last year, at renewal season hit, the sports apparel brand re-signed Durant for a reported $300M over 10 years. Yes, you read that right. Plus, upon retirement from the league, it’s reported that Nike will pay the outgoing athlete $50M, not bad for the Brooklyn Nets baller.

Durant's likability among US residents (the 70% aware of him that is), is slightly above the average at 50%. Still, among those aware, 22% would support the brands he partners with, like Nike.

Megan Rapinoe

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe is no stranger to victory. In her latest partnership with Nike, Victory Redefined, Rapinoe draws on her passion for social outreach in an effort to reimagine the signature athlete partnership model.

To Rapinoe, Victory Redefined means sharing the spotlight and valuing people for who they are in an effort to encourage the best out of everyone. Rapinoe believes true victory celebrates diversity and acknowledges the collective effort needed to succeed, claiming that she’s never achieved anything on her own. The curated capsule footwear and apparel collection features a new logo to celebrate the cause near and dear to Rapinoe’s heart. Three cheers for cause-based athletic sponsorships!

Rapinoe's general awareness lags compared to some of the other athletes on our list at 46%, and 19% say they would support the brands she partners with.

Rafael Nadal

Advantage, Nadal. For one of the biggest names in tennis, a Nike sponsorship was a natural choice. Like Osaka, Nadal earns a reported $10M annually from the partnership. Nike also owns the trademark for the tennis ace’s Raging Bull symbol seen on all his uniforms and Nike clothing lines. 

Among US consumers, 53% are aware of Nadal, and among them, 42% state they like him. When it comes to the ability to impact purchase consideration for brand partners, Nadal's score is the highest of the group at 26%.

Ready for more?

In our Celebrity and Influencer Marketing Report, we break down how consumers feel about celebrities, whether they like them, and if they would support the brands they partner with to help guide endorsement decision-making.

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