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15 Athletes Who Made More Money off Endorsements than Playing

It seems unusual to most people that an athlete could earn more from endorsement, advertising and sponsorship deals than they actually get paid for doing the very thing that has made them so famous, b

It seems unusual to most people that an athlete could earn more from endorsement, advertising and sponsorship deals than they actually get paid for doing the very thing that has made them so famous, but the reality is that it far from a rare occurrence. The greatest sporting figures are recognizable faces across the globe, as well known as the biggest movie or pop stars, and therefore it is not surprising that they are targeted by major companies and brands.

Furthermore, some sports do not pay their athletes as lucratively as you may think. Of course, the likes of soccer, football, basketball and boxing all pay their top athletes huge fees, but many of the athletes on show at the Olympics who compete in less watched sports which are not awash with cash do not always earn a great deal. As such, these athletes often rely on endorsement deals for a hefty chunk of their income.

There are probably hundreds of athletes who earn more through endorsement deals than through playing sport, but these are 15 interesting cases, with some athletes earning as much as 99% of their income through endorsements. Here are 15 athletes who make/made more money off endorsements than playing their sport:

15 Neymar

via telegraph.co.uk

14 Rafael Nadal

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

13 Ernie Els

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

12 Maria Sharapova

via businessinsider.com

11 Sachin Tendulkar

via indiaprwire.com

10 Li Na

via cnn.com

9 Mahendra Singh Dhoni

via sportskeeda.com

8 Phil Mickelson

via rolexblog.blogspot.com

7 David Beckham

via ealuxe.com

The world's most famous footballer of his time, David Beckham is a global superstar. Soccer is the most popular sport on Earth, so it is little surprise that it's most recognizable face receives huge endorsement deals. In a glittering career, Becks played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, L.A. Galaxy, A.C. Milan and PSG. He has also played 115 times for England, a record for an outfield player. Beckham retired in 2013, and despite nowhere near one of the best players in the world by that stage, he still earned more than Messi or Ronaldo, totaling earnings of almost $50 million.

6 Michael Jordan

via nikekicks.com

5 Roger Federer

via fanpop.com

4 George Foreman

via celebritybase.com

3 Tiger Woods

via muscleandfitness.com

2 Anna Kournikova

via whosthebomb.com

1 Usain Bolt 

via youtube.com

Track & field athletes rarely make a great deal through their sports, and often have to rely upon endorsement deals. No one epitomizes that better than the fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt. The 100 and 200 meter world champion makes at most $200,000 a year, and sometimes as little as $15,000 a year through his sprinting, but almost $25 million a year through his various lucrative endorsement deals, most notably with Puma, Gatorade and Virgin Media. Bolt's record of running the 100 meters in 9.752 seconds, where he hit almost 30 mph makes him, as far as we know, the fastest human to ever live.

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15 Athletes Who Made More Money off Endorsements than Playing