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  • Writer's pictureFox Ellis

4 Income Opportunities for Athlete’s Off of the Field

The average career span of a professional athlete across the four major sports is about 4.6 years. An athlete could spend nearly two decades working to reach the pinnacle of their sport but have a minimal window of opportunity once they've arrived.

A chance in professional sports should not be squandered; as for many, this is the peak of both earning potential and publicity.

Understanding that a professional sports contract does not last a lifetime, how can athletes capitalize on their name, even after their contract has run out?


Merchandising has three major benefits for athletes: brand loyalty, free advertising, and additional income.

It can be easy for a professional athlete in a team sport to build a following via your team's fanbase. It's incredibly beneficial to leverage your team's loyal followers and put your brand in front of them. Fans will be happy to represent one of their own, and the more who do so not only help strengthen brand loyalty but become walking billboards.

Revenue Sharing

Revenue sharing has made more millionaires than both Jay-Z and the lotto. Content creators have taken advantage of the revenue sharing models put in place by platforms like YouTube and Facebook, and some athletes have too.

The idea is that a platform receives dollars from companies to place their ads in front of videos, and of course, companies will pay more in front of highly followed content creators. YouTube and Facebook, in competition with one another, pay their content creators a percentage of the revenue from the content based on viewership. The highest-grossing YouTuber's made about $312,000 per video in 2020.

Professional athletes have great personalities, and fans love to see what they're up to off the field, court, or ice. Content creation not only positions an athlete for high earning potential but creates an opportunity for recognition, even beyond their existing fanbase.


Athletes can no longer sit on their hands and wait for Gatorade or Nike to call them; the opportunities are in front of them to go out and find their sponsors. Businesses want to place their ads in front of public figures with a large following. While the notoriety of being a professional athlete might be enough to garner attention from advertisers, the athletes who can create intriguing and highly consumed content across media platforms will pique the interest of those willing to pay big bucks for ads.

Rather than taking the simple "#ad" approach, it's beneficial to both the athlete and the advertiser to create unique content that revolves around the product. Creative content helps maximize the relationship between athlete and sponsor, making for a more lucrative relationship down the road.

Speaking Engagements

President Barack Obama has a net worth somewhere around $70 million. Because the annual salary of a serving POTUS is around $400,000, Obama didn't earn his riches from the role of the Presidency itself. However, the former President is one of the highest-paid public speakers, reportedly making anywhere from $500,000 to $2 million an event.

For example, athletes like Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Tebow, Derek Jeter, and Emmitt Smith can earn up to $100,000 for speaking engagements. For athletes, speaking is another excellent way to enhance a brand, putting you in front of an audience to share a message that is close to your heart. While it may be tough to rake in Presidential numbers, it's still another great way to produce income.

The life of an athletic career is not guaranteed. While every major sport outside of the NFL sets forth guaranteed contracts for their players, the money will not always be flowing in. That's why athletes must take advantage of the publicity they get on the big stage and use their brand to find alternative sources of income, setting them up for a lifetime of financial benefits.

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