For nearly a millennia, sports have played a major role in American families from playing or watching together, to getting behind a favorite team and celebrating victories or consoling each other in defeat. Teams, individual players and fans sewn together have aggressively turned kids’ games played for fun into kids’ games generating billions of dollars through robust capitalistic endeavors ranging from the sale of beers and hot dogs at the stadium to cable subscriptions or your favorite burger named after last year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). But perhaps nothing was ever so essential or sacred to a fan or the games in which they cheer for than the ability to procure sports collectibles.
Priceless Sports Memorabilia
Early 20th century baseball saw the likes of hall of famers Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, and scores of other athletes who made their celebrity on the diamond. Ruth was arguably the most revered and recognizable athlete in the world. They were all, however, bigger-than-life figures, even demigods depending on who you asked. So it’s no surprise that if one were to get hold of a piece of sports memorabilia belonging to said stars, let’s say like a baseball trading card, well, the value, at least in the eyes of the beholder, could have been priceless. And that right there—the love to acquire trinkets that brought the fan closer to the player has served as an enticement to continue to build more adoration and interest in the player or the game, consequently brought in revenue, for the sport so everyone is happy.
But it was never just about the Dizzy Dean rookie card, or Al Kaline’s last pair of cleats, or the sport of baseball; signed basketballs, hockey sticks, and footballs have a comparable share in the sports collectibles business. As does stock car racing, tennis and, oh, yes, boxing. And who was the most prolific, flamboyantly successful pugilist ever to dance in the ring? That would be Muhammad Ali. He was so special that gloves he wore for the Ali vs. Patterson bout in 1965 fetched $1.1 million to the highest bidder. The further back you go, the more the price tag goes up, understandably. Honus Wagner played 21 Major League Baseball seasons, mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and held a slew of records. Wager’s 1909 baseball card sold for $2.8 million!
The Massive Industry of Sports Collectibles
Trading cards, especially of the baseball variety, were among the most desired sports collectibles for fans during early 20th century. They were less pricey, and available in candy and tobacco products. Though the practice of collecting trading cards has diminished by a large margin, they’ve been replaced by more expensive souvenirs available online or in brick and mortar stores, and, of course, right at the ball field or arena. The demand to own sports memorabilia has opened a number of opportunities for private retailers, sports franchises, and the athletes themselves.
For instance, take Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, one of the foremost NBA players who’s naturally going to capitalize on his talents through making appearances and supplementing his income through the sale of his sports memorabilia. A basketball player can put value on a number of signature items including sneakers, wristbands, headbands, jerseys, and, of course, basketballs. Tiger Woods is one of the most successful golfers of all time, perhaps the best, so it goes without saying that when Woods offers up a signature on anything; could be a club, a shirt, a ball if he can fit it on there, the price tag will soar. A signed picture, let’s say, from Woods can go for as much as $30,000 depending on the condition of the item. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, arguably the greatest QB in NFL history, is in high demand for his autograph or game equipment for collectors.
His stuff is so coveted that during Super Bowl LI and Super Bowl XLIX, a member of the foreign press swiped a jersey from each game in an attempt to sell the items on the black market. Martin Mauricio Ortega was nabbed in Mexico by the FBI and forced to return the uniforms. He subsequently resigned his position as direct of newspapers for Diario La Prensa, a major Mexican publishing company. The theft is only one indication of how robust and lucrative the sports memorabilia industry has become.
The Value of Athlete Endorsed Products
But the revenue generated through the sports memorabilia is nothing compared to what one can earn with athlete endorsed products. We’ve all seen them sporting their Nike shoes, or Reebok cleats; their shaving cream, BBQ grills or spicy mustard. You name it, and an athlete has likely endorsed it at one time or another, and for extremely profitable reasons. Athlete endorsed products can go a long way in keeping a company’s bottom line healthy, and the athlete’s pockets full.
In fact, some even make more money with athlete endorsed products than they do with their largest professional sports contract. According to Business Insider, Rafael Nadal, one of highest paid tennis players ever, “earned 80% of his money from endorsements.” Nadal has sponsored such products as Bacardi Rum, Armani, and Nike and has raked in over $30 million. Perhaps no one has taken more advantage of an athlete-endorsed product than Michael Jordan. He’s widely known as the greatest basketball player of all time. As a result, the opportunity for him to endorse products were plenty, but none of them resonated with the world, especially with his fans, than the ‘Air Jordans” sneaker. For decades now the high-flying kicks have churned out style after style, captivating all walks of life, along with multiple generations, and it’s never skipped a beat. To this day, the Air Jordans are synonymous with style, agility, competition and winning.
Shop Limited Edition Sports Collectibles and Athlete Endorsed Products at PLB Sports.
Athletes Turned Philanthropists
But these athletes are not the only one who can benefit from the proceeds. A fantastic way to raise money for a charitable cause can be through the sale, or auction of sports memorabilia. And you don’t have to go far to find them. With a click of a button you can bid on the most expensive and sought-after items in the world that are 100% authenticated by the athlete or organization making the product available. Or, there are more traditional auctions where the auctioneer receives bids from an audience until the item is considered “sold.” The process is more commonly associated with expensive antiques and paintings, but that’s changed over the past few decades, again, thanks to the high demand of sports collectibles. Then, there’s a banquet style, silent auction where people gather for a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres, see a souvenir they’re interested in that displayed among a cast of other items, and simply write their name on the appropriate line that signifies a bid. If you’re lucky enough to be the top bidder, your name will be called out in person, or you’ll get a phone call at a later date.
Professional Athlete Foundations
Over the years, professional athlete foundations have supported wonderful causes and have been the direct result of some major contributions to various foundations. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson spends much of free time visiting sick kids at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He also, however, heads up the Why Not You Foundation that supports various children’s causes and aims to ,” encouraging and challenging today’s youth to embrace opportunities, overcome obstacles and make a positive impact throughout their lives,” according to the foundation’s mission statement. Hall of fame goaltender for the Boston Bruins, Gerry Cheevers, has spent a lifetime raising awareness of Cystic Fibrosis, an illness that’s quite personal to the legend as his two granddaughters each battle the disease, but his efforts and many others have raised millions of dollars over the years. And how about that Lebron James? His charity, The LeBron James Family Foundation, according to Bleacher Report, “focuses on children, with James dropping in the neighborhood of $41 million in 2015 [alone] to send 1,100 kids to school.” That same year, though, one athlete stood atop the pack, and his name is Cristiano Ronaldo, one of professional soccer’s biggest stars. The Real Madrid striker is considered the world’s “most charitable athlete.” He’s donated to natural disasters relief, and once donated nearly $1 million toward surgery for a 10-years-old kid with a brain disorder.
The list of professional athlete foundations formed and good deeds demonstrated by those at the top goes on and on. They use their fame and respective fortunes to better the lives of others through charitable works every day. From hall of famers to current athletes, professional sports feature some of the most generous individuals in the world. By committing to make a difference off the field and outside the arena, professional athletes make an impact far beyond the reach of their athletic endeavors. Football star Ed McCaffrey has spent his entire life dedicated to making the world a better place by helping children in need. Last year, Philadelphia Eagles’ athlete, Chris Long donated his 2017 salary to support cultural change through education and empowerment. His teammate, Malcolm Jenkins uses his notoriety for good through his charity, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, which is committed to youth development in underserved communities.
By committing to use their fame for the good of others and to spread their fortune, these professional athletes transcend the game. It doesn’t matter what professional sports you love; there are athletes from all arenas vying for the betterment of our society, medicine, and so much more. And, as such, people continue to support their favorite athletes through signed jerseys, limited edition sports memorabilia, and more. The market continues to grow – as do the good deeds of the players.
Shop Limited Edition Sports Collectibles and Athlete Endorsed Products at PLB Sports.