Published On: April 26th, 2019Categories: Intellectual Property, Technology and IP

Each year on April 26, we join the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in celebrating World Intellectual Property Day. This year, the celebration is focused on IP and sports. Have you ever thought about how much IP and innovation is found within sports, athletic brands, and athletes? Today, in honor of World IP Day, we wanted to highlight a few of our favorite famous athletes who not only consistently reach for the gold, but also how they use IP within their brands.

Reaching for the Gold: LeBron James

LeBron James has been recognized as the best player in the NBA and one of the greatest athletes of all time. According to an article by Forbes, James is the NBA’s highest-paid player. He has effectively secured deals that license images, names, and endorsements for millions of dollars. In 2017, he brought in $31 million from his salary and $55 million from brand endorsements, adding up to $86 million total. Some of his brand endorsements include major names such as Intel, Verizon, Nike, Coca-Cola, Beats by Dre, and Kia Motor.

Aside from endorsements and partnerships, James has his own brand empire. From the beginning of his career, he has been “working to build a singular brand as recognizable as any in the sports world, rivaling signature imprints like Michael Jordan’s “Air Jordan” line of shoes and apparel,” says Jonathan Crowl for Content Standard. James is not only an athlete, but he is also a branded business. He uses patents and designs to produce high-quality, high-tech products that excite fans across the world. If an athlete Lebron James sets up a successful brand, it can exist for years and years after their playing days are done (just like Michael Jordan).

Reaching for the Gold: Serena Williams

Many big brand athletes that likely come to mind are men, but let’s not forget about women. Serena Williams is a tennis champion who has served up much more than match wins. With 10.8 million followers on Instagram, 10.9 million on Twitter, and 5.3 million on Facebook, Williams is considered a major influencer.

As of December 4, 2018, Williams earned $27 million from not only her athletic performances but business endeavors as well. This ranks her as the highest paid female athlete, largely due to her endorsement portfolio. She has her own clothing line, Serena Williams, which launched in May 2018 and also purchased a stake in the Miami Dolphins back in 2009. Her long list of endorsement deals includes Gatorade, Delta Air Lines, Aston Martin, Pepsi, Beats by Dre, OPI, IBM, Intel, and Chase Bank – just to name a few.

Reaching for the Gold: Derek Jeter

Although former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter retired after 20 years with the Major League Baseball team in 2014, his name, brand, and brand endorsements are sure to live on for the foreseeable future. With brand deals including Nike, Gatorade, Movado, Rawlings, Steiner Sports, Avon, Simon & Schuster, and more, Jeter proves to be more than an athlete; his name carries a lot of weight.

Not only does he have intellectual property assets related to the brand sponsorships, but he also founded and launched The Players’ Tribune in October 2014, a website that provides content written by professional athletes, including daily sports conversation and first-person stories. One year later, Jeter expanded The Tribune platform to podcasts, digital video, Sirius radio, and more. He said, “we’ve demonstrated what athletes can do when given the chance to express themselves. Now it’s time to push that opportunity to the limit.”

What will be next? According to Forbes, Jeter has also expressed interest in being an owner of an MLB team. One thing is for sure: Derek Jeter is a perfect example of someone who is constantly reaching for the gold.

Who are some of your favorite athletes? Do they have their own brand empire and/or endorsements, protected by intellectual property? Leave a comment and let us know!

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