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Lessons to Learn from 5 Pro Athletes-Turned-Entrepreneurs


In today's world, entrepreneurs and athletes have a lot in common. Both have a competitive attitude and a get-it-done mentality. They're also not afraid to take calculated risks and see failure as an opportunity to grow.

If you have a passion for both business and sports, then learning more about the businesses established by your favorite athletes can be inspirational.

Professional sports are as much a business as they are a source of entertainment. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many athletes are also company owners.

From branded clothing to multimillion-dollar investment firms, our Miami SEO experts will show you how these athletes "score" in the business field.

Five Pro Athletes Turned Entrepreneurs

1. Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

Sport: Lawn Tennis

Businesses:Sugarpova, Tonal, Therabody, SuperGoop

Maria Sharapova started playing tennis when she was four years old in her hometown of Sochi, Russia. When she was younger, her father would reward her with a lollipop or chocolate after a long day of practice, so she had an extra reason to practice.  

By the age of six, tennis legend Martina Navratilova recognized her and advised her family to relocate to the United States for better training opportunities. Soon after, the rising star and her father left her mother to train at Nick Bollettieri's renowned academy in Florida.

After moving to the United States at the age of 17, Sharapova won her first Grand Slam. Despite being suspended from the WTA for 15 months, the 34-year-old has earned more than $38 million in career prize money and has been the world's highest-paid female athlete for 11 years in a row because of her multiple brand endorsements.

After all she's been through in her athletic career, she still has a sweet tooth. That's one of the reasons why she founded Sugarpova, a confectionery company, in 2012. She also thought that pursuing business would allow her to earn a living after her tennis career ended.

Sharapova's candy line, which includes chocolates and gummies, is now available in 22 countries via various retail partners and online stores.

Aside from the athlete's various brand ambassadorship, she has also invested in health and wellness companies like Tonal, Therabody, and SuperGoop.

Combining all her partnerships and investments has earned her an estimated net worth of $200 million, as of this writing. Despite her success, she is constantly striving to learn more.

The Takeaway:
Sharapova turned her childhood memory and fondness of sweets into a life-long business.
Having a niche is vital because your overall marketing and message will fall flat if you try to appeal to everyone. Your niche might also be linked to the characteristics of your ideal client. As a result, it's critical to have a specialized niche market and connect to a consumer or client in a way that they can actually relate to.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Sport: Soccer

Business: The CR7 Brand (hotels, denim, blanket, Crunches, etc.), Eden Perfume Cristiano Ronaldo Fragrance, The Zela Restaurant, private jet rental, Insparya

Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese professional football player who plays as a forward for Manchester United in the Premier League and captains Portugal's national team. He began playing professional soccer at 18 and has since taken the soccer world by storm. He's set himself 654 professional goals, and his legs alone are worth $144 million.

Ronaldo may not be the highest-paid athlete globally, but how he uses his brand power on social media sets him apart from the competition. He's a frequent social media user and has a larger social media following than any other athlete. He has tens of millions more followers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter than Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr.

Ronaldo has built a fortune from endorsement deals and has invested heavily in his own businesses due to his social media presence. These are six of the ventures that have helped him make money:

  • CR7 Hotels: Ronaldo and Pestana Hotel Group, a Portuguese tourism enterprise that eventually became Pestana CR7, collaborated on this hotel.
  • Clothing and Perfume: He appears to be interested in the fashion world. Along with owning a lingerie business, Ronaldo owns a jeans company, CR7 Denim, and a joint venture with Denali to produce CR7 Blanket.
  • CR7 Crunch Fitness: In 2016, Ronaldo signed an agreement with Crunch Franchise to open CR7 Crunch Fitness. He intends to open 100-150 fitness centers, but there have only been two CR7 Crunches recorded in Madrid so far.
  • The Zela Restaurant: Ronaldo owns a stake in Grupo Mabel Capital, the company behind the prestigious restaurant Zela. It was constructed in two European cities: Ibiza, Spain, and London, England.
  • Private Jet Rental: Ronaldo also has a private jet rental company. The rental price per hour is around 3000 euros. Furthermore, Ronaldo made a profit of one million euros (2018) from this venture.
  • Insparya: This is Ronaldo's most recent venture. Ronaldo owns 50% of the company and appoints his girlfriend, Georgina Rodriguez, as executor. Insparya, a hair transplant clinic with several branches in Portugal, specializes in hair transplantation.

With the soccer star's legacy extending beyond the playing field, it appears that his lucrative businesses will continue even when he retires.

The Takeaway:
Thanks to social media, Ronaldo was able to form more meaningful ties with sponsors and get to know future business partners better. He was able to develop a fan base and gain their trust. This gave him a consistent income stream, which he could then leverage to invest in various businesses.
Social media has the potential to generate new streams of traffic that will lead consumers to your products and strengthen your brand's identification in the eyes of the consumer.

3. Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt

Sport: Athletics

Businesses: Champion Shave Inc., Tracks & Record Jamaican Restaurant, Bolt Mobility

Usain Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter known for his iconic 'To Di World' pose, has become a worldwide phenomenon by breaking records and becoming a globally recognized personality.

Bolt rose to prominence after winning three gold medals and breaking three world records at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. He won five more gold medals for Jamaica in the subsequent Olympic Games.

In 2009, Bolt earned the title "world's fastest man" during the World Championships in Berlin, when he set a new world record of 9.58 seconds in the 100-meter dash at a speed of 27.8 miles per hour.   

Bolt isn't just fast on the track; he's fast at making money. Although running isn't one of the wealthiest sports in the world, Bolt is still able to earn a large portion of his earnings through brand sponsorships.

Because he is such a successful and well-known athlete, Bolt can command up to $500,000 in appearance fees.

In 2016, Bolt launched Champion Shave Inc., a range of high-end six-blade razors at an affordable price. He didn't stop there; two years later, he opened Tracks & Record Jamaican restaurant, with plans for 15 U.K. sites. He's had a Jamaican branch since 2011!

Bolt was ranked 45th among the world's highest-paid athletes by Forbes in 2018, and he is one of the highest-paid Olympians of all time, earning $31 million a year.

The Jamaican sprinter most recently established Bolt Mobility in 2019, a startup that leases out eco-friendly electric scooters via a mobile app called the 'Bolt Chariot.'

The Takeaway:
Athletics events organizers pay Bolt a fortune because they know his presence alone can fill a stadium. But he's capable of selling more than just seats. He represents speed and success, which means brands of all sizes will pay top dollar to be associated with him.
As an entrepreneur, you need to set a milestone for yourself. Milestones are what you use to make your business a successful one. Although you may not be as fast as Bolt when it comes to reaching your milestones, doing so consistently will eventually lead to progress.

4. Yao Ming

Yao Ming

Sport: Basketball

Businesses: Yao Restaurant and Bar, Yeeha Restaurant, Yao Family Wines, Byejoe, Shanghai Oriental Basketball Club, Ablues Design

Yao Ming, born in Shanghai, joined the Shanghai Sharks as a teenager and went on to play as the star player of the NBA's Houston Rockets in 2002. Many people consider Yao to be a great NBA player. He was always one of the finest players in the league while he played basketball.

In fact, he received some criticism at first because people told him that someone of Asian heritage wouldn't be able to play on the court. When he came off the bench, he always proved this to be untrue.

As it turns out, he's just as good at business as he was at basketball, if not better. Since his retirement a few years ago, he has built a corporate empire for himself that rivals that of any business mogul in the world.

To start, Yao opened his own restaurant in Shanghai. It has been a massive success since it first opened its doors. Even after all these years, it remains a popular destination. It's widely regarded as one of the best restaurants of its kind in the entire region.

It wasn't long after he opened a restaurant in Shanghai that he decided to open another in Houston, the city where he had made a name for himself while playing for the Houston Rockets. By all accounts, this restaurant has been an enormous success.

Yao then continued to invest in Byejoe, a private Houston-based company owned by a small group of American and Chinese investors. It imports ‘baijiu,' a liquor from China modified for the U.S. market.

In 2009, Yao took over his former club, the Shanghai Sharks, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. Yao's management team and the Shanghai Sharks signed a framework agreement on share transfer.

In 2016, Yao invested in a Shanghai exhibition company called "Ablues Design" and owned 0.6 percent of its stock. The company completed its IPO application in early July of the following year. Yao is the company's seventh-largest shareholder. 

Presently, Yao is the Chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association and has even opened his own winery in Napa Valley, California. But we haven't heard much from the big guy, as he's mostly kept to himself.

The Takeaway:
Without a doubt, Yao understands what it takes to build a great firm and how to keep things moving in the right direction even after the honeymoon stage has passed. As a result, he has built a corporate empire for himself, one that no doubt benefits from his status as a renowned NBA player.
If you're an aspiring entrepreneur, you'll have to face the challenge of making a name for yourself. You must prove to the whole world that you're versatile enough to succeed in practically any arena that interests you.

5. Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao

Sport: Boxing

Businesses: Waterotor Energy Technologies, One Championship, GToken, JMP Mass Media Production Inc., The Pacman Brand (hotels, gyms, travel & tours, etc.), and much more

Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao is the only person in the history of professional boxing to have won world championship titles in eight different divisions, totaling approximately 11 major world titles.

Born in Bukidnon, Philippines, Pacquiao is the only lineal boxer to have won five different weight classes. He’s widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Although most of us know Pacquiao as a legendary boxer, he admitted in a 2018 interview that his path to becoming one was not easy. "When I was younger, I became a fighter because I had nothing. I had no one to rely on except myself. I realized that boxing was something I was good at, and I trained hard so that I could keep myself and my family alive," he explains.

According to Forbes' list of the world's 100 highest-paid athletes, Pacquiao became the highest-paid athlete in the world in 2015. He earned approximately $1.2 billion in revenue from his 23 pay-per-view bouts and $19.2 million in pay-per-view purchases.

He is a celebrity, an endorser, a businessman, and a Senator of the Philippines. At the time of this writing, he is also running for President in the Philippines!

According to Pacquiao's 2016 statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN), only 7% of his assets are invested in businesses, some of which he has publicized on social media.

Waterotor Energy Technologies, an Ottawa-based clean technology firm that brings renewable energy to the Philippines, is one of his notable business ventures. He's also a significant stockholder in two Singapore-based companies: One Championship, a sports media company, and GToken, a startup that bills itself as the world's first crowdsourced mobile publisher and advertising platform.

The Takeaway:
As a high school dropout from a family that couldn't even afford rice, Manny felt like being rich was just a fantasy. Thanks to his humble but strong heart, Manny did not let poverty deter him from pursuing his dreams.
Similarly, when you're an aspiring entrepreneur who has dreams of having your own company, you have to dream bigger. Dreams are supposed to be larger than life; otherwise, they aren't dreams at all.
To be open to incredible opportunities, you must be courageous enough to set lofty goals. Limiting one's ambitions can only lead to limiting one's success. And, more often than not, bravery and heart outweigh wealth and resources.

And So Many More...

As you might expect, there are many other pro athletes who became entrepreneurs during or near the end of their careers. While these people are most well-known for what they do in front of an audience, there is often more to their lives than that.

Keep in mind that if you enjoy both sports and business, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Need Help with SEO in Miami?

If you're like the athletes that we've mentioned in this article who aspire to become successful not only in their chosen field but also in business, you should consider collaborating with the best Miami SEO company.

At Digital Resource, we'll help you achieve your dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur by helping you grow in the digital space.

Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Who else is a former athlete-turned-entrepreneur? Please tell us in the comments.

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