Athlete endorsements have been around for decades, as companies have tabbed megastars to pitch and lend their credibility in order to reach a specific audience—and hopefully make some cash.
But not all endorsements are created equal. Some products don’t seem to require an athlete endorsement from a brand standpoint. Others appear to be an awkward marriage. Some…well, they’re just downright bizarre. But in the end, money always talks.
There’s a little bit of all of these in this list of The 10 Strangest Athlete Endorsements. Prepare to either be reminded or amazed at how some athletes aligned themselves with companies and products they otherwise had no business partnering up with. But we're guessing it was all worth it once that checked cleared.
LeBron James - Little Tikes
King James is one of the richest men in the world thanks to endorsements from Nike, Coca-Cola, Kia, and…Little Tikes?
Yeah, apparently James has some type of deal with the children’s toy company. There’s no information on a specific endorsement deal, but the company’s website has a “LeBron James Family Foundation Collection.” This includes a LeBron Little Tikes hoop, trampoline, and toy chest. It seems like everyone wants a piece of the King.
Tom Brady - Uggs
Tony Siragusa - Depends
The 12-year NFL vet and former Fox broadcaster definitely isn’t an A-list guy. But to be fair not too many star players will flock to be the face of an adult diaper ad campaign. Marketing adult diapers has to be one of the toughest jobs in the world, so I guess you could do worse than getting a semi-recognizable name to overly emphasize how manly wearing Depends is.
By the way, the word “diaper” is not mentioned once in this ad.
Ray Lewis - A Snuggie Knockoff
When you think Ray Lewis, Siragusa's former teammate on the Ravens, you probably think of one of the most ruthless, hardest-hitting linebackers to ever play the game. If not that, then it’s probably how he plea bargained out of a murder charge.
Either way, you’re probably not thinking of the 13-time Pro Bowler as an avid fan of a blanket with sleeves. But that’s just what his RL52 clothing line sold in 2010: An RL52 brand Snuggie lookalike.
Click this for a picture of Lewis in the Snuggie. It’s must-see.
Jimmy Johnson - ExtenZe
The following situation has happened to the best of us: You’re watching TV with your mom. Maybe a Tim Allen movie or something. You’re having a good time. And then, out of nowhere, Jimmy Johnson’s ExtenZe commercial comes on. Welcome to the most awkward 30 seconds of your life.
The Johnson ExtenZe ads were cringeworthy. Legends like Johnson shouldn’t have to stoop to selling “natural male enhancement” pills to make a couple bucks. Also, ExtenZe settled a class action false advertising suit in 2010.
Joe Namath - Beautymist pantyhose
This probably came before 99.9999 percent of Complex’s readership was born, but is so surreal that the Jets Hall of Famer quarterback actually went through with this back in the 70s that it had to be included.
Charles Barkley - Weight Watchers
Steph Curry - Brita
The face of the Warriors and Under Armour is also the face of Brita water filters and would like to remind you that you are what you drink—one of the lamest examples of copy writing we've heard in a long time.
The two-time reigning NBA MVP signed a three-year deal with the water filtration company in 2015, and put out the above campaign that's the most uninspiring commercial for water you'll ever see. Your mom’s water filter is not really a product you’d expect an NBA superstar to endorse. Curry can do better.
Russell Westbrook - Kings and Jaxs boxer briefs
Michael Jordan recently compared his on-court demeanor to Westbrook's. High praise from the G.O.A.T. But off the court, it's a very different story.
Jordan’s known for endorsing sneakers, sports drinks, and t-shirts. Westbrook chose the boxer briefs route when he started working with Kings & Jaxs in 2013. He has done several photo shoots for the products, making him one of the best-known underwear model since Cosmo Kramer.
Michael Jordan - AMF Bowling
Jordan has been involved in more iconic commercials than any athlete in modern American history. But this 1998 AMF Bowling commercial is probably the least iconic ad he’s ever done.
The commercial shows incredibly 90s-looking kids showing Jordan how to bowl. “His Airness” picks up the bowling ball like it’s a basketball, and is politely reminded by some kid not to stick his hand in the bowling machine. His acting skills that led to his Oscar snub in “Space Jam” were on full display in this spot.
In hindsight, this is a very underrated commercial. Its combination of bad acting and 90s-ness makes it fun to look back on.