The 22nd FIFA World Cup kicked off yesterday with Qatar vs. Ecuador, where Ecuador won over the host country 2-0. The month-long event–whose sponsors include adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa, and Qatar Airways, among others–will showcase the world's best players in a blockbuster broadcast event that FIFA estimates will draw an audience of over 5B viewers worldwide.
Stars like Alphonso Davies and Sergiño Dest will strive to shine, while storied veterans Lionel Messi and Ronaldo will aim to end their storied careers with a bang in their last World Cup appearance. We compiled the following roundup of the most sponsored athletes in the competition, in order of number of deals.
The Brazilian Paris Saint-Germain powerhouse has hinted that this year’s tournament–his third–may be his last. His sponsorship stable includes a whopping 36 brands, among them Puma, Netflix, Qatar Airways, Red Bull, Facebook Gaming, and Pokerstars. Red Bull, Neymar’s partner since 2016, is the main sponsor of his Five, the world’s largest five-a-side football tournament. Neymar’s deal with Puma–reportedly the largest individual sports sponsorship in history–earns him a reported $30M per year. His social media numbers reflect his mega-stardom: with a cumulative social following of over 340M followers, Neymar posted 127 times, engaging within the last 12 months more than 71M and averaging an impressive engagement of 3.6M per brand and 405.5K per post.
With this year’s appearance, Messi and Ronaldo will join an exclusive club--which currently includes just four other players–to have played in five World Cup tournaments. The Argentine legend’s 25 deals include Adidas–a lifetime contract that pays him a reported $25M per year–Budweiser, Pepsi, Lay’s, Gatorade, and Konami. He’s also the only athlete to have a deal with Cirque du Soleil.
With over 510M followers, Messi has become a social media marvel, posting 61 times in the last 12 months for a total engagement of nearly 150M, and averaging an astonishing 8.7M per brand and 1.3M per post. Messi’s 8 Adidas posts alone garnered engagement of 18.6M. The Argentinian phenom posted 11 times in 2022 for his premium lifestyle brand, The Messi Store (total followers:1.5M), engaging 16.5M fans.
This year’s tournament marks the fifth and final World Cup appearance of the Manchester United megastar, whose 21 partnerships include Nike, Clear, Binance, Herbalife, LiveScore, and Therabody. Sponsored by Nike since 2003, he signed a lifetime contract with the Swoosh in a deal worth a reported $1B. Ronaldo’s unrivaled global reach–he’s the most prolific person in the world on social media, with a total following of close to 760M–allows him to sign slews of exclusive deals, like his partnership with Talabat, a food delivery service company in the UAE.
With 496M followers on Instagram alone, his engagement numbers–a staggering 180M this year across 69 sponsored posts, averaging 12.8M per brand and 1.8M per post–eclipse all players on this list. Ronaldo 7 posts for his clothing and fragrance brand, CR7, garnered engagement of 41.3M, while his 5 posts for Nike scored 25.4M. Ronaldo also owns his own lifestyle hotel called Pestana CR7, with locations in New York, Madrid, Lisbon, Marrakech, Funchal, and his native Madeira.
The South Korean star of the Tottenham Hotspurs will make his third World Cup appearance in Qatar, entering the tournament with 14 deals: Adidas, Calvin Klein, Gillete, EA Sports, Tiger Beer, Republic of Gamers, NFTStar, Volvo, Tumi, OpenSea, SK Telecom, Korean Tourism Organization, Cartier, and Gentle Monster.
The only European football athlete sponsored by Volvo and Cartier, Son is Calvin Klein’s brand ambassador in South Korea, and joins Alan Walker, Loserfruit, Nyjah Huston, and Karl-Anthony Towns as a partner of gaming equipment maker, Republic of Gamers. In 2022, his 33 sponsored posts engaged 13.2M followers, with a per-brand average of 1.6M, while his 20 Adidas posts totaled 11M in engagement.
Following his monumental, $139M move from Aston Villa to Manchester City in August 2021–which broke the British signing record–Grealish will make his World Cup debut in Qatar, entering the tourney with a stacked endorsement portfolio of 12 brands: Nike, EA Sports, McDonald’s, Icons Memorabilia, Gucci, Amazon Prime Video, Panini, PlayStation, Topps, Bose and boohooMan. Grealish is one of two World Cup players, along with Serge Gnabry, to partner with Gucci, earning a reported $1.2M. The Man City megastar’s 21 sponsored posts totaled engagement of 3.1M this year, averaging 352.7K per brand.
Heading into his fifth World Cup, the Mexican stalwart known as “Memo” boasts 9 deals with Xbox, Nike, Trebel Music, Expedia, Michelob Ultra, Troquer, Hugo Boss, Dolo Neurobion, and Perfumerica. Ochoa posted 42 times for the 9 brands in 2022 , totaling 1.4M in engagement. This year, Americans Christian Pulisic and Carli Llyod joined Ochoa in a TV spot for Michelob Ultra–which also partnered with designer Guillermo Andrade to create a limited-edition, unofficial World Cup jersey for fans.
Virgil Van Dijk
This year’s competition will be the Dutch Liverpool defender’s first, but the Champions League winner already has 8 brand deals--with EA Sports, Nike, JBL, Cadbury, Tundra eSports, Meta Quest, Freia, and Sponsor Thailand--thanks to his notable success at the club level. Van Dijk is one of two European football athletes--along with Mason Mount--to have a deal with JBL. Van Dijk’s sponsored engagement on social media totaled 2.7M, with an impressive 455K average per brand.
The breakout star for Liverpool and England will compete in his second World Cup in Qatar, entering the tournament with deals with Therabody, Red Bull, Konami, WeAre8, Palo Alto Networks, Bang & Olufsen, and Under Armour, with whom he inked a multi-year deal worth a reported $2M annually. With close to 20M total followers on social media, the stellar right-back chalked up 5M in engagement and an average 628.3K per brand across 19 sponsored posts.
The Ghana-born, 22-year-old standout will lead Canada in its first World Cup appearance since 1986. Besides Nike, Davies partners with Bank of Montreal, Topps, EA Sports, BioSteel, Crocs, Jordan Brand, and HATTRICKS, teaming up with the TK to create a digital football collectable game. Davies’ 33 sponsored social posts racked up a total engagement of nearly 2M this year.
Kevin De Bruyne
Playing in his third World Cup in 2022 the Belgian Manchester City star’s sponsor lineup includes Nike, Therabody, UFL, Balln, SecretLab, Phemex, Wow Hydrate, and Lanistar. He’s also the only athlete endorsed by AI company, Balln, and crypto platform, Phemex. With a cumulative social following of 45M, De Bruyne engaged 2.1M fans across 18 posts, averaging 314.1K per brand.
The 22-year-old defender–on loan to AC Milan from La Liga club Barcelona–will be playing in his first World Cup for USMNT, and has deals with Nike, BioSteel, AT&T, Hugo Boss, Icons Memorabilia, and EA Sports. Dest posted 5 times on social media this year, engaging 465K followers.