Jordan Spieth is the newest money man in golf, becoming the first to surpass Tiger Woods in overall income since Woods first arrived on the scene 20 years ago. According to Golf Digest, Spieth earned $53 million in 2015, $23 million of which came in on-course earnings. Considering that logos are just on the shoes of Steph Curry, Tom Brady and Cam Newton compared to the head-to-toe sponsorships for Spieth, the two-time major winner is now one of the most high-profile faces for Under Armour, a $4 billion company. He's in the mix as an emerging face for Rolex, the watch brand that has the most insane collection of athletes in a single sport with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Phil Mickelson, Woods, Jason Day and Adam Scott. Coca-Cola didn't publicly disclose the value of its contract with Spieth, but it's well known the company agreed to make him among its highest-paid athletes.
While we've seen plenty of what Spieth is capable of on the golf course, we've haven't seen him enough off of it to judge just how good he is going to be as an endorser. Yes, winning is a big part of that success and important to advertisers, but being someone who is believable and down to earth is also important for a potential client. Here are a few athletes Spieth can look to as examples for developing his business strategy: Kobe Bryant: The Los Angeles Lakers superstar worked behind the scenes to become a student of the business game, reading Harvard Business School case studies and dropping business terminology naturally into a conversation. Bryant also spent extended time with executives at companies like Twitter and Facebook and dove deeper into their brands. He scored points with companies that paid him, like Body Armor and its brand of drinks -- which he bought a stake in, to find out what made them tick and shared with executives what he observed as a power user of their product. Tiger Woods: The 14-time major champion was one of the most marketable people in the world, but employees at companies such as Nike felt so much pressure to execute when he was at their events that the tension was palpable. Perhaps Tiger might not have sensed it, but there's a different vibe when people feel good about the relationship instead of feeling nervous about the expectation of perfection. Mike Trout: Trout has personified endorsing something you really love. Agents of top superstars always stress the importance of aligning with blue-chip brands, but doing one deal that comes from your heart is healthy and fun. Mike Trout endorsed SuperPretzel. He's on the boxes. Why? Because he loved them. And while it looked a little amateur, he didn't care because it was his thing from when he was growing up.
Peyton Manning: When Manning came out of Tennessee, pitching anything was awkward and didn't come naturally. He learned that it's not enough to be just successful on the field and that becoming a good pitchman is essential. With a willingness to be more silly, and have scripts written for him that fit his strengths, Manning improved -- most notably the MasterCard spots in which he interacted with regular people and cheered for them at their jobs. Later on, he opened up in DirecTV spoof ads and hit his stride with the Nationwide "Chicken Parm" jingle. Steph Curry: As Curry turned into the most popular player in the NBA, he remained the same Steph that he always has been -- genuine and honest. Like Curry, Spieth's upbringing gave him a chance to have confidence in competition and be humble outside of it. Perhaps Spieth doesn't even need the help from Curry. Spieth has said that his family, along with sister Ellie, who suffers from a neurological disorder, keeps him grounded. Kevin Durant: He stood on top of the world after his MVP speech that paid tribute to his mom and rang up a ton of endorsements, including deals with Sparkling Ice, Sonic and a $300 million extension with Nike. Then he fired back publicly at his critics, which only hurt him in the long run. If Spieth ever feels wronged, take it in stride and stay above the fray. Phil Mickelson: If there ever was a person who could show the power of a smile, it's Phil, who never seemed to lose the feeling that he played a game for a living. Amazingly, Mickelson often got the benefit of the doubt just because he flashed his smile to the gallery. Spieth would be wise to follow in his footsteps along the gallery ropes. Arnold Palmer: Top athletes meet more people each day than the average person, so when that athlete becomes a star, people understand you can't remember everyone. Recalling a person's name, though, can be spellbinding and it's actually worth money over time. Palmer, 86, is the champion in this category and Spieth's attention to this kind of detail would pay off for him, too.