Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes of his era, but he didn’t cash in on his prime the way you would probably expect him to do these days.

Back then, product endorsements for a boxer were actually scarce, and the most notable commercial that he had was for a roach trap during his earlier years. In the 60s and 70s, Ali’s racial pride and political activism made a lot of advertisers nervous.

According to Michael Lewis, Marketing Professor of Emory University, “there was so much less money in things like sports and sponsorships at the time. If he had that level of stature now, he could be a multi-billion dollar marketing entity.” When it came to self-promotion, his athletic brand − the “Greatest of All Time,” as he actually labeled himself − still remains the best in sports.

In 2016, Ali was tied with Tom Brady and Michael Jordan for Number 1 in “familiarity” when it comes to Q ratings, which measures various aspects of athlete and celebrity marketability. He was more familiar to those who were between 18 and 34 than other athletes like Lebron James.

So, why didn’t that give him Jordan-level endorsements? The truth is that Ali was in a whole different league to start with.

Different worlds

Muhammad Ali early years

Ali’s actual career didn’t start at a time when there was a lot of endorsements in sports. He was known all over the world, but when it came to global rewards − they didn’t exist. Until the 80s, athlete sponsorship deals were pretty small.

Ali’s politics may also have been the cause of the situation. He was stripped of his boxing license and title for refusing to enter the army during the Vietnam War, and he didn’t box for 3 years at the height of his career.

Plus, the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 1984 may have also slowed him down.

Resurgence

Muhammad Ali and Ronald Reagan

In the last 15 years, the marketing world caught on to Ali. He was on a Wheaties box in 1999. He was retired, but he was still the first boxer to appear there.

In 2004, Ali and his daughter Laila were a part of the global branding campaign for Adidas “Impossible is Nothing.” Ali appeared in ads for Apple, Porsche, Pizza Hut, and even in Toyota’s 2015 Super Bowl commercial, “How Great I Am.”

In 2006, Ali sold 80% of the marketing rights for his likeness and name to CKX, an entertainment and licensing firm, for around $50 million. The brand has been changing hands, until it ended up with Authentic Brands Group, which has gotten several deals, including a partnership with Under Armour on a clothing line which features his likeness. The shoes, accessories, and clothes have debuted recently and were promoted with Ali’s photos and videos.

The demand for Ali’s image in the world of marketing isn’t likely to fade anytime soon. Iconic stars like Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Marilyn Monroe have been featured in ads after their deaths for many years to come. Would you support Ali’s brand image and buy yourself something from this clothing line? Like the post and share it! And be sure to check out other articles about

Would you support Ali’s brand image and buy yourself something from this clothing line? Like the post and share it! And be sure to check out other articles about the attack on Mike Wallace and Keith Yandle’s new team.