Athletes have traditionally been larger than life with their likeness carved into marble, then plastered on the front pages of newspapers, and now all the way to GameFly commercials and influencing via social media. Their endorsement, therefore, is not a new way to promote product and brand recognition.

But what happens when the player becomes his own brand, made up of a collection of other brands, influencers, and performance? The most recognizable names in sports today are doing just that–and brands are benefitting.

When you look at the landscape of talent players (and the brands they represent), you can see the evolution from endorsement to branding themselves. Like Michael Jordan’s legendary venture in the sneaker world, these athletes are creating a name for themselves outside of the game, too.

Stephen Curry with Under Armour and Express

Brands were building their image around the reigning MVP of the NBA before the 2014-15 season, but winning the championship didn’t hurt Stephen Curry’s marketing clout. Under Armour, Express, and Degree have all placed stock in Curry’s popularity, and he’s coming up big off the court.

Under Armour Chief Executive Kevin Plank said his goal is to “build a $1 billion basketball brand” starring the Golden State Warriors’ point guard. According to Market Watch, since Curry was named the NBA’s MVP in May, Under Armour’s shares have gained nearly 13%, and are up 25% in the year to date.

Express uses Curry’s Instagram fandom to its advantage, suiting him up for most of his out-of-uniform pictures. It is yet to be announced how this has affected Express’ corner of the men’s fashion market, but considering he sells his jerseys pretty well, it should pay off for the brand.

Cristiano Ronaldo brought to you by Nike

Ronaldo is one of the most marketable athletes in the world, according to Forbes. With a Facebook and Twitter following that includes more than 170 million fans, the Real Madrid footballer works with Nike to promote his line of boots inspired by his career.

But that isn’t all. The Portuguese striker also launched his own line fashion footwear, the CR7 luxury collection, produced with Portugal Footwear. Using his social media following as a direct line of fire, Ronaldo makes sure links to the products are front and center.

In fact, one tweet from the icon is valued at about $260,490. That works out to a value of almost 1500 shoes sold per tweet. His venture in the fashion world has solidified his status as not just an avenue for endorsement, but also a marketing gold mine in his own right.

Serena Williams available on HSN

Nike is the biggest player in the fitness game, and Serena Williams signed a 5-year endorsement deal with them back in 2013, but that’s not the only portion of her empire. The tennis star launched her own clothing line with HSN.

The collection’s debut came right after Williams’ U.S. Open win in 2014 and was a part of a larger move on the part of HSN to reposition the brand in the retail space. Williams seems to view the opportunity as a chance to establish herself as a fashion guru off the court.

“It’s been keeping me busy and keeping me happy because I love fashion. Everyone knows I love fashion, so it’s been really great,” she reportedly said.

When a player takes off their uniform, the world starts asking, “Who are they? What else do they do? What do they like?” The athletes themselves are willing to answer this question by working to establish a social media persona with companies they feel represent them well. Using these connections, the athletes are showing their smarts in the marketing world.

Feature Image: Courtesy of Flickr © Keith Allison

Originally posted on ZenContent’s blog.