Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, take it to the bank.
Muhammad Ali might have left his mark in the ring before the advent of pay-per-view and $300 million fights like last year’s much-hyped matchup between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, but his status as a cultural icon outlived his athletic career, and his fame became a reliable engine for revenue well into his later years.
Various sources reported that Ali’s net worth was between $50 million and $80 million over the years, and in 2006, Forbes listed the former boxer on its Top 100 Celebrities list, citing a net worth of $55 million.
That year, Ali had sold an 80 percent stake in the right to license his name and brand for $50 million to CKX Inc. In the five years prior to the CKX sale, Ali’s intellectual property had earned between $4 million and $7 million a year, according to Michael Ezra, author of Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon. (CKX subsequently renamed itself Core Media Group and sold off the Ali business in 2013 to licensing company Authentic Brands Group, then filed for bankruptcy just last month.)
Ali’s popularity helped him transcend the sporting world in his retirement years.
His collaborations ranged from athletic apparel companies like Adidas and Under Armour to more eclectic brands like Toyota and tech giant Google, which made an Android character likeness of the boxer.
Just last year, Under Armour rolled out a line of T-shirts and other gear emblazoned with pictures, slogans and other references to the boxer, using photos, video and audio recordings from Ali in his heyday in its marketing to promote the line.
Although it’s still too early to tell how Ali’s death will affect the fortunes of Under Armour and other brands with which he was affiliated, sports marketing experts anticipate a surge in demand for licensed items and memorabilia as fans of all ages commemorate The Greatest.
Ali’s death “will spark a significant increase in sales of his branded merchandise and memorabilia,” Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising, said in an email. “His name and likeness will continue to be a highly valuable commodity for many years to come."