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Pele Still Seeking Big Payday at 68

Pele, perhaps the greatest player ever in the world's most popular sport, is still hustling to make a living at the age of 68. The Brazilian legend recently signed a merchandising deal with Nomis, a little-known Swiss cleats manufacturer, in his latest effort to establish himself as a branded empire. During the 32 years since his retirement, Pele, once the most recognizable athlete in the world, has failed to leverage his fame into the vast fortune that other sports superstars like Michael Jordan enjoy today.

In some ways Pele himself is accountable for not capitalizing on his superstar status. While serving as an worldwide ambassador for soccer, he has never served as coach or a top team executive, or as a major television commentator in the spirit of ex-NFL great John Madden or golf's Johnny Miller. Many of Pele's attempts to score in the business world have also fallen short. He owned a construction company that went bust and a sports-marketing firm that collapsed amid a financial scandal. His product endorsements included a successful relationship with MasterCard but also a line of retro sportswear from Puma in 2005 that failed to take off. Pele can also blame the year of his birth, as his career ended just before the emergence of the modern sports-marketing behemoths currently filling athlete's pockets.

Defending the new Nomis deal, Pele says that he still possesses the branding power to compete in a youth-dominated industry. "My career gives my brand positive values and attributes and a message that goes from generation to generation," Pele said. "It's not like athletes now that are at the top of the game and then start playing badly. In my career, I have done it all. My message is clear from generation to generation. Pele is a guarantee."

 

Read the whole story at Wall Street Journal »

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