Athlete GlovesThis week, AdAge ran an article about undefeated boxing star, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. and his surprising lack of brand endorsements.

The article argued that the main reason for Mayweather’s endorsement trouble, despite his in-ring success and larger-than-life persona, is the declining interest in the sport of boxing from marketers.

The article sites the historically corrupt nature of boxing as well as the rise of alternative combat sports like Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as the main reasons for boxing’s “dwindling profile.”

While the author’s view on the decline of professional boxing is accurate, there are other sports without a strong U.S. following that manage to produce highly marketable athletes.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong and swimmer Michael Phelps have proven to be marketable athletes despite very little mainstream attention on their respective sports.

This leads me to believe that the reason for Mayweather’s lack of brand endorsements is a bit simpler.  People don’t like him.

You know the old adage “people do business with people they like”?  The general public embracing a brand because a professional athlete is endorsing it is no different.

So what exactly makes a professional athlete marketable?

1. Being relatable.

Relating to someone suggests that you can see some part of yourself in that person.

As his nickname suggests, Floyd “Money” Mayweather perfectly fits the stereotype of the overpaid athlete who shamelessly flaunts their wealth and lives a life of excess.

Compare this to Indianapolis Colts Quarterback and notorious brand spokesperson Peyton Manning.

If you didn’t already know Peyton from watching him every Sunday on the football field, his warm, mild-mannered, Southern personality might suggest he earned a modest wage working a typical nine-to-five job.

Everyday Americans relate to Peyton.

Peyton Manning’s 2009 endorsement earnings – $13 million

2. Being inspirational.

If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than professional golfer Phil Mickelson.

It took Mickelson over a decade of being labeled the best golfer in the world to never win a major championship, to finally capture the Masters Championship in 2004.

In addition, many of Phil’s recent accomplishments have come under the unthinkable stress and heartache of watching both his wife and mother battle breast cancer.

Phil inspires.

Phil Mickelson’s 2009 endorsement earnings – $46.6 million

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. may be a charismatic showman who is 41-0 with 25 knockouts, but that doesn’t guarantee that global brands can depend on him to relate to and inspire their audience.

Freedman, Jonah. “The 50 highest earning American athletes.”

Sports Illustrated. 15 January 2010.  Web. 20 May 2010.