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Maybe you’ve seen the Hanes ads starring Michael Jordan lately… the ones where the famed basketball player espouses the virtues of the brands new Tagless briefs. If you haven’t, you’ve no doubt seen the countless other ads featuring famous athletes sponsoring their favorite undies over the years. One wonders, why the prominence of athletes in underwear advertising? Does it herald back to seeing our ancient gladiators exalted as living demigods and our desire to live vicariously in their shoes? As USA Today recently noted, whatever the reason, folks just can’t seem to get enough of jocks in their skivvies.
In terms of the modern era, athletes endorsing underwear brands has really been an established practice only since the 1970s. Baltimore Orioles pitcher, Jim Palmer was one of the first sports figures to advertise for underwear, specifically. He endorsed Jockey in the late 70’s and had his image plastered on billboards in Times Square. Nowadays, such a thing is commonplace, but at the time it was quite unusual. (It is worth noting that Jim donated the proceeds from sales of his underwear poster to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.)
Nowadays athletes seem to be the default spokespersons for men’s underwear. Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard just signed to appear in ads for Adidas‘s underwear lines. Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers is part a provocative animated billboard campaign, upon which the football star appears shirtless with the caption “Cam Newton doesn’t wear underwear …” followed by an image of Newton in undies and the quote “… he wears the Under Armour Boxerjock.”
The immense profitability of these ads can easily be surmised. David Beckham used to pose for Emporio Armani underwear, before cutting out the middleman and creating his own line of underwear for H&M. Clearly, Beckham saw the profitability of his own image and has used that to create a company of his own.
After Beckham’s departure, Armani simply turned to another soccer star, Cristiano Ronaldo in 2010, and tennis champ Rafael Nadal in 2011.
Tim Tebow now stands in the position of the aforementioned Jim Palmer, repping Jockey. Tebow, however, ever-modest, has declined to appear in the racy ads of the likes of Beckham and other players.
Whether or not it’s because we want to be like Mike or do it like Beckham, it’s obvious these athletes excel at selling us on their underwear and so at least for now, let’s get into it! Below is a gallery of our favorite sports figures hawking underwear. On your marks, get set..