When Wayde van Niekerk left Johannesburg for Bloemfontein this week, it was in a R3 million Audi R8 and he had a $550 000 (R7.92 million) Richard Mille watch on his wrist.
If it all sounds a touch excessive, consider that this is only the beginning of his earning potential, which will hit stratospheric levels for the humble but gifted 24-year-old. This was after he obliterated 400m legend Michael Johnson’s 1999 world record with a jaw-dropping new mark of 43.03 seconds to win gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games last month.
Given that he hasn’t been at this serial winning and record-breaking caper for as long as the man he looks up to, Usain Bolt, Van Niekerk won’t quite be in that bracket (the big fella is on $32 million per annum). But in South African terms, let’s just say he’s had a decent 2016.
Repucom executive chair Kelvin Watt conservatively estimates that Van Niekerk should earn at least R28 million a year after his exploits in Rio.
When he went to Brazil, Van Niekerk – who was the reigning world champion – already had endorsement deals with Adidas, Visa, Richard Mille, Audi, T-Systems and appliance manufacturer Defy.
“He was one of the few South African athletes with a global Adidas contract, which is believed to be between $350 000 and $500 000,” said Watt.
“For the record and the gold, he’ll probably get a bonus in the region of $150 000 to $300 000.
“When his endorsement deal was negotiated, he wasn’t the world and Olympic champ, so that deal is now going to skyrocket to between $750 000 and $1 million because he’ll probably be Adidas’ leading athlete internationally.”
Van Niekerk’s agent Peet van Zyl said his client had expressly forbidden him from talking about the figures relating to earnings and his endorsement deals. But he did mention that T-Systems had given Van Niekerk a R1 million bonus for his win and record, while Defy would also stump up another R1 million.
The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee awarded the athlete and his coach Ans Botha with R500 000 (R100 000 goes to the coach).
There was talk of R150 000 from Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, but the agent said he hadn’t seen a cheque yet.
Van Zyl said the handover that made headlines during the week, the R3 million Audi R8, meant he would drive that car for the next year.
Van Zyl also said his client’s deals with Audi and T-Systems were set for a global upgrade, while others, such as Adidas and Richard Mille, were set for significant hikes.
Richard Mille, whose ultra lightweight watches are also worn by the likes of tennis player Rafael Nadal and Formula 1 drivers Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean, are thinking of a limited-edition Van Niekerk range.
“And the good thing is, if the rand plummets again, he gets more money without doing anything.”