Burgers, Basketball & Fishy Footballers: Sport Stars And Food Franchise Success

These athletes have made waves in the world of food franchising
14:00, 17 May 2020

Canada. Home to Moose, Mounties, manners and maple leaves, in that order. But the list can’t be complete without Timbit, the delicious dessert creation made in tribute to the hockey great who went from the ice rink to icing doughnuts.

Miles Gilbert Horton, the four time Stanley Cup-winning Ontarian known better to sweet-toothed non-ice hockey fans by his nickname that now plasters close to 5000 coffee shops of the $4.5billion franchise, Tim Hortons.

Two years after the NHL star’s untimely death in 1974, the Timbit was unveiled, the scrumptious punched-out part of the doughnut that’s removed to make the hole, bite-sized, fried and as embedded in Canadian culture as poutine and politeness.

In the 56 years since the flagship store in Hamilton was first opened, on May 17, 1964, Tim Hortons has stretched across the world to as varied locations as the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, China and the Philippines. The billion dollar brainchild of the former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman however isn’t the only food franchise sporting success story.

Peyton Manning - Papa John’s Pizza

Photo Credit: Papa Johns
Photo Credit: Papa Johns

With $248.5million, Peyton Manning remains the second highest paid quarterback of all time (only little brother Eli beats him in this regard). The double-Super Bowl winning QB didn’t carelessly splurge however. For six years until 2018 - two years after his retirement - Peyton had control over 31 Papa John's Pizza franchises, what was for a long time contractually ‘the official pizza’.

Also starring in multiple television adverts, Manning sensibly took advantage of the munchies market in Colorado, where he resided due to the latter part of his career with the Denver Broncos.

“Pizza business is pretty good out here, believe it or not, due to some recent law changes,” he said in 2014, two years after the state had legalized marijuana.

Shaquille O’Neal - Five Guys

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Dr Shaq Diesel is one smart cookie. After retiring from the NBA with a 19-year career that included four championship rings, the legendary 7’1” center went back to school and got his doctorate degree in 2012 from Barry University in Miami, Florida. What’s more he hasn’t been resting on the estimated $300million he earned from his prolific playing days with the likes of Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers.

A giant of the court, at one stage Shaq reportedly owned a mammoth 155 Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurants, that equated to around 10% of the entire franchise’s stores at the time.

Not content, he threw in a Krispy Kreme outlet for good measure as the Shaq Empire expanded.

He’s now turned his attention to Peyton Manning’s old stomping ground, becoming the other face of Papa John’s and purchasing nine shops in Atlanta.

Venus Williams - Jamba Juice

Photo Credit: Jamba Juice
Photo Credit: Jamba Juice

Let’s venture in a bit of a healthier direction now. Seven-time grand-slam champion Venus Williams owns several Jamba Juice locations, and though she hasn’t hung up her racquet yet, it seems she’s now firmly in the fruit smoothie racket. Williams reportedly follows a vegan diet, due to her suffering from Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease. A venture with Jamba Juice thus made perfect sense.

"I share Jamba's mission to inspire and simplify healthy living and promote a healthy active lifestyle and I am pleased to know this location will have a positive impact on the local community through not only our products, but also through various programs and fundraisers," Williams said when she opened her fourth, in Rockville, near Washington D.C .


George Foreman - George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

You knew it would roll round at some point. No food-sports crossover would be complete without the former heavyweight champion. Around for just over a quarter of a century, more than 100million units of the George Foreman Grill have reportedly been sold worldwide, a device so good he put his name on it.

Big George’s own product might have now even surpassed the notoriety of the legendary boxer’s achievements inside the ring. Typing into Google his name and ‘grill’ and ‘bbq’ comes up way before ‘record’ or ‘Ali’.


Gennaro Gattuso’s Fish Store

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ringhio was known for his fire on the pitch, but lighting up fires in the kitchen? That’s a different story.

The former AC Milan midfielder fulfilled his life-long ambition to open up a fish shop in 2010. 

He got his then-rossoneri compatriots to attend the grand opening in the city of Gallarate, including Ronaldinho, Massimo Ambrosini, David Beckham and Christian Abbiati.

“Someone might even smile at it, but this fish store is a dream come true for me,” said Gattuso at the time, “I wanted to become a fisherman when I was a child, but life’s events have later driven me in different directions.”

Guess it doesn’t harm that Gattuso, a Catholic, will be well stocked-up for Fish Fridays.

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