The sports industry is a large and profitable industry for several stakeholders – athletes, major sports leagues, apparel brands, sponsors, as well as major events brands. Along with major events, competitive sports are usually divided into leagues or associations that promote and organize these tournaments. North America and Europe are home to some of the most valuable sports leagues in the world. For instance, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), and Major League Baseball (MLB) are based in North America; the Bundesliga (Germany), Primera Division (Spain), and the Premier League (England) are major soccer leagues in Europe. The MLB franchise New York Yankees is the most valuable sport team brand, while Premier League’s Manchester United is the most valuable soccer/football brand worldwide.
Thanks to endorsements, Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James is, by far, the highest-paid NBA player in 2016, and one of the highest-paid athletes in the world. In 2016, James’ income stood at 94 million U.S. dollars; the majority of which was generated from endorsements. Professional golf players also earn a great share of their incomes off course. For example, Tiger Woods, one of the most valuable sports athlete brands in the world, had on course earnings of 0.55 million U.S. dollars and 48 million U.S. dollars in off course income in 2015. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo is the world’s highest paid soccer player; FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi takes second place. Amongst professional tennis players, Swiss player Roger Federer leads the ranking of highest paid tennis players in the world, followed by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Many of the top athletes in the world are endorsed by some of the biggest and most popular sports brands, such as Nike and Adidas. From the athletes mentioned above, James, Woods, Ronaldo and Federer have signed deals with Nike. Adidas has sponsorship agreements with Messi, Derrick Rose and Damian Lillard for example.
Next to athlete endorsements, sports events are also a major stream of revenue for the industry. The Super Bowl is the most valuable sports events worldwide, generating hundreds of millions in revenue each year. The revenue of Super Bowl 50 amounted to about 620 million U.S. dollars; the majority of this revenue was generated through broadcast and digital media rights deals. In 2015, revenue of the NFL league and team sponsorships amounted to 1.2 billion U.S. dollars, the highest figure to date and the highest revenue amongst sports leagues in the U.S. The Olympic Games – both summer and winter competitions – and the FIFA World Cup are listed amongst the most valuable sports events brands worldwide as well. In 2014, the year that the FIFA World Cup took place in Brazil, television broadcasting rights generated nearly 700 million U.S. dollars in revenue.
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