Thanks to endorsements, Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James is, by far, the highest-paid NBA player in 2018, and one of the highest-paid athletes in the world. In 2016, James’ income stood at more than 85 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 0.11million U.S. dollars and 34.61 million U.S. dollars in off course income in 2016. Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo was the world’s highest paid soccer player in 2017; 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 Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, and Novak Djokovic. 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 for example amounted to about 620 million U.S. dollars; the majority of this revenue was generated through broadcast and digital media rights deals. In 2017, revenue of the NFL league and team sponsorships amounted to 1.32 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.