Recently Forbes published the list of the top 100 highest earning athletes in the world for 2011-2012.
Mayweather topped the list.
The total earnings of each athlete were given in the list. Also, the breakdown of the total earnings into salary and endorsements were given. I found it quite intriguing how athletes from a sport earned more from endorsements than the salary/winnings they earned from the sport. I wanted to see the share of earnings , grouped by sport.
To do that, I gathered the data from Forbes and plotted it on a graph. The outcome was quite interesting.
In the graph G1, I plotted the average of the percentage of earnings by sport. It seems that athletes from NFL and baseball dont quite like doing endorsements . While, athletes from NBA and soccer do more in terms of endorsements, the guys from tennis and golf seem to have a major share of earnings via endorsement deals.
(Note: Some sports like boxing, athletics, motogp had only 1 or 2 athletes in the Forbes top 100 , so the analysis might not give the entire picture of the sport.)
The above graph may be misleading. Consider the situation in which 2 athletes from different sports may earn the same from the endorsement deals, while 1 earns more salary than the other in their respective sport .This will show a different outcome.
So I used another graph(G2) to represent the incomes, this time not in percent , but actual earnings in $ million. Now, this gives us a better view of the breakdown of earnings. Again, the athletes from NFL and baseball have their major share of earnings from the salary they get in their sport and the income from endorsements is very little. Also, golfers and tennis stars earn largely from the endorsement deals rather than the salary from their sport. Like NFL and baseball stars, Formula 1 drivers also depend on the salary from their sport and have less of endorsement earnings .
Talking about NBA, soccer and NASCAR , the athletes in these sports earn almost evenly from endorsements and salary, the salary/winnings having the upper hand.
In cricket, although there were only 2 stars in the top 100 , I can safely say that, in general , the earnings from endorsement deals, as seen in the graph, far outweigh the earnings from the salary in the sport.
In athletics , Usain Bolt was the sole athlete in this sport, in the top 100. His earnings almost entirely depend on the endorsement deals he has. In contrast to that , the 2 boxers at the top of the list earn largely from the salary/winnings.
I also plotted 2 other graphs to represent the average endorsement earnings (G3 graph) and average salary earnings (G4 graph) , both graphs arranged in descending order. The points mentioned previously are validated by these graphs. We can see in G3 , golf and tennis stars at the higher end of endorsement earnings , as previously mentioned , and NFL, baseball and F1 stars are at the lower end of the endorsement earnings .
On the other hand, the sports that are at the higher end of endorsement earnings in G3 , are at the lower end of salary earnings in G4 and vice-versa.
Now, the question arises , Why this discrepancy in endorsement earnings?
I can think of a few reasons (if you have any other ,please do mention them in the comments section) :
- Some sports have a higher salary/winnings than other sports. Due to this the stars don’t need to look at other ways of earning money . This can be seen from graphs G3 and G4 , where sports in one graph are appearing in almost the reverse order as in the other graph.
- Some sports have a global reach. Global brands like Nike, pay big bucks to stars of a global sport like golf or tennis. These sports have a global audience unlike a sport like NFL , which mainly interests audience of a particular region.(I am not saying Nike does not sponsor these athletes , but might not pay them huge amounts)
- In sports like F1, NFL, Baseball athletes belong to a club or a team owned privately or there are wealthy investors. Therefore these athletes are paid huge salaries . On the other hand, in Golf and Tennis , athletes mainly represent their country rather than a club or team, hence they don’t have large salaries , but they earn a lot from endorsements . Also these are not team sports , therefore raising the athletes’ appeal to the audience as a single force in the sport.
(Note: My analysis is based on the list published by Forbes )