10 Leading Sports Influencers

In sports, the ones getting paid for endorsing products are usually the athletes, not always the ones at the top of their particular playing field though. Endorsements are not just about being good at what you do, but also being a good long-term match with a product or lots of products. Unless a brand is all about bad behavior, they won’t want to endorse top athletes with bad personal reputations.

Case in point. Tiger Woods, before all the scandals and rehab check-ins, was one of the top athletes for representing brands. Sadly, he has slipped down to #4 on this list and looks like he may continue to lose ground over the next couple of years.

It might also be of interest that professional athletes who need to wear helmets or other head coverings when they play are less likely to sign endorsement deals since their faces are not as recognizable.

The #3-ranked Swiss tennis player, Roger Federer generated $60 million in endorsement deals for 2016, representing such brands and companies as Nike, Rolex, Wilson, Credit Suisse, Mercedes-Benz, and Gillette. He has followers total Instagram 3.6m, Facebook 15m, and Twitter 8m.

Lebron James (basketball) is number two on endorsement deals raking in $54 million working with companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Samsung, Nike (which is a lifetime deal), and Beats by Dre. The Nike lifetime contract is generally considered to be worth about $1 billion over the entire contract. He has followers total Instagram 32m, Facebook 22.76m, and Twitter 37.4m.

Phil Mickelson (golf) is well-known to American audiences as he’s endorsed products and brands for many companies over the years. In 2016 he made $50m in endorsements working with the likes of Rolex, Callaway, KPMG, ExxonMobil, and Barclays. He has followers total Instagram 469 (this is not an active account), Facebook 184k, and Twitter 123k. Phil’s endorsements aren’t as focused on his social media presence.

Tiger Woods (golf) currently receives $45m in endorsements from brands like Hero MotoCorp, Rolex, Nike, and Upper Deck. He has followers total Instagram 847k, Facebook 3m, and Twitter 6.25m.

Kevin Durant (basketball) has endorsement deals that paid in 2016 a total of $36m working with Beats by Dre, Nike, Sprint, 2k Sports, BBVA, and Panini. He has followers total Instagram 111k, Facebook 10.5m, and Twitter 16.6m.

Rory McIlroy (golf) made $35m in 2016 for endorsements working with EA Sports, Omega, Nike, Upper Deck, and Bose. He has followers total Instagram 1.3m, Facebook 1.85m, and Twitter 3.17m.

Novak Djokovic (tennis) from Serbia made $34m during 2016 on endorsements working with Head, Adidas, Uniqlo, Peugeot, and Seiko. He has followers total Instagram 3.4m, Facebook 7m, and Twitter 7.77m.

Rafael Nadal (tennis) from Spain made $32m in 2016 endorsements working with Nike, Kia, Tommy Hilfiger, Babolat, and Telefonica. He has followers total Instagram 3.5m, Facebook 14.23m, and Twitter 13.5m.

Jordan Spieth (golf) is only 24, but he still made $32m in endorsements last year working with brands like Titleist, Under Armour, AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Rolex. He has followers total Instagram 1.3m, Facebook 441k, and Twitter 1.84m.

Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer) is from Portugal and currently, plays for a team in Madrid. He’s also the highest paid athlete in the world making a total of $88 million per year, but only $32m comes from endorsements working with companies like CR7, Tag Heuer, Nike, Herbalife, Monster Headphones, and Sacoor Brothers. He has followers total Instagram 108m, Facebook 120m, and Twitter 56.3m. He dominates in his number of social media followers, but he’s still in 10th place on the list.

For non-professional athletes who are also sports influencers, check out kalaniballfree, brodiesmith21, travbeachboy, carlymanning10, furiouspete, schimmel23, and sister jschimmel22, mustycarlos, legendaryshots, brandonzingale, and rkrager.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5W Public Relations, a top 15 independent PR agency in the US. 5W is a full service PR agency, offering integrated traditional, digital PR and influencer programming to clients across a variety of industries.
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