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.

About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.

Ronn Torossian CEO

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5WPR, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America’s most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company’s growth, overseeing more than 275 professionals. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named “PR Agency of the Year” by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world’s most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine’s Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country’s foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations,” which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.

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