Insight: World’s top thirty most marketable athletes, London School of Marketing

Only three British sports stars have made it into a definitive list of the world’s top thirty most marketable athletes of the past year.

Researchers at London School of Marketing compiled the Sports Marketing Power List after taking into account sponsorship deals of global athletes during 2016.

Swiss tennis star Roger Federer was named as the world’s most marketable athlete with almost £50m in off court earnings last year.

American basketball sensation LeBron James was also in demand with sponsors forking out £44m for his endorsements last year.

US golfer Phil Mickelson completed the top three taking home £41m in marketing deals during 2016.

Golfer Rory McIlroy is the only British entry in the top ten with the researchers putting his sponsorship earnings at just under £29m for the year – making him the sixth highest paid athlete.

The two other Brits who make the top 30 are tennis champion Andy Murray with just under £12m in deals and footballer Gareth Bale who earned around £9m from sponsors last year.

Tennis stars feature prominently with players included Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams all making the list.

Sharapova and Williams were the only two female athletes to make it into the top 30.  Although Sharapova was banned in January she still earned £16m from deals which may be due to contractual clauses that commit sponsors to keep paying fees.

According to the research conducted by London School of Marketing the three sports that are more dependent on endorsements are cricket (with 81% of earnings coming from sponsors), tennis (78%) and golf (75%).

Cricket is a particularly Asian-dominated sport. MS Dhoni and Viral Kohli are both current captains of the Indian National Team in different formats and are the only two Indian athletes to make the rankings.

Unsurprisingly, it’s the US sports scene that dominates the most highly paid sports with American Football, Basketball and Baseball accounting for 55% of the total rankings.

Jacques de Cock, faculty member at London School of Marketing said: “The top 100 athletes earned a total of £2.6bn last year.

“The sponsorship revenues are driven upwards mainly by the competition of major clothing brands.

“The main ones are Nike with 51 stars under contract, Adidas with 12 and Under Armour with 11. The other brands such as Reebok, Puma and New Balance have a handful each.

“Despite Roger Federer’s slow year in terms of success in his sport, his successful endorsement deals show that personal characteristics can also be an important part of long-lasting sponsorships.

“Male athletes still dominate perhaps because they offer advantages to marketers that want to tap into the traditionally hard to reach male consumer market.

“Fans tend to buy sports clothing and equipment based on what the key sportsman wear, which explains why endorsements are such a major part of cricket, tennis and golf.

“Endorsements are such a powerful way for brands to market their products. This is because they increase brand awareness, validate product features, boost brand equity, and reach the difficult 16-30 year old male market.

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