Inside the 2016 Opendorse Top 100

Highest paid athlete endorsements

Earlier this month, we charted the highest-earning athlete endorsers in professional sports. The list featured 100 athletes from a variety of backgrounds and a variety of disciplines, all with one thing in common: they’re pulling in serious dough from endorsements. While there were many familiar faces throughout the list – faces you’ve seen between the lines, on billboards and in commercials – the list as a whole gives great insight into the field of influencer marketing and athlete endorsements. We dug a little deeper and took a look behind the numbers. Here’s what we found.

Top endorsers by sport

The athletes in the Opendorse top 100 earned a combined $924 million in endorsements, the highest total ever, up $7 million from last year’s record-setting mark. Athletes from 10 different sports are represented. Baseball’s 25 athletes are the most of any sport followed closely by football with 21 and basketball with 18.

Baseball’s representatives tend to be lower on the list, however, as the 25 athletes are bringing in just over $26 million, compared to the combined-$232.5 million brought in by the 18 basketball players.

Golfers have the highest-average endorsement income for athletes on the list, with their five representatives pulling in $171 million ($34.2 million avg). Tennis is next, bringing in $211 million between their seven athletes ($30.1 million avg).

On top of their game

Top Athlete Endorser by sport

By examining the top endorsement earner in each sport, we see one common corollary – experience.

Roger Federer, the world’s No. 1 athlete-endorser, turned pro in 1998. Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1’s top endorser, began his racing career in 2001. LeBron James and Cristiano Ronaldo each began their professional careers in 2003. The careers of the top earners indicate that the best way to build an endorsement portfolio is longevity.

American Excellence

There are 23 countries represented in the Opendorse top 100. America retains its title as the endorsement epicenter, with 65 American athletes on the list, far and away the most of any country. There are five Britain-born athletes, while Germany, Argentina and the Dominican Republic each have three.

Looking Ahead

As brands continue to find innovative ways to capture the marketing and influencing power of professional athletes, the money in endorsement deals will continue to rise. The top 10 endorsers in 2016 combined to rake in $410 million, up from $376 million in 2015 and $367 million in 2013. With the size and frequency of these deals clearly trending upward, as well as TV contracts and athlete salaries continuing to rise at a meteoric rate, there’s every reason to think that these numbers will grow in the future. Athlete-endorsers will continue to hold the spotlight in 2017.

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