Sports have grown leaps and bounds from where it started eons ago. Today, fan engagement, brand partnerships to sports management courses are all part of where athletes, teams, and everyone between them in the sports world are engaged in. This growth has also led to our beloved athletes in many sports becoming some of the wealthiest men and women in the world. Ever wonder how your favourite athletes make money beyond their basic pay and salary?
From their prize money by winning games to endorsements, sponsorship money, coaching fees and much more, it all adds up when we talk about the top 10 richest of all athletes in the world.
Forbes based the earnings on-field to include the prize money, salaries and bonus earned between May 1, 2021, till May 1, 2022, and off-field earnings to influence sponsorship deals, appearance fees and licensing income for the same time and include other business earnings of the athletes. (These figures as per Forbes do not have taxes deducted from them or the athlete’s agent’s fee.)
In the same article, Forbes also mentioned that ‘the world’s ten highest-paid athletes collectively made $992 million in pre-tax gross earnings over the last 12 months, the third highest total ever’. We bring you the top 10 wealthiest athletes based on the annual ranking at Forbes.
1. Lionel Messi – $130 million
The Argentinian football superstar, at 34 years of age, is known to be among the wealthiest sportsmen. His earnings for the past year included:
On-field earnings: $75 million
Off-field earnings: $55 million
Messi has a $20 million-a-year partnership deal with Socios in this endorsement portfolio, including Adisa, Budweiser, and PepsiCo. Known to be the first athlete, brand ambassador for Hard Rock International helped him to draw level with Cristiano Ronaldo and his off-field earnings for the first time since 2013.
What also brought home deals, prize money and engagement deal for Messi was winning the Ballon d’Or in 2021 as the world’s best men’s soccer player. His club, Paris Saint Germain, captured the French Ligue 1 title in Messi’s first season.
2. LeBron James – $121.2 million
The 37-year-old basketball sensation from the US is the second-highest earner. While his team Los Angeles Lakers, missed the playoffs this season, he has been dominant off the court. His earnings include:
On-field earnings: $41.2 million
Off-field earnings: $80 million
This all came together with him starring in last year’s Space Jam: A New Legacy. And his talk show, The Shop, moved from HBO to YouTube. In October, he sold a significant minority stake in SpringHill – the production company behind both projects, which was at a valuation of $725 million, which further helped his net worth to $850 million – basis Forbes estimate.
James also announced his endorsement deal with Crypto.com and appeared in a Super Bowl commercial next to the computer-generated version of his younger self.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo – $115 million
World-famous soccer player Ronaldo, originally from Portugal, currently plays for Manchester United in the Premier League. His earnings include:
On-field earnings: $60 million
Off-field earnings: $55 million
Ronaldo is known to have a massive social media following, and his significant earnings come from this solid social media presence. His 690+ million followers across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter give him leverage to demand super-high rates from sponsors such as Nike, Herbalife, Clear shampoo and others.
He is also famous for investing in Tatel restaurants, including the one in Beverly Hills. He is a known face of ZujuGP – an app aiming to be a digital soccer community.
4. Neymar – $95 million
This 30-year-old soccer player from Brazil scored his 400th career goal last November and has been a star player in the football game for many years. He had recently announced that the upcoming World Cup in Qatar would be his last. His May 2021 to 1 May 2022 earnings include:
On-field earnings: $70 million
Off-field earnings: $25 million
His off-field earnings have a valuable set of endorsements with global giants like Puma, Red Bull and others. He is also the subject of a new Netflix docuseries, Neymar: The Perfect Chaos.
Diving into the world of tech, especially NFTs – he has signed a deal with the platform NFTSTAR. Seconding over $1 million on two Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs in one day in January.
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5. Stephan Curry – $92.8 million
The 34-year-old star Basketball player from the US will always be known to have made one of the most amounts in salary for the last season in the history of the NBA. Playing for the Golden State Warriors, Curry is also due for a raise after signing a four-year – $215 million extension last August. This brings him to make $48 million on the court for the new season. His earnings include:
On-field earnings: $45.8 million
Off-field earnings: $47 million
Off-field, his endorsement deal FTX came with an equity stake, and he did not shy away from diving deeper into blockchain late last year – releasing a collection of NFTs that featured his sneakers – tied to three metaverse platforms – collections pledged to be donated.
His production company – Unanimous Media, is known to have signed a development deal with Comcast NBCUniversal.
6. Kevin Durant – $92.1 million
The 33-years old basketball player from the US is the Brooklyn Nets star and is roughly known to be earning $28 million from Nike alone. His sneaker deal with Nike is only surpassed by LeBron James’ among the active players. His earnings include:
On-field earnings: $42.1 million
Off-field earnings: $50 million
Under new deals, he has added brands like Coinbase, NA Top Shot, Weedmaps and more. On the other hand, with his media company, Boardroom and investment firm Thirty Five Ventures – he is on his way to building a business empire beyond just endorsements.
OpenSea- an NFT platform, and Future – a digital fitness start-up, are amongst his latest investments, and he is also known to be backing SeatGeek’s SPAC merger.
7. Roger Federer
The 41 years old golden boy of Tennis hailed from Switzerland and made the whole world of Tennis emotional with his recent retirement. The world number 1 Tennis player has been known to mint big money with his endorsements and sponsorships -some of which have been a decade-long affair. His earnings include:
On-field earnings: $0.7 million
Off-field earnings: $90 million
Roger, the top pitchman in sports, is always seen sporting Uniqlo and Rolex. He has investments in a Swiss show, On, that went public last September and raised over $600 million. Roger told in one of the interviews with Forbes how he and his team work closely with the brand in product design to develop the brand’s pro tennis shoes.
Must read: Roger Federer – a tribute to his illustrious career
8. Canelo Alvarez – $90 million
He is known to be the top draw in Boxing. 31 years old -Mexican earned $40 million or more from his two pay-per-view victories last May and November. Canelo is a true star who has proven to be the athlete to watch out for in and out of the ring. He is a true force to reckon with, his fight nights becoming quite impressive-ly profitable over the years. His earnings include:
On-field earnings: $85 million
Off-field earnings: $5 million
From his debut in 2005 to become the undisputed super-middleweight champion last November, he is amongst the world’s wealthiest and most influential athletes. He has a lucrative partnership with Hennessy and owns a taco restaurant in his native Mexico with plans to extend to California.
9. Tom Brady – $83.9 million
Brady’s retirement lasted six weeks, welcome news for Tampa Bay Buccaneers – especially when the 44-year-old, then 43 years, turned in a spectacular 2021 season. His earnings include:
On-field earnings: $31.9 million
Off-field earnings: $52 million
He has co-founded an NFT platform, Autograph, that raised $170 million in Series B funding. He also co-founded Religion of Sports, which unveiled a content deal with Skydance Sports. His production company, 199 Productions, is also behind the road-trip movie 80 for Brady. Brady also has a new clothing line cleverly named BRADY.
And when the time came to permanently retire from playing, he launched his new lucrative gig – the role of a commentator with Fox Sports. This deal will pay him more than he has earned on the field across 22 seasons in the NFL – $375 million over ten years – per the New York Post.
10 Giannis Antetokounmpo – $80.9 million
The 27-year-old basketball player from Greece is the only athlete in his 20s and is included in the list of highest-paid athletes in the world. He is Milwaukee Buck’s two-time MVP who signed a five-year $228 million contract in December 2020 – which is NBAs largest contract by total value to date. His earnings include:
On-field earnings: $39.9 million
Off-field earnings: $41 million
He has signed a licensing deal with NFTSTAR, an NFT platform, endorsing Whatsapp and Google’s Pixel 6 phone. He is also one of the investors in the timepiece resale platform WatchBox’s $165 million funding round.
Furthermore, a biopic on the basketball player was released earlier this year and shared a heartfelt story of Gianni’s. Named Rise, the biopic was released on Disney+ in June.
If we can learn anything from these figures and the richest sportsmen, the scope of the world of sports is only growing. Be it dealing with partnership deals, endorsement agreements, the scope of work, management of athletes, their business portfolio to their daily routine; there are multiple opportunities. If you want to move to the world of sports, this is your sign to take the time and learn more about career paths in sports management. An MBA in Sports Management will offer you the opportunity to manage some of the leading players in the world across sports and be part of the change.
Also read: How is India empowering its sports talent?