The richest athletes in the world earn millions showcasing talents that only a few people on the planet possess. But for the ultra-elite in certain sports, the bulk of their pay doesn't come from their exploits during the game. Their real money comes from endorsements and sponsorships.
Some of the most famous names in sports have been put in order from least to most money earned via endorsements. Check out the celebs who count on sponsorships to boost their wealth.
Last update: Sept. 24, 2021
24. Colin Kaepernick
Estimated value: Undisclosed millions per year
Misc. info: Before he was unofficially exiled from the NFL in the wake of his sideline protests during the national anthem, quarterback and activist Kaepernick was making $3 million a year in endorsements. Although he lost most of his sponsors, Nike signed Kaepernick in 2018 to an undisclosed seven-figure contract.
23. Manny Pacquiao
Brand(s): Nike, McDonald’s, HP
Estimated value: $2 million per year
Misc. info: Not only a world champion boxer but a senator in his native Philippines, Pacquiao was part of the best-selling fight in boxing history. His 2015 battle against Floyd Mayweather drew 4.6 million pay-per-view purchases.
22. Shaun White
Brand(s): Burton, Oakley, HP, Verizon, Target, PlayStation, Red Bull, Ubisoft, Beats by Dr. Dre
Estimated value: $2 million per deal
Misc. info: One of the wealthiest winter Olympians in history, White also has a massive real estate portfolio.
21. Blake Griffin
Brand(s): Red Bull, Panini, Nike
Estimated value: $6 million per year
Misc. info: Aside from his endorsement deals, the six-time All-Star runs a movie production company with football player Matt Kalil.
20. Floyd Mayweather
Estimated value: $10 million per year
Misc. info: After separating from his promoter in 2006, Mayweather began to consolidate all control of his branding and promotion under his own company. He earned $915 million — more than any other athlete in the world by nine figures — in the past 10 years.
19. Tom Brady
Brand(s): Under Armour, Wheels Up, IWC Schaffhausen
Estimated value: $12 million per year
Misc. info: The six-time Super Bowl champion does not have a particularly impressive endorsement portfolio. That’s because Brady rejects most of the big corporate offers that come his way in favor of his own brands.
18. Dwyane Wade
Brand(s): Panini, New Era, Li-Ning, Hublot, Gatorade
Estimated value: $14 million per year
Misc. info: A 13-time All-Star before his retirement in 2019, Wade has his own clothing and formalwear lines, but his biggest deal is his contract with Li-Ning. Not only does the Chinese shoe brand pay him millions per year, but Wade owns an equity stake in the company.
17. Conor McGregor
Brand(s): Wynn Resorts, Reebok, Electronic Arts
Estimated value: $16 million per year
Misc. info: Anyone with a television likely has seen McGregor pitching his own Proper No. Twelve whiskey brand, but the Irish fighter makes his real money from Reebok, which pays him $5 million a year.
16. David Beckham
Brand(s): Adidas, Tudor, Samsung, Armani, PepsiCo, Gillette
Estimated value: $17.1 million per year
Misc. info: Although he retired in 2013, Beckham still earns more than some of the top active soccer players in the world, thanks not only to his lucrative sponsorship deals, but to the continued success of Beckham Brand Holdings, a juggernaut managed in conjunction with his wife, Victoria.
15. James Harden
Brand(s): State Farm, Beats Electronics, Adidas, Stance Socks, BodyArmor
Estimated value: $19 million per year
Misc. info: Harden maintains a partnership with Amazon to distribute his workout gear, which is branded by his biggest corporate sponsors.
14. Rory McIlroy
Brand(s): Nike, Upper Deck, UnitedHealth Group, TaylorMade, Omega
Estimated value: $30 million per year
Misc. info: In 2017 alone, the then-28-year-old McIlroy, one of golf’s most marketable athletes, signed deals with Nike and TaylorMade worth a combined $300 million over 10 years.
13. Lionel Messi
Brand(s): Budweiser, OrCam Technologies, Mastercard, Lays, Adidas, Ooredoo, Jacob & Co.
Estimated value: $30 million-plus per year
Misc. info: The six-time Ballon d’Or winner is on pace to become only the fourth athlete to earn $1 billion while still actively playing, according to Forbes.
12. Kei Nishikori
Brand(s): Japan Airlines, Nike, Uber, Uniqlo, Nissin Foods Holdings, Jaguar, Jaccs, Asahi Group Holdings, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., Procter & Gamble
Estimated value: $31 million per year
Misc. info: Nishikori has his own branded Nissin noodles, branded special edition Jaguar, branded commercial planes and branded Asahi alcohol-free beer.
11. Serena Williams
Brand(s): Gatorade, Upper Deck, Nike, JP Morgan Chase, Bumble, Beats Electronics, Wilson Sporting Goods, Audemars Piguet
Estimated value: $32 million per year
Misc. info: With $93 million in career earnings, Williams has earned more prize money than any other female athlete. Her $10 million-plus Serena Ventures portfolio includes investments in 50 startups, most of which were founded by women and minorities.
10. Naomi Osaka
Brand(s): Yonex, Procter & Gamble, Mastercard, BodyArmor, All Nippon Airways, Nissan, Nike, Nissin Foods Holdings, Shiseido
Estimated value: $34 million per year
Misc. info: Serena Williams was the highest-earning woman in the world of sports for four years before Osaka knocked her off her perch in 2020, thanks mostly to her massive endorsement portfolio.
9. Kevin Durant
Brand(s): YouTube, Nike, Master & Dynamic, Degree
Estimated value: $35 million per year
Misc. info: A 10-time All-Star, Durant is invested in more than 40 companies, including Acorns and Postmates, all while amassing 800,000 YouTube subscribers and inking lucrative corporate deals with his own media company.
8. Phil Mickelson
Brand(s): Rolex, Callaway Golf, Heineken, KPMG, Amgen, Intrepid Financial Partners
Estimated value: $40 million per year
Misc. info: Among all active golfers, only Tiger Woods can top Mickleson’s 44 PGA Tour wins, five major championships and $750 million in career endorsement earnings.
7. Stephen Curry
Brand(s): Under Armour, Fanatics, Chase, Callaway Golf
Estimated value: $44 million per year
Misc. info: On the court, Curry in 2017 became the first NBA player to sign a $200 million contract, and he’s been the league’s highest-paid player since.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo
Brand(s): Nike, Unilever, MTG, Herbalife, DAZN, Altice
Estimated value: $45 million per year
Misc. info: With 240 million Instagram followers, Ronaldo is the most popular athlete on social media. For context on his marketability, Juventus sold 520,000 of his jerseys within 24 hours of their release for a total of more than $60 million in a single day.
5. LeBron James
Brand(s): Nike, Coca-Cola, Beats Electronics, AT&T, Walmart, KIA Motors, RIMOWA, GMC, 2K Sports
Estimated value: $60 million per year
Misc. info: In 2015, King James signed a lifetime deal with Nike that should pay him more than $1 billion by the time he celebrates his 64th birthday in 2048 — just in time for retirement age.
4. Tiger Woods
Brand(s): Nike, Rolex, Monster Energy, Discovery Communications, Bridgestone, Hero MotoCorp, Upper Deck, TaylorMade
Estimated value: $60 million per year
Misc. info: The most famous and successful golfer of all time, Tiger Woods has earned $1.5 billion in endorsements, course design fees and appearances since he turned pro in 1996.
3. Roger Federer
Brand(s): Wilson Sporting Goods, Uniqlo, Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, Credit Suisse, Barilla
Estimated value: $100 million per year
Misc. info: In 2020, Forbes named Federer the highest-paid athlete in the world after he earned $106.3 million — $100 million of which came from endorsements. In all, 13 companies pay him between $3 million and $30 million for the privilege of being associated with his brand.
2. Derrick Rose
Estimated value: $185 million over 14 years
Misc. info: In a long-term deal that didn’t exactly pay off for the sponsor, Adidas continues to pay the long-diminished Rose for one of the richest contracts in sports marketing history, which it signed with him in early 2012 after he'd already won an NBA Most Valuable Player award.
1. Maria Sharapova
Brand(s): Nike, Motorola, Colgate-Palmolive, Tag Heuer, Land Rover, PepsiCo, Evian, Head, Porsche
Estimated value: $287 million during her career
Misc. info: Long the highest-paid female athlete in the world, Sharapova retired in 2020 with $325 million in career earnings, behind only arch-rival Serena Williams’ $350 million. About $38 million of that was prize money, third behind only the Williams sisters.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 24 Athletes Who Make Most of Their Money From Endorsements