With Sports Influencers, It’s Not All About Twitter Followers

What: The “Top 10 Highest-Paid Athlete Endorsers of 2016” list released by the marketing agency Opendorse features four golf players, and one of them has just 111K followers on Twitter.
Why It Matters: Influence is about more than social media numbers, and brands should evaluate other factors when making endorsement decisions.

According to the Forbes list of the 'World’s Highest-Paid Athletes,' Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo earned US $88 million last year, which makes him the best-paid athlete of the year.

Ronaldo is also the athlete with the most followers on Twitter. But being the highest-paid and most-followed player does not necessarily make him the right influencer for every brand.

Resultado de imagen de roger federer

Roger Federer

According to Forbes, over 2016 Ronaldo managed to make $32 million through brand endorsements. This number might impress some, but it is almost only half of the $60 million generated by Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, who was the athlete that made the most money off of endorsements in 2016.

Choosing one influencer over another “is not that different from the way that the general market looks at sponsorships,” explains Michael Neuman, EVP and Managing Partner at Scout Sports and Entertainment. It doesn’t matter if they have the most followers on social media: brands must think about what athlete draws the admiration and dedication of their fans.

As Neuman adds, endorsement deals “depends on the brand’s strategy. If a brand decides they want to reach the sports fan and they sponsor a league or the team, staying in the sports genre, the athlete makes the most sense.”

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Nissan, for example, works with both sports influencers and celebrities from other areas. “With our global Champions League sponsorship we also have Gareth Bale and El Kun Agüero as brand ambassadors. But we also have local ambassadors that go from a local pilot to any other sport. It depends on each of the campaigns,” explains Pablo Cárdenas, marketer at Nissan Mexico.

The sports where the athletes wear helmets, like football and hockey, don’t tend to have the highest number of athletes with endorsements.

When choosing an athlete to become a brand’s face, there are some sports that definitely work better than others. “The sports where the athletes wear helmets, like football and hockey, don’t tend to have the highest number of athletes with endorsements because there isn’t the recognition that you have with a basketball player or even a baseball player,” says Neuman.

Resultado de imagen de nbaThe NBA is the league with the highest number of players involved in endorsement campaigns in the United States right now.  “I would say basketball has the most, and hockey has the least,” he adds.

This explains why Lebron James is the second-highest-paid athlete when it comes to off-the-court endorsements, with an income of $54 million through sponsorships during 2016. The NBA player also made it to the headlines after signing a lifetime deal with Nike, rumoured to be worth over $1 billion.

Taking a look at the marketing agency Opendorse's top 10 highest-paid athletes of 2016 (see below), one will notice many tennis and golf players. But these types of deals don't always get featured heavily on the streets due to the types of contracts that they sign. Even though the athletes might make less on the contracts, they are more exclusive, and targeted at a narrower audience with a higher acquisition power.

In a world where popularity and social acceptance seems to be directly related to how many followers a person has on social media, these numbers do not mean much in the sports endorsement market. Although soccer players like Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the two most followed athletes on Twitter, they are far from making the list of the top 10 largest contracts.

# Athlete Sport Estimated Cost Per Tweet in USD Twitter followers Total Yearly endorsement earnings in USD million Notable endorsement deals
1 Roger Federer Tennis 31,660 6.7M 60 Wilson, Nike, Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, Gillette, Credit Suisse
2 Lebron James Basketball 185,328 34.5M 54 Beats by Dre, Coca-Cola, Kia, McDonald’s, Samsung, Nike
3 Phil Mickelson Golf N/A 111K 50 KPMG, Rolex, ExxonMobil, Callaway, Barclays
4 Tiger Woods Golf 34,380 6.18M 45 Nike, Upper Deck, Rolex, Hero MotoCorp
5 Kevin Durant Basketball 80,388 15.5M 36 Nike, 2k Sports, Sprint, BBVA, Beats by Dre, Panini
6 Rory McIlroy Golf 16,269 3.1M 35 Nike, Bose, EA Sports, Omega, Upper Deck
7 Novak Djokovic Tennis 33,952 6.96M 34 Adidas, Pugeot, Head, Uniqlo, Seiko
8 Rafael Nadal Tennis 53,633 12.1M 32 Tommy Hilfiger, Kia, Nike, Babolat, Telefonica
9 Jordan Spieth Golf 8,708 1.74M 32 AT&T, Coca-Cola, Rolex, Titleist, Under Armour
10 Cristiano Ronaldo Soccer 258,859 50.6M 32 CR7, Nike, Tag Heuer, Herbalife, Monster Headphones, Sacoor Brothers
Source: opendorse.com, Twitter


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Ximena Cassab @xcassab

Ximena is a Swiss-Mexican journalist based in Mexico City where she specialized in business, and travel topics. Graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), she has worked as an editor at the magazines Expansión , Aire and Accent, from Expansion Group. Currently she is working with different media in Spanish and English independently. She is a passionate traveler who does not miss the opportunity to see a new place in the world.

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