As the 2012 Olympic Games draw towards a close, Sponsorship Today has compiled a list of the top 'Olympic' sponsorship earners.
The list includes those athletes whose endorsements are derived mainly from their activities as Olympians. It does not, therefore, include the big name basketball or tennis stars or even cyclist Bradley Wiggins whose endorsements now come from his status as the winner of the Tour de France.
1. Usain Bolt. Sprinter, Jamaica, $20m. Sponsors: Puma ($9m p.a), Visa, Gatorade, Nissan, Hublot, Virgin Media.
2. Kim Yuna. Ice skater, South Korea, $9m Sponsors: Kookmin Bank, Nike, Korean Air, Hyundai.
3. Michael Phelps. Swimmer, USA, $7m. Sponsors: Speedo, Visa, Omega, and Under Armour.
4. Liu Xiang. Sprint hurdler, China, $4m (estimate). Sponsors: Nike, Visa, Chevrolet, Yili milk, China Mobile, Coca-Cola.
5. Yelena Isinbayeva. Pole vaulter, $2.7m (estimate) Russia. Sponsors: Li Ning ($1.5m), P&G, Visa.
6. Lolo Jones. Sprint hurdler, USA, $2.7m (estimate). Sponsors: BP, Asics, Oakley, P&G, Red Bull.
7. Ryan Lochte. Swimmer, USA, $2.3m. Sponsors: Speedo, Mutual of Omaha, Gillette, Gatorade, P&G, Ralph Lauren, Nissan, AT&T.
8. Sanya Richards-Ross. Sprinter, USA, $2m. Sponsors: Nike, Inc, BP, BMW, Citibank, Amway.
9. Oscar Pistorius. Sprinter, South Africa, $2m. Sponsors: Nike, Thierry Mugler, Oakley, BT.
10. Jessica Ennis. Heptathlete, UK, $1.7m. Sponsors: Adidas BP, British Airways, Aviva, Powerade, Olay.
11. Sir Chris Hoy. Cyclist, UK, $1.5m. Sponsors: Kellogg's, Harrods, Highland Spring water, Adidas, Scottish Power.
The list is, unsurprisingly, topped by Usain Bolt, who earns at least $20m per year, including a $9m deal from PUMA to be its global brand ambassador. Interesting Bolt is the only 'Olympic' athlete to make Forbes' top 100 earners among sports stars - a list dominated by NFL, MBL, NBA and soccer stars with the odd tennis player and golfer included.
The other three 'big earners' on the Olympic list are Michael Phelps, whose record breaking feats put him over the $7m annual mark, Winter Olympian, Kim Yuna from South Korea and China's Liu Xiang. The latter two demonstrate the growth of sponsorship in Asia in the past decade. Indeed Xiang was reported to earn $15m in 2008 when he was 'poster boy' for the Beijing Games.
What is noticeable is how the endorsement dollars fall significantly as you go down the list. This is in part because of the dearth of big name US track athletes. There are no legends such as Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith-Joyner or Edwin Moses from the USA at these Games. Anyone of these would easily command annual endorsements totalling at least $8 million.
Clearly it is the sprint racers who offer the greatest appeal to sponsors, although swimmers come a close second. However, the list shows that it is more than just speed that brings in the money. The country represented helps - the richer the nation, the higher the income - but character also plays a big part. Jessica Ennis, the face of the Games in Britain, is rewarded in part for her 'girl-next-door' image - sponsors see that the public can really relate to her and build activation campaigns around her character. Her middle Saturday, gold winning performance on a night of high drama for Britain could easily lead to a doubling of her income.
Having a great story also helps, hence the high earnings for Paralympic sprinter, Oscar Pistorius, who made history by competing in the regular Games.
Overall the 2012 Games has had the dream ingredients for the International Olympic Committee, its offical sponsors and many of the brands endorsing athletes. Heroes such as Phelps and Sir Chris Hoy, will bow out in style. Usain Bolt defied the doubters and wrote another great chapter in the history of men's sprinting and the host nation triumphed, ensuring trackside enthusiasm. But it hasn't been a Games dominated by a small group of elite, highly paid athletes. In the best spirit of the Olympics, a lot of the best stories surround those who won't go home to millionaire lifestyles. Once the action started, money was no longer a big talking point - so we offer a small apology for the rude intrusion!
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