Last week, Forbes released their annual “100 Highest Paid Athletes in the World” list.
The list, unsurprisingly led by Floyd “Money” Mayweather, ranged from NFL players, single named soccer players (that’s right Europe…I called it soccer), and a couple guys from the ever-growing Indian cricket scene, which, judging by their endorsement income, is a pretty big deal when you understand how it’s played.
On average, the NBA’s endorsements ranked higher than most other sports, so we decided to take a look at how this matched up with their social profiles. All but four of the players on the list are active on Twitter, and their number of followers trend almost identically to their endorsement income.
Am I saying that brands pay per follower? No, but any brand manager can tell you the value of building your audience, and these players seem to recognize that.
LeBron James topped the list in every category, and while it could be argued that Bron Bron is just an incredibly successful and skilled player, that isn’t entirely true. James and his family have been focused on building his brand since he was a freshman in high school, and when he “moved his talents to Miami” he created more hype around it than a Jay Z concert. He’s a marketing machine, and not one to miss a step, he’s incredibly active on Twitter.
Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant also have more than 3 million Twitter followers each, and each player receives more than $10 million a year in endorsement income.
The opposite is also true. Deron Williams has the fewest followers of any of the Twitter accounts, and makes less in endorsements than any of the other Twitter-active players. Tim Duncan and Rashard Lewis, both very popular players, don’t have Twitter accounts and join Williams as the lowest endorsement earners on the list.
To be fair, Kobe Bryant doesn’t have a Twitter account, but have you seen his crossover? He doesn’t need to market himself anymore.
While there are many other factors that play into a successful endorsement deal, audience size and brand recognition shouldn’t be overlooked. This small sample could be an example to athletes looking for a little extra pocket change (if you consider several million dollars “pocket change”) but also to brand ambassadors looking for ways to increase revenue.
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