In the professional sports world, it's pretty easy to identify who's up and who's down by whether they win or lose. But when it comes to the actual value of a sports brand, winning has a different definition: It's based on the revenue a sports team or an individual athlete generates.
Forbes magazine has been analyzing the value of sports brands for three years now. The latest edition of the "Forbes Fab 40" values the top ten names in sports in four distinct categories: athletes, teams, events and businesses.
Leading the list of money-making athletes is the famous (and more recently infamous) Tiger Woods, whose brand is on the comeback trail with this week's major endorsement by Rolex.
Injuries and poor finishes led to the renowned golfer losing his ranking; for the first time in fifteen years, Tiger tumbled out of the world's Top 50 golfers. He also gained notoriety through his very public transgressions and subsequent divorce. But Woods proved that bad PR is better than no PR. While his brand value plummeted from $82 million last year to $55 million this year, Tiger Woods is still far and away the world's most valuable athlete.
Roger Federer is second, valued at $29 million less than Woods. On the rise is NBA star LeBron James, whose value spiked from $13 million last year to $20 million this year. Once again, a bad boy brand image didn't seem to hurt LeBron's bank account.
James took a lot of heat for bolting from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat in search of an NBA title. Much maligned by Cleveland fans and the press, LeBron crashed and burned when he and his high-flying team lost to the Dallas Mavericks. No mattter — Nike alone is paying LeBron more than $10 million annually, and he just got a big bump with a new McDonald's deal.
On the team side of things, baseball's New York Yankees, currently embroiled in the American League Championship Series, was ranked the most valuable team brand this year, edging out soccer team Manchester United. (Forbes executive editor Mike Ozanian points out that the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the British pound may have played a role here; if the exchange rate had remained stable, Manchester United would still be in the lead.) Brand Yankees is worth $340 million, according to Forbes. Love 'em (New Yorkers) or hate 'em (Bostonians), there's no denying the awesome value of the Yanks. But Bostonians can be soothed by the fact that the New England Patriots were a new addition to Forbes Fab 40 this year with a value of $146 million. In fact, the Patriots knocked the flagging New York Mets off the list.
Is it any surprise that the Super Bowl remains the most valuable sporting event? Super Bowl XLV generated a whopping $425 million in revenue and has placed first in sporting events for all three years of the Forbes Fab 40. The Summer Olympics have seen a healthy lift, while the Winter Olympic Games rose from $93 million to $123 million in brand value.
Finally, those businesses that make their money off of sports are doing quite well, thank you. Nike is the hands-down winner. Its value increased 40 percent over last year to an estimated $15 billion. Nike leads the industry with 38 percent market share of the branded footwear market, says Forbes, as Nike brand apparel sales increased 9 percent over last year.
Of the top ten business brands in sports, four of them were television brands. The most valuable of the bunch is to be expected — ESPN. Owned by Walt Disney, the sports network is valued at $11.5 billion, an increase of $1 billion in value over last year.
The latest Forbes Fab 40 proves that sports brands continue to buck the global economy — and that while popularity is nice, money talks when it comes to the real value of sports celebrities and teams.
[image via NFL]