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Loss of form doesn’t mean loss of income: Kohli earned Rs 240 cr from endorsements last year

The top 10 in the list features usual suspects like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods – about whom it can be safely said that their best days are behind them and any major achievement in the future will be akin to a last hurrah.

Written by Tushar Bhaduri |
Updated: May 12, 2022 4:40:40 pm
Someone like Virat Kohli – the sole cricketer in the list – may be struggling for runs, but that hasn’t made him a lesser star with earnings of $33.9 million (including $31m in endorsements) putting him in joint 61st spot.

If an elite sportsperson has a stirring body of work and an image that moves the needle – as marketing gurus would put it – it hardly matters if their skills have faded a shade.

The 2022 Sportico list of the Top 100 Highest-Paid Athletes in the World is a who’s who of sporting greatness over the last couple of decades, but even if some of them may be at the fag end of their time at the very summit of their pursuits, it doesn’t reflect in their earnings.

Someone like Virat Kohli – the sole cricketer in the list – may be struggling for runs, but that hasn’t made him a lesser star with earnings of $33.9 million (Rs. 261.03 crore) (including $31m {Rs. 238.7 crore} in endorsements) putting him in joint 61st spot.  

Virat Kohli endorses over 30 brands including Puma sportswear, Hero two-wheelers, MRF tyres, Audi cards, Myntra, American Tourister luggage, Vivo smartphones and Hyperice wellness.

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The top 10 in the list features usual suspects like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods – about whom it can be safely said that their best days are behind them and any major achievement in the future will be akin to a last hurrah.

Messi ($122 million {Rs. 939.4 crore}) and Ronaldo ($115m {Rs. 885.5 crore}) play a team sport and their current earnings are a factor of what they have achieved over their illustrious careers. The cases of Federer and Woods are proof of image trumping results and trophies.

These days, Woods remains in the news – after his life-threatening car crash last year – regardless of where he finishes in a golf tournament. As far as Federer is concerned, he has hardly played in the last couple of years, has a comeback scheduled for October, which is likely to be a farewell tour for the Swiss star who would be 41 by then. In fact, only $724,000 of Federer’s earnings – out of a total of $85.7m (Rs. 654 crore) – have been earned on a tennis court, but he still finds himself in eighth spot.

LeBron James, wearing a No. 24 jersey, points up while shedding tears after the national anthem before the team’s NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Los Angeles. (AP Photo)

The rest of the top 10 – led by basketball legend LeBron James – is heavily populated by fellow NBA stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and James Harden, along with another footballer (Neymar) and a boxer (Canelo Alvarez).

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The goodwill that Federer enjoys in the sporting world is well documented, and the media frenzy that Woods still generates – even when there are more than a few much-younger superstars winning and contending at Majors these days – is seen to be believed. Recently, a local news channel hired a helicopter to snoop on Woods’ practice round at the Southern Hills golf course, venue of the upcoming PGA Championship. Mind you, this was when there was no certainty over whether the 15-time Major winner would actually play in the tournament. It explains why Woods is still 10th in the earnings chart, with $65m (Rs. 500.5 crore) of his $73.5m (Rs. 565.95 crore) income coming away from the golf course.

The fact remains that icons like Federer and Woods are recognised around the world – even by people who may not necessarily be avid followers of their respective sports – making them safe bets for any marketing campaign. Their brand recall value may go down slightly if they are not playing regularly, but it will be still higher than a younger star swiftly making his way to the top of his sport (e.g. Carlos Alcaraz).  

Athlete/Sport  Winnings ($/INR) Endorsements ($/INR) Total ($/INR)
LeBron James (Basketball) $36.9M (Rs 284 cr) $90M (Rs 693 cr) $126.9M (Rs. 977.13 cr)
Lionel Messi (Football) $72M (Rs 554.4 cr) $50 (Rs 385 cr) $122M (Rs 939.4 cr)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Football) $60M (Rs 462 cr) $55M (Rs 423 cr) $115M (Rs 885.5 cr)
Neymar
(Football)
$65M (Rs 500.5  cr) $38M (Rs 281.2 cr) $103M (Rs 793.1 cr)
Canelo Álvarez (Boxing) $84M (Rs 646.8  cr) $5M (Rs  38.5 cr) $89M (Rs 685.3 cr)
Stephen Curry (Basketball) $41.2M (Rs 317.42 cr) $45M (Rs 346.5 cr) $86.2M (Rs 663.74 cr)
Kevin Durant (Basketball) $37.9M (Rs 291.83 cr) $48M (Rs 369.6  cr) $85.9M (Rs 661.43 cr)
Roger Federer (Tennis) $724K (Rs 5.57  cr) $85M (Rs 654.5 cr) $85.7M (Rs 660.2 cr)
Virat Kohli
(Cricket)
$2.9M (Rs 21.46 cr) $31M (Rs 238.7 cr) $33.9M (Rs 261.03 cr)

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