Move over, Tiger Woods, there is a new No. 1 athlete endorser in town. LeBron James has pulled ahead of the golf icon in brand value, according to Forbes estimates. In the magazine's annual Fab 40 list of sports stars, businesses, brands and teams, James topped the list of endorsers, raking in $53 million from Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Upper Deck endorsements.
Forbes listed the 29-year-old basketball star’s 2014 brand value at $37 million, a sharp rise from 2013, when it listed him at $27 million. In June, James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers on a two-year deal worth $42.1 million after four seasons with the Miami Heat. He is expected to garner a much larger contract in 2016 due to the NBA’s new television deal worth $24 billion over nine years. NBA star Kevin Durant also is expected to get a more lucrative contract in 2016.
It’s no surprise that James has reached this point. Before he began his rookie campaign in 2003, Nike signed him to a seven-year deal worth $90 million. He has been the face of professional basketball in recent years, and is expected to contend for another NBA title in Cleveland after winning two championships in Miami.
Woods had been the top athlete in Forbes’s Fab 40 list each year since 2007. But the 38-year-old golfer’s stock fell due to sports video game giant Electronic Sports ending its 14-year relationship with him. Woods dipped from a brand value of $46 million in 2013 to $36 million in 2014. He is still chasing an elusive 15th major, having last won the U.S. Open in 2008.
Roger Federer finished third on the list. Like Woods, Federer saw his brand value drop. The tennis player was at $46 million in 2013, but fell to $32 million in 2014. Federer, 33, who has won 17 grand slams, has had several long-term endorsement deals, including Nike, Rolex and Credit Suisse. He also has been with Gillette since 2006. The men’s grooming company cut ties with Tiger Woods in December 2010 during his adultery scandal.
Meanwhile, Woods is not the only golfer on the list as Phil Mickelson finished in fourth place at $29 million. With five majors to his credit, he saw his brand value increase from 2013 ($25 million). In 2013, Mickelson, now 44, won the British Open, his first major since taking the Masters in 2010.
Rounding out the list, cricket star Mahendra Singh Dohoni finished fifth ($20 million) and sprinter Usain Bolt came in sixth ($19 million). Cristiano Ronaldo was the top soccer player and finished seventh overall ($17 million), followed by Kobe Bryant ($15 million), Lionel Messi ($12 million) and Rafael Nadal ($10 million).
Forbes listed Nike as its most valuable sports business brand at $19 billion. The Super Bowl was the top event brand value at $500 million, and the New York Yankees were the top team brand at $521 million.