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Forbes Reports Sports' Top Brands

Soccer, baseball and football are well represented in the Forbes' top brands list, but cricket and ultimate fighting show up as well.

| BY Kent McDill

Billions of dollars are spent on sporting events, both by the fans who watch the sports and the corporations that sponsor the sports.

The sponsorship money is closely watched, and corporations want to know they are getting their money’s worth in terms of name recognition and association with the product being sponsored.

Sporting events like the Super Bowl have a brand of seemingly unlimited sponsorship potential, and certain athletes project a brand that corporations want to be a part of.

All of those ingredients contribute to Forbes’ annual list of the Fab 40 – the top 10 brands in four different categories of big-time modern-day sports. The lists cover the top 10 corporation brands, the top 10 team brands, the top 10 event brands and the top 10 athlete brands.

The biggest news from this year’s list is that LeBron James has supplanted Tiger Woods as the top brand among athletes. Most of the rest of the lists are similar names, with some reaching new heights and some dropping, although still in the top 10.

Here is a rundown in each category, starting with the athletes:

According to Forbes, an athlete’s brand value is their endorsement income, minus the average endorsement income of the top 10 athletes in the same sport. As such, James has a brand value of $37 million. Woods, whose deal with Entertainment Arts for a video game ended in 2013, dropped to second, followed by Roger Federer, Phil Mickelson, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (cricket), Usain Bolt, Christiano Ronaldo, Kobe Bryant, Lionel Messi and Rafael Nadel. That’s two for basketball, two for golf, two for soccer, two for tennis, one for track and field and one for cricket.

The top corporation is Nike, and the business brand value is determined as “the estimated enterprise value the business would sell for in an arms-length transaction, minus the enterprise value a typical industry peer of equal size would sell for.” Nike’s brand value is $19 billion; it currently occupies 62 percent of the athletic shoe market and in 2012 became the NFL’s licensed-apparel company, taking over for Reebok.

ESPN ranks second among businesses, followed by Adidas, Sky Sports (sports network for Britain and Ireland), Under Armour, Reebok (which has seen a 15 percent drop in sales the past two years), YES (the New York City-area television network), NESN (the Boston regional television network), MLBAM (home to Major League Baseball’s digital network) and UFC (the mixed martial arts network that is new to the list this year).

It’s no surprise the Super Bowl tops the event brand list. Forbes defines the event brand value as “calculated as the average revenue from media, sponsorships, tickets and licensed merchandise per-event-day of competition.” The Super Bowl’s brand value is estimated at $500 million.

The remainder of the top 10 events are the Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, the NCAA Final Four (basketball), the UEFA Championships, the MLB World Series, WrestleMania, the Daytona 500 and the Kentucky Derby.

The team brand is identified as “the portion of a team’s enterprise value that is not attributable to the size or demographic of its market, or league-shared revenue.” As such, the top team brand belongs to the New York Yankees, with a brand value of $521 million.

The Yankees are followed by Real Madrid, Barcelona, the Dallas Cowboys, Manchester United, the New England Patriots, Bayern Munich, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Lakers. That is four soccer teams, three baseball teams, two NFL teams and one NBA team.

About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.