Rory McIlroy signs for Nike - but who earns the most from endorsements?

By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH.   Last Updated: 24/01/13 2:00pm

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Rory McIlroy's new endorsement deal has propelled him into the realms of the mega-rich, but he is by no means the biggest earner the sporting world, here we look at the big 10 bread winners in terms of sporting sponsorship deals.

McIlroy may well be bringing in around £15m a year for the next decade thanks to his new deal, but he will need to add to that total if he is to trouble our list of the top earners from sports sponsorship deals.

Here's a run down of the highest annual earners from sponsorship deals.

1. Tiger Woods £34.2m

Amazingly, Tiger Woods still tops the tree in terms of endorsement deals, which is incredible when you think he lost a couple of big-name companies after his well-publicised transgressions off the course. Woods amazingly has seen his total earning halved in size since 2009, but still nobody can bring in the cash as much as Tiger, thanks mainly to his whopping Nike deal he still leads the way in terms of sponsorship cash.

2. Roger Federer £28m

The Swiss superstar is not only the greatest ever tennis player but he is one of the best earners in history as well, with plenty of cash to stash in his Swiss bank account thanks to his amazing exploits on the court. Nine top-flight sponsors such as Rolex regularly fill his bank balance while the 16-time grand slam champion also brings in $1m for an appearance in an exhibition event - not a bad way to top up his career prize money earnings of around £44m.

3. Phil Mickelson 26.8m

Four-time major winner Phil Mickelson has always been just a couple of steps behind his great rival Tiger Woods, and this extends to putting dollars in the bank as well, although Lefty is a long way from feeling out-of-pocket. Thanks to a mega deal with club makers Callaway and banking giants Barclays, Mickelson can sit back and enjoy his time on the golf course and worry about winning tournaments not paying the bills.

4. Lebron James £25m

'King' James certainly commands a king's ransom when it comes to putting his name to a product as the biggest name in basketball in the USA. All the big names are in his portfolio - Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts to name a few. He had bagged a $56m deal before even shooting his first three-point in the NBA, and now the tree-time league MVP can basically name his price for those wanting to be associated with him.

5.David Beckham £23m

Of course, no rich list would be complete without Brand Beckham making an appearance. With Becks out in Hollywood it can almost go unnoticed that he is still one of the biggest names in the world. He signed what was described as the biggest commercial contract in sport with adidas in 2003 which included a percentage of sales and half his money up front, proving our Becks is not just a pretty face. Being a figured for London 2012 did not hurt his marketing power either with Sainsbury's and Samsung added to his list.

6. Kobe Bryant £20m

Another basketball star comes in at number six with the top man for the LA Lakers and the NBA's top wage earner also doing alright for himself with his commercial activities. Bryant is regularly the top name on jerseys sold around the globe, while Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola keep his lofty income topped up with big-money deals. The poor guy needs all the money he can get though as his divorce from wife Vanessa will not come cheap.

7. Rafa Nadal £15.5m

He may have been off the court for some time and will also miss the Australian Open due to on-going injury problems, but although he is not able to get going on the court he can still bring in a few pennies here and there as another globally recognised sportsman. His career prize money is second only to Federer, and so is his ability to attract top sponsors as well. The record seven-time French Open champion will hope to be back on court soon to keep the prize money stacking up.

8. MS Dhoni £14.3m

His salary may be dwarfed by some of the big-name American sports stars and Premier League footballers, but the Indian cricket captain is the highest sporting earner in his country and those earnings will only be going up in the next few years. Being the pin-up boy of the national sport helps, but so does signing endorsement deals with around 20 brands which see his face plastered all over the nation. The 31-year-old is amongst the best-known faces in India and he is also now amongst their top earners as brands awareness grows in such a densely populated market.

9. Maria Sharapova £13.6m

We're in and around the realms of what McIlroy could possibly be earning now, as the world's best paid female athlete makes the list thanks to her making almost four-times as much money through sponsors as she does winning tennis matches. That, as we've seen, is not uncommon though and she certainly is cashing in thanks to a multitude of deals, while she even now has her own line of sweets from her company Sugarpova.

10. Cristiano Ronaldo £13.6m

As much as players are paid in wages in the Premier League and La Liga, they are still lagging way behind in terms of endorsement deals with Ronaldo the only European-based footballer to make it onto the top ten list for the year. Ronaldo has the biggest pay check in football but even that is overshadowed by his deals with Nike, Castrol and a few others. Many in the industry believe him to be the most marketable athlete in the world, he was ninth in the last top 100 total earners in world sport and can go on to challenge the real big hitters in 2013.

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