The Business End: Arsenal gamble in China, Michael Jordan outshines current stars

Michael Jordan’s on-court days may be behind him, but the memory alone of His Airness floating towards the basket makes him worth more to marketers than any other current sportsperson in the world.

MJ became the first basketball player to be worth a billion dollars last year, according to Forbes, with the 52-year-old’s annual endorsements, most notably from Nike’s Jordan Brand, adding up to $100million in the past year.

That figure alone dwarfs his net lifetime earnings from 19 years in basketball (although four of those years were spent in temporary retirements), which came to a – comparably – measly $90million.

It is not unusual for sports stars to be reliant on endorsement cheques for the majority of their salaries, as the recent Forbes guide to the highest-paid athletes has shown. 

While Floyd Mayweather Jr. leads the way having raked in $300million in a year, the brand-toxic boxer made only 5% through endorsements.

The top footballers, too, don’t have to play the corporate tune if they choose not to, thanks to huge salaries. Thus Cristiano Ronaldo can ‘limit’ his endorsements to an estimated $27million per year, despite a recent report arguing that he can make €230,000 per promotional tweet.

Neymar is a rare exception when it comes to endorsement earnings outweighing soccer wages. But then he was the home star of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup.

The Business End: Arsenal gamble in China, Michael Jordan outshines current stars

It’s a whole other ball-game for golf and tennis stars, who rely on blue-chip companies for the majority of their earnings.

Golfers, in particular, are set for a lifetime of Jordanesque parachute payments after they stop grabbing the big golf jackpots, with Phil Mickelson ($48million) and Tiger Woods ($50million) seeing endorsements account for over 94% of their earnings last year.

Even Rory McIlroy relies on endorsements for two-thirds of his income but his sponsors’ cheques, totalling about $32million, are soundly surpassed by former-giant Arnold Palmer. The ice-tea selling ex-pro raked in $42 million last year.

Perhaps the one outlier among tennis’s top-earners is the Serena Slam-winning of the Williams sisters. Despite chasing down a calendar Grand Slam this week, Serena only makes 53% of her wage from endorsements.

It’s a figure that pales in comparison to the likes of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and even Kei Nishikori, while Maria Sharapova, with less than a quarter of Williams’ major titles, beats Williams by $10million.

However current on-court performance is not the primary determining factor, as our retirees will agree.

Williams gave a revealing interview to the New York Times, when it was put to her that the gap is down to companies’ aspirations for a white and blonde face for their product.

“If they want to market someone who is white and blond, that’s their choice. I have a lot of partners who are very happy to work with me.

“I can’t sit here and say I should be higher on the list because I have won more. I’m happy for her (Sharapova), because she worked hard, too. There is enough at the table for everyone.

“We have to be thankful, and we also have to be positive about it so the next black person can be No. 1 on that list.

“Maybe it was not meant to be me. Maybe it’s meant to be the next person to be amazing, and I’m just opening the door.”

Williams and Sharapova are also holding the door for their fellow female athletes, being the only two women in the sport’s top-100 earners.



As Andy Gray warned Premier League clubs often enough, if you don’t buy a ticket, you won’t win the raffle.

Arsenal have gone one step further and bought the raffle, or partnered with the raffle anyway.

A new three-year deal sees Chinese firm DJI Holdings become the club’s official “lottery partner” in the country.

Sport lottery players in China will have the chance to win team kit and match tickets.

Arsenal’s chief commercial officer, Vinai Venkatesham, said: “We have a big fan following in China and this partnership is a result of a lot of work growing our presence there.”



He has been accused of droning on in the commentary box, and Michael Owen is now an investor in drone technology.

Speaking at the Soccerex Global Convention this week, Owen spoke about his various interests after football, which include an investment in M7Aerial, a drone camera company which supplies aerial 360-degrees video via remote-controlled drones.

Owen sees huge potential in football for the technology.



Jose Mourinho didn’t look particularly thrilled at the announcement of Wipro as Chelsea’s official “digital and IT partner”.


French Ligue 1 soccer side Toulouse FC have secured a two-year sponsorship deal with nutrition and dietary supplements company Naturhouse.

Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium will be re-named ’Principality Stadium’ from next year as part of a 10-year partnership between the Welsh Rugby Union and the Principality Building Society.

Boston-based carrier JetBlue has become the official airline of the New England Patriots ahead of tomorrow’s NFL kick-off.



The Beeb will screen Super Bowl 50, as well as a weekly NFL highlights show this season.

A new two-year TV deal also covers live coverage of all three NFL games set for London’s Wembley Stadium during the 2015-16 season.

Sky Sports holds the majority of broadcast rights for the NFL in the UK, having signed a five-year deal last year. Sky will again show Monday night and Thursday night games this season and also recently extended its agreement to screen Sunday games for another two campaigns.


WORLD CUP GRUBBING have issued refuelling recommendations to Irish fans set to take in World Cup ties in Cardiff:

- The Pot: 138 Crwys Road

“A French bistro located in the heart of the city”.

Plates from €12 to €21.

- Bomber’s Sandwich House: Guildhall Place

“The most popular sandwiches in Cardiff”.

Plates from €2 to €5.

- Dorothy’s Fish Bar: Caroline Street

“Serving up the best fish and chips in Cardiff since 1953.”

Plates from €6 to €12.

- Calabrisella Cardiff: 154 Cowbridge Road

“An authentic pizzeria located 15 minutes’ walk from Millennium Stadium.”

Plates from €10.



Cavan rugby club Virgina RFC is the national winner of Ulster Bank’s RugbyForce, which provides support packages to rugby clubs to renovate their facilities. The club receives €10,000 plus a training session with an IRFU coach and two Ireland rugby stars.

The provincial winners were: Ballyclare Rugby Club in Antrim, Dungarvan RFC in Waterford, Claremorris Colts RFC in Mayo and Clane RFC in Kildare. Each received a support package worth €5,000.



Dundalk might be top dogs in domestic football at the moment, but the Louth club aren’t resting on any laurels. The league champions have just launched the second instalment in an impressive YouTube campaign to expand their fanbase.

Funded by sponsors Fyffes, the new video stresses the importance of the club to the region.




Want to be cultured this Christmas? From TV to podcasts to books, Ed Power has the definite list of everything you missed this year - so you can curl up on the couch and catch upThe definite list of everything you missed this year

Artist Ciara Rodgers teaches older people how to rediscover their creativity and regain confidence, says Rowena WalshBrush with art: Discovering your creative side in later life

Furniture, paintings, jewellery and silver are on offer at James Adam in Dublin, writes Des O’SullivanAll set for home run: See what's on offer at the James Adam sale in Dublin

It’s not too late to hunt out a unique gift. Des O’Sullivan previews sales in the lead-up to the festive seasonA flurry of auctions in Munster sets the scene for Christmas

More From The Irish Examiner