Olympic success promises fortunes for some but not all
Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Sir Chris Hoy and Mo Farah could earn upwards of £1m a year, say agents, but other gold medallists may find it difficult to stand out to sponsors
The Olympics will create four millionaire sportsmen and women from Britain’s pool of gold medal-winners, sports agents predict.
Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Sir Chris Hoy and Mo Farah could each earn upwards of £1m a year by signing enhanced endorsement deals and banking higher appearance fees.
Jon Ridgeon, a former Olympic hurdler who is now a director at the sports marketing company Fast Track, said: “[The British team] was so successful that most gold medallists won’t make life-changing amounts [of money]. It is difficult to stand out. But for the top bracket – the likes of Jess Ennis, Vicky Pendleton, Chris Hoy and Mo Farah – they can earn £1m to £3m a year. Their challenge is longevity. For those that didn’t [win gold] there will be a dramatic decline in revenues going forward.”
The tennis gold medallist Andy Murray and the road cycling champion Bradley Wiggins already earn millions from their sports, and other athletes enjoyed a surge in earnings in the runup to London.
Jessica Ennis Ltd, the heptathlete’s image rights company, made a profit of £531,799 in the year to the end of September 2011, according to the latest accounts filed with Companies House. As recently as 2009 the company’s profits were £74,343, and its cash reserves have grown over the same period from £145,700 to £801,250. The figures apply to the company and come after any salary Ennis may have drawn.
Ennis, who has sponsorship deals with brands ranging from British Airways to Olay beauty products, is likely to prove even more marketable as a gold medal-winner. Her main female rival is Pendleton, who retired from competitive cycling after the Games and who has deals to endorse brands including Halfords bikes, Hovis bread and Pantene beauty products.
The accounts for Pendleton’s image rights company, Invictus V, show profits of £234,719 last year, up from £274 in 2009, and cash reserves of £539,767 at the end of 2011. Again, the numbers will not include salary, which in Pendleton’s case is estimated to be in the region of £500,000 a year.
Hoy’s company, Trackstars, booked profits of £406,693 last year and had a bank balance of £158,565. Farah’s company made a profit of £104,203 in 2011 and had cash of £36,498. The distance runner can earn substantial sums by competing, with his stated aim of running in the London Marathon potentially offering up to £1m in appearance fees alone.
For other athletes, great financial rewards over the next few years look less likely. Rebecca Adlington, who won double gold in Beijing, had been highly successful in attracting endorsement deals in the runup to this summer, but two bronzes at the Aquatics Centre mean she is expected to be less in demand.
Even some of the Games’ biggest success stories look like also-rans when it comes to attracting large endorsements. The Kenyan runner David Rudisha’s 800m world record was praised by Lord Coe as the standout performance of London 2012, but Oliver Hunt, a partner at the sports law firm Onside Law, which represents Pendleton, said: “It is difficult to think how marketable [Rudisha] will be. Is he really well-known enough in the big markets, and what type of endorsements would come his way? Although he was amazing, when all the fuss dies down you wonder if he can [earn millions].”
Agents question whether Usain Bolt’s success in defending his two sprint titles will increase his value, as he was already at the top of his sport and recognisable around the world. In a Forbes list of the best-paid Olympians, Bolt was the only athlete in the top 10 who was not a tennis or basketball player, coming in seventh with yearly earnings of $20.3m.
The bulk of that income is believed to come via endorsements and sponsor bonuses. Bolt’s most lucrative backer is Puma, which reportedly pays $9m annually.