Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson top list of most valuable athlete brands
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

If Forbes’ Fab 40 list tells us anything, it’s that it pays big time to be a professional golfer — even if their results on the golf course haven’t exactly been up to par. (Kidding. Kind of.) The annual study ranks the world’s most valuable sports brands, grouping them into four categories: businesses, athletes, events and teams.

Well, despite their mediocre performances in recent years, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson rank nos. 1 and 2, respectively, as the most valuable brands. Throw in Rory McIlroy at no. 9 and you have three golfers in the top 10.

Despite Woods’ troubles on the course in the past year or so, his brand clearly hasn’t hurt. Forbes has him at the top spot valued at $30 million. Now this isn’t the total amount he collected in endorsements in 2015, but rather how much *more* he earned than the average endorsement income of the top 10 athletes in the same sport. That number equates how much an athlete’s brand is worth on its own.

Woods’ value actually decreased since 2015 and he dropped from $36 million in 2014, but obviously it didn’t hurt too badly as he’s still at the very top of the list. According to Forbes, his brand value fell by $6 million from 2014 because of an increase in the endorsement income of the new generation of stars in golf, like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.

Mickelson isn’t far behind Woods with his 2015 brand value equating to $28 million, a slight decrease from last year when it was $29 million.

Despite their drop from 2014, Woods and Mickelson are still ranked ahead of NBA star Lebron James and tennis icon Roger Federer, who tied for third at $27 million.

Now Rory is ranked ninth with a measly brand value of just $12 million. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jordan Spieth crack the top 10 next year with the massive season he had this past year with two majors victories and the FedEx Cup title, along with being named the PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Woods and McIlroy’s most prominent sponsor, Nike, is the top-ranked sports business brand at $26 billion. It wasn’t even a contest with ESPN coming in second at $9 billion less. Under Armour has jumped to no. 4 at $5 billion — which in part is likely attributed to the success of Spieth.

What jumped out to me the most was seeing Sky Sports ranked at no. 5 among businesses. The sports channel has increased their coverage of golf, among other things, in recent years and will take over the TV rights for the Open Championship — which were long owned by BBC — starting in 2016.