Explainer: Bloomberg Businessweek's 100 most powerful athletes

  • Image: Shawn White
    Getty Images

    What is power in sports? It's not simply the ability to bench-press a truck or crush a golf ball down the fairway. While such talents are impressive, there are other attributes that fans — and advertisers — value just as highly. It's the combination of athletic achievement plus the ability to connect with an audience on a deeper, more personal level that separates mere jocks from the stars. Indeed, the everyman image often earns the highest ranking and the biggest earnings. That explains why the No. 1 spot on the 2011 Power 100 ranking went to Peyton Manning, the well-liked, hard-working Colts quarterback who appeared in two of the last four Super Bowls and led his team to victory in Super Bowl XLI. This year, 2010's No. 1, Tiger Woods, dropped in the rankings when his once-squeaky clean image was revealed to be a sham. Still, Woods has spent an unprecedented 623 weeks atop the World Golf Rankings and in 2010 managed to rack up more than $70 million in earnings, mainly from existing endorsement deals. Even with his earnings down 32 percent from the more than $103 million he took in last year, Woods outpaced all other pro athletes. It's not just likability that moves us. Fans also love the mental toughness it takes to crush competitors and dominate a sport in the manner of Roger Federer or Shaun White.

    For the Power Sports 100, Bloomberg BusinessWeek worked with CSE, formerly known as Career Sports & Entertainment, and columnist and Bloomberg TV contributor Rick Horrow of Horrow Sports Ventures to determine the 100 most powerful athletes on and off the field. No coaches, owners, managers, executives or retired athletes were considered. Off-field metrics included the results of polls on individual athletes by E-Poll Market Research and estimated endorsement dollars. On-field metrics were tallied on those who outscored, out-tackled, or outskated the competition during 2009 and 2010. Sports were weighted according to their popularity in the U.S. For a complete methodology click here.

  • Peyton Manning

    Image: Peyton Manning

    Power 100 rank: 1
    Rank last year: 5
    Sport: NFL, Indianapolis Colts quarterback
    Age: 34
    Most recent notable achievement: 2011 Pro Bowl (11th selection)
    Earnings: $30 million
    Key sponsors: MasterCard, Reebok, Gatorade, Oreo

    Why he's on the list: If there is one man to take over Tiger Woods's role as the leading man in sports, it's Peyton Manning, the most popular quarterback in America's favorite sport. Apart from his amazing on-field performance, Manning is marketable, recognizable, and down-to-earth. It paid off with an estimated $15 million in endorsements last year.

  • Shaun White

    Image: Shawn White
    AFP - Getty Images

    Power 100 rank: 2
    Rank last year: 51
    Sport: Snowboarding, Skateboarding
    Age: 24
    Most recent notable achievement: 2010 Olympic gold medal, 2010 X Games gold medal
    Earnings: $8.8 million
    Key sponsors: Red Bull, Target, Burton, Oakley

    Why he's on the list: With his fiery red locks and dorky attempts to look cool, Shaun White is the lovable face of both snowboarding and skateboarding. He dominated the halfpipe at the Olympics this year, proving once again that he is the world's best snowboarder and an attractive athlete to brands that want to appeal to youth.

  • Tiger Woods

    Image: Tiger Woods

    Power 100 rank: 3
    Rank last year: 1
    Sport: PGA golf
    Age: 35
    Most recent notable achievement: Won 2008 U.S. Open
    Earnings: $71.3 million
    Key sponsors: Nike, EA Sports, Tag Heuer

    Why he's on the list: Tiger Woods is still Tiger Woods and money is still money. He topped our estimated money list at $70 million in endorsements last year, dominated golf during the last decade, and remains the PGA career money leader by a long shot. Still, sex scandals tend to hurt earnings and unquestionably damaged Woods's performance. Dropped by such big sponsors as Accenture, he fell in our rankings—by only two places.

    Bloomberg Businessweek: Full list of the 2011 Power 100

  • Phil Mickelson

    Image: Phil Mickelson
    Getty Images

    Power 100 rank: 4
    Rank last year: 3
    Sport: PGA golf
    Age: 40
    Most recent notable achievement: 2010 win at the Masters
    Earnings: $53.8 million
    Key sponsors: Barclays, Callaway, KPMG, ExxonMobil, Rolex

    Why he's on the list: Beyond the big money that goes along with big golf wins, Phil Mickelson gave sports fans the heart-warming sports miracle of the year when he won his third Masters. Waiting for him at the 18th green was his wife, Amy, recovering from surgery for breast cancer. CBS announcer Jim Nantz commented on the win — and Tiger Wood's problems — when he said: "That's a win for the family."

  • Tom Brady

    Image: Tom Brady

    Power 100 rank: 5
    Rank last year: 30
    Sport: NFL, New England Patriots quarterback
    Age: 33
    Most recent notable achievement: 2011 Pro Bowl (6th Selection)
    Earnings: $30 million
    Key sponsors: Under Armour, UGG, Glaceau, Movado, Audi

    Why he's on the list: Tom Brady signed a contract in September that earned him a spot as the highest-paid player in football, then had one of his best-ever regular seasons, with only four interceptions. Three Super Bowl rings and chiseled good looks make Brady a perfect pitchman for everything from Stetson hats to girly UGG boots. (It doesn't hurt that he's married to supermodel Gisele Bündchen.) We estimate that he pulled in a cool $20 million in endorsements.

  • Shaquille O'Neal

    Image: Shaq

    Power 100 rank: 6
    Rank last year: 9
    Sport: NBA, Boston Celtics center
    Age: 38
    Most recent notable achievement: 2009 NBA All-Star (15th Selection)
    Earnings: $15.3 million
    Key sponsors: Li-Ning, Oreo, Comcast

    Why he's on the list: One of the most recognizable faces on the planet, Shaquille O'Neal has gotten into reality television, rap albums, and law enforcement, apart from lucrative endorsements that paid him an estimated $14 million last year. O'Neal has four NBA championship rings among accolades galore and he's still playing — if not at the top of his game — at 38.

    Bloomberg Businessweek: Five Athletes to Watch in 2011

  • Drew Brees

    Imgae: Drew Brees

    Power 100 rank: 7
    Rank last year: 25
    Sport: NFL, New Orleans Saints quarterback
    Age: 32
    Most recent notable achievement: Won Super Bowl XLIV
    Earnings: $17 million
    Key sponsors: Nike, Visa

    Why he's on the list: Drew Brees's Saints won the most recent Super Bowl, where he was named most valuable player. He appeared on everything from Oprah to Letterman and warmed America's hearts when he hoisted his one-year-old son along with the trophy. Although the Saints were shocked by the Seahawks in the 2011 playoffs, Brees logged more than 400 yards in the game, so we'll blame that one on the defense.

  • Lance Armstrong

    Image: Lance Armstrong
    AFP - Getty Images

    Power 100 rank: 8
    Rank last year: 10
    Sport: Cycling
    Age: 39
    Most recent notable achievement: 23rd in 2010 Tour de France
    Earnings: $15.3 million
    Key sponsors: Trek, Nike, Oakley

    Why he's on the list: His latest — and last — Tour de France didn't go so well: Lance Armstrong didn't win. Nonetheless, his comeback from testicular cancer stands among the greatest stories in sports history. The seven-time Tour winner remains recognizable and Armstong continues to wield a massive charitable presence through his Livestrong Foundation.

  • Albert Pujols

    Image: Albert Pujols

    Power 100 rank: 9
    Rank last year: 4
    Sport: MLB, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman
    Age: 31
    Most recent notable achievement: 2010 Gold Glove and 2010 NL Home Run Champion
    Earnings: $23.5 million
    Key sponsors: Nike

    Why he's on the list: Perhaps the best player in baseball, Albert Pujols may end up as a free agent this year if the Cardinals don't come up with some big money. In the meantime, Pujols has been cashing in on endorsements, drawing an estimated $8 million worth last year.

    Bloomberg Businessweek: Roger beats Rafa

  • Apolo Anton Ohno

    Image: Apolo Ohno
    Getty Images

    Power 100 rank: 10
    Rank last year: 64
    Sport: Speed skating
    Age: 28
    Most recent notable achievement: Three medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics
    Earnings: $1.7 million
    Key sponsors: Coca-Cola, AT&T, Alaska Airlines

    Why he's on the list: The face of short-track speed skating in the U.S., Apolo Anton Ohno has won eight Olympic medals, making him the most decorated American winter athlete of all time. Between Olympic Games, he also found time to win "Dancing with the Stars" in 2007 and to start a nutritional supplement business.

    Bloomberg Businessweek: LeBron at No. 11 and rest of list through 100


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