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Visualizing the Highest-Paid Athletes in 2021

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Ranking the Highest-Paid Athletes in 2021

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Who Were the Highest-Paid Athletes in 2021?

The financial figures in sport are enormous. The highest-paid athletes in the world make tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions per year.

The global pandemic put a significant dent in the commercial aspect of many sports. Even though the teams and their owners earned significantly less during this period, individual athletes actually thrived.

According to the Forbes annual rankings of the world’s highest-paid athletes for 2021, the top 50 of them turned in a record-setting year and made nearly $2.8 billion in 12 months, beating 2019’s record total by more than $150 million.

Highlights of the Year

This year’s list had a multitude of names making the big bucks. Here are some of the highlights:

Connor McGregor is 2021’s highest-paid athlete

MMA fighter Connor McGregor tops the list with a whopping $180 million earned in 2021. According to McGregor, this has been a long time coming, who in 2016 infamously boasted to soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo that he’d overtake him one day as sports’ highest-paid star.

Roger Federer lands at the 7th spot

Roger Federer’s on-field earnings for 2021 were a mere $0.03 million, but he still lands in the 7th spot. Recovering from a knee injury, Roger Federer made nearly all of his $90 million in earnings from sponsorships.

Naomi Osaka is the only woman among the top 15 earners

Naomi Osaka is the highest-paid female athlete on this list and the only one to crack the top 15. Over the last year, she won her second Australian and U.S. Open titles, while also receiving media attention for her stances on mental health and racial equality.

Dak Prescott had the highest on-field earning

The highest on-field earning by any player was by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott who earned $97.5 million in 2020. In March of 2021, Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million contract extension with the Cowboys, with a $66 million signing bonus.

Motor racing’s top earners

Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton and newcomer and current world championship leader Max Verstappen are the only two from the sport of auto racing on the list.

Significance in Numbers

Let’s take a look at the most notable numbers in this year’s list:

What the Future Holds for the Highest-Paid Athletes

With contracts and endorsement deals growing bigger every year, the number of athletes breaking the $100 million mark will continue to increase.

While supermax contracts and weekly wages make the headlines, endorsement deals account for a significant portion of an athlete’s income. And that piece of the pie is growing steadily. The off-the-field earnings of the top 50 athletes reached $1.04 billion this year, compared with $556 million back in 2012.

If the last year has been any indication, socio-political messages and social media will likely play an essential part in how athletes are perceived and their endorsements are impacted as we go forward in the future.

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Markets

Ranked: The World’s Top Flight Routes, by Revenue

In this graphic, we show the highest earning flight routes globally as air travel continued to rebound in 2023.

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The World’s Top Flight Routes, by Revenue

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

In 2024, a record 4.7 billion people are projected to travel by air—200 million more than in 2019.

While revenues surged to an estimated $896 billion globally last year, airlines face extremely slim margins. On average, they made just $5.44 in net profit per passenger in 2023. Today, the industry faces pressures from high interest rates, supply chain woes, and steep infrastructure costs.

This graphic shows the highest earning flight routes worldwide, based on data from OAG.

The Top Revenue-Generating Routes in 2023

Below, we show the airline routes with the highest revenues in the first half of 2023:

Route Airport CodesRevenue H1 2023
Sydney to MelbourneSYD-MEL$1.21B
New York to LondonJFK-LHR$1.15B
Riyadh to JeddahRUH-JED$1.03B
Dubai to RiyadhDXB-RUH$990M
Los Angeles to New York LAX-JFK$801M
San Francisco to NewarkSFO-EWR$722M
Newark to Los AngelesEWR-LAX$682M
Singapore to SydneySIN-SYD$650M
New York to Paris JFK-CDG$647M
Perth to MelbournePER-MEL$642M

As we can see, domestic flights comprised six of the 10 largest revenue-generating flights, with Sydney to Melbourne ranking first overall, at $1.21 billion.

In fact, this route is earning more than twice that of pre-pandemic levels, even as the number of passengers declined. The flight route is largely dominated by Qantas and Virgin Australia, with Qantas achieving record-breaking domestic earnings margins of 18% in the fiscal year ending in June 2023. Lower fuel costs and soaring ticket prices were key factors in driving revenues.

Furthermore, Qantas and Virgin Australia are major carriers for flights between Melbourne and Perth, another top-earning route.

New York to London, one of the busiest and most profitable routes globally, generated $1.15 billion in revenues, representing a 37% increase compared to the same period in 2019. Overall, the flight route had 3.88 million scheduled airline seats for the full year of 2023.

The highest revenue increase over this period was for flights from Dubai to Riyadh, with revenues surging 416% year-over-year. This two-hour flight, a highly lucrative route between major financial centers, is one of the busiest in the Middle East.

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