Who Were The Highest-Paid Athletes For The Year 2021?
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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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Technology

Every Mission to Mars in One Visualization

This graphic shows a timeline of every mission to Mars since 1960, highlighting which ones have been successful and which ones haven’t.

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Timeline: A Historical Look at Every Mission to Mars

Within our Solar System, Mars is one of the most similar planets to Earth—both have rocky landscapes, solid outer crusts, and cores made of molten rock.

Because of its similarities to Earth and proximity, humanity has been fascinated by Mars for centuries. In fact, it’s one of the most explored objects in our Solar System.

But just how many missions to Mars have we embarked on, and which of these journeys have been successful? This graphic by Jonathan Letourneau shows a timeline of every mission to Mars since 1960 using NASA’s historical data.

A Timeline of Mars Explorations

According to a historical log from NASA, there have been 48 missions to Mars over the last 60 years. Here’s a breakdown of each mission, and whether or not they were successful:

#LaunchNameCountryResult
11960Korabl 4USSR (flyby)Failure
21960Korabl 5USSR (flyby)Failure
31962Korabl 11USSR (flyby)Failure
41962Mars 1USSR (flyby)Failure
51962Korabl 13USSR (flyby)Failure
61964Mariner 3US (flyby)Failure
71964Mariner 4US (flyby)Success
81964Zond 2USSR (flyby)Failure
91969Mars 1969AUSSRFailure
101969Mars 1969BUSSRFailure
111969Mariner 6US (flyby)Success
121969Mariner 7US (flyby)Success
131971Mariner 8USFailure
141971Kosmos 419USSRFailure
151971Mars 2 Orbiter/LanderUSSRFailure
161971Mars 3 Orbiter/LanderUSSRSuccess/Failure
171971Mariner 9USSuccess
181973Mars 4USSRFailure
191973Mars 5USSRSuccess
201973Mars 6 Orbiter/LanderUSSRSuccess/Failure
211973Mars 7 LanderUSSRFailure
221975Viking 1 Orbiter/LanderUSSuccess
231975Viking 2 Orbiter/LanderUSSuccess
241988Phobos 1 OrbiterUSSRFailure
251988Phobos 2 Orbiter/LanderUSSRFailure
261992Mars ObserverUSFailure
271996Mars Global SurveyorUSSuccess
281996Mars 96RussiaFailure
291996Mars PathfinderUSSuccess
301998NozomiJapanFailure
311998Mars Climate OrbiterUSFailure
321999Mars Polar LanderUSFailure
331999Deep Space 2 Probes (2)USFailure
342001Mars OdysseyUSSuccess
352003Mars Express Orbiter/Beagle 2 LanderESASuccess/Failure
362003Mars Exploration Rover - SpiritUSSuccess
372003Mars Exploration Rover - OpportunityUSSuccess
382005Mars Reconnaissance OrbiterUSSuccess
392007Phoenix Mars LanderUSSuccess
402011Mars Science LaboratoryUSSuccess
412011Phobos-Grunt/Yinghuo-1Russia/ChinaFailure
422013Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutionUSSuccess
432013Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)IndiaSuccess
442016ExoMars Orbiter/Schiaparelli EDL Demo LanderESA/RussiaSuccess/Failure
452018Mars InSight LanderUSSuccess
462020Hope OrbiterUAESuccess
472020Tianwen-1 Orbiter/Zhurong RoverChinaSuccess
482020Mars 2020 Perseverance RoverUSSuccess

The first mission to Mars was attempted by the Soviets in 1960, with the launch of Korabl 4, also known as Mars 1960A.

As the table above shows, the voyage was unsuccessful. The spacecraft made it 120 km into the air, but its third-stage pumps didn’t generate enough momentum for it to stay in Earth’s orbit.

For the next few years, several more unsuccessful Mars missions were attempted by the USSR and then NASA. Then, in 1964, history was made when NASA launched the Mariner 4 and completed the first-ever successful trip to Mars.

The Mariner 4 didn’t actually land on the planet, but the spacecraft flew by Mars and was able to capture photos, which gave us an up-close glimpse at the planet’s rocky surface.

Then on July 20, 1976, NASA made history again when its spacecraft called Viking 1 touched down on Mars’ surface, making it the first space agency to complete a successful Mars landing. Viking 1 captured panoramic images of the planet’s terrain, and also enabled scientists to monitor the planet’s weather.

Vacation to Mars, Anyone?

To date, all Mars landings have been done without crews, but NASA is planning to send humans to Mars by the late 2030s.

And it’s not just government agencies that are planning missions to Mars—a number of private companies are getting involved, too. Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX has a long-term plan to build an entire city on Mars.

Two other aerospace startups, Impulse and Relativity, also announced an unmanned joint mission to Mars in July 2022, with hopes it could be ready as soon as 2024.

As more players are added to the mix, the pressure is on to be the first company or agency to truly make it to Mars. If (or when) we reach that point, what’s next is anyone’s guess.

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Misc

Brand Loyalty is Declining for Most Luxury Automakers

Brand loyalty has declined for most luxury automakers, but three brands—Tesla, Maserati, and Genesis—appear to have bucked the trend.

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Brand Loyalty is Declining for Most Luxury Automakers

New research conducted by S&P Global Mobility has found that brand loyalty—measured as the percentage of buyers that go back to the same brand for their next vehicle—is falling across the luxury segment.

In this infographic, we’ve visualized the results of this research, which spans from January 2020 to April 2022.

Brand Loyalty Losers

The following brands have all experienced a drop in brand loyalty over the time period.

For additional context, we’ve also included each brand’s score in the J.D. Power 2022 Initial Quality Study. This is measured based on the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) in the first 90 days of ownership.

BrandPercentage Point Change
in Brand Loyalty
PP100
🇬🇧 Land Rover-9.2193
🇩🇪 Porsche-8.5200
🇺🇸 Lincoln-7.9167
🇩🇪 Audi-7.3239
🇩🇪 Mercedes-Benz-7.0189
🇮🇹 Alfa Romeo-6.6211
🇺🇸 Cadillac-6.4163
🇸🇪 Volvo-5.3256
🇯🇵 Infiniti-5.2204
🇬🇧 Jaguar-5.1210
🇯🇵 Lexus-4.8157
Luxury average-4.5199
🇯🇵 Acura-2.7192
🇩🇪 BMW-2.3165

Land Rover experienced the biggest drop in loyalty, despite a better than average PP100 rating. One potential reason is timing⁠—the brand’s premier model, the Range Rover, has been in its fourth generation since 2012. The SUV has become relatively dated, though a new fifth generation was recently revealed for the 2022 model year.

Two Volkswagen Group brands, Audi and Porsche, also fared poorly in terms of loyalty. This is somewhat surprising, as both brands offer a portfolio of both gasoline and electric models. Many competitors, such as Acura, Lexus, and Maserati, have yet to release an EV.

Brand Loyalty Winners

Three brands have managed to buck the trend, as shown below.

BrandPercentage Point Change
in Brand Loyalty
PP100
Luxury average-4.5199
🇺🇸 Tesla+4.0226
🇮🇹 Maserati+4.3255
🇰🇷 Genesis+8.5156

We can draw parallels between Tesla and Apple, in that both have incredibly loyal followers.

For instance, between March 2021 to April 2022, 62% of buyers/households who returned to market and previously owned a Model 3 purchased a new Tesla. That’s an impressive statistic, especially when we consider Tesla’s history of build quality issues.

Maserati appears to be in the same boat. The Italian automaker has strengthened its brand loyalty by 4.3 percentage points, despite having the luxury segment’s worst PP100. Perhaps build quality matters less than we think.

Another Factor to Consider

Ongoing supply chain issues could also be contributing to wide-spread declines in loyalty. Rather than waiting several months (or in the case of EVs, years), buyers may switch to a different brand that has cars in stock.

We are still monitoring it week to week, but up to now basically worldwide, we had no issues running production.
– Joerg Burzer, Mercedes-Benz

Many automakers have reported that their supply issues are diminishing, though new economic challenges have risen. For example, surging inflation has pushed the price of a new car to record highs. Combined with rising interest rates (cost of borrowing), this could negatively impact the demand for new cars.

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