MMA fighter Conor McGregor has his own whiskey brand. Picture: USA TODAY SPORTS/JON DURR
MMA fighter Conor McGregor has his own whiskey brand. Picture: USA TODAY SPORTS/JON DURR

The Covid-19 pandemic has altered sports sponsorship. For much of the pandemic, the world’s leading athletes were sidelined, working for reduced pay, playing to empty seats or isolated in competitive bubbles designed to thwart a virus that has sapped billions in revenue from professional sports.

Still, for the best of the best, things couldn’t be better — at least in terms of their financial heft. The ten highest-paid athletes in the world took home pretax gross earnings of $1.05bn during 2020, 28% more than in 2019. The combined haul falls just a few million short of the $1.06bn record set in 2018.

And athletes such as Conor McGregor, last year’s top earner, are putting their wealth to work in whiskey ventures, while tennis stars are launching their own footwear.

But the question for brands who pile money into sports is what does the value proposition look like sponsoring events in empty stadiums?

To discuss this Michael Avery is joined by Jean Willers, MD of Nielsen Sports SA, Justin Sampson, MD of Octagon in SA, and Mike Sharman, co-founder of MatchKit, a DIY website builder aimed at athletes.

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