No longer part of a niche market that targets a limited demographic, the world's top sports brands — from media distributors to apparel and clothing companies — are now among the most valuable businesses in the world. Celebrities endorse their brands, and athletes adored by fans worldwide wear their apparel on the field of play. Sports business is clearly big business, and companies that derive their value from athletics are corporate juggernauts that dominate advertising, marketing, sales and branding.
This list of 10 companies, via Statista and sourced from Forbes, includes their 2017 values. Click through to see which sports businesses rank as the most valuable in the world, and which have been involved in some of the most lucrative deals in sports history.
Value: $650 million
Launched in 1984, the New England Sports Network was among the country's first regional sports networks. Today, it beams broadcasts into more than 4 million homes across six states. Owned by the Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox, NESN produces both sporting events and specials. In 2017, Broadcasting & Cable reported that the sports and TV streaming service fuboTV would be expanding its base service by adding NESN programming.
Value: $800 million
Fitness and lifestyle apparel giant Reebok makes athletic gear of all sorts. But the company has recently made a commitment to return to its roots in running shoes. In fact, Fortune recently reported that by 2020, running shoes will dominate a full quarter of Reebok's footwear business. In 2017, the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced that it would be expanding its apparel sponsorship with Reebok by adding a line of Reebok Octagon hats, walkout hats, hoodies and shorts called the Fight Night Collection.
Value: $1.4 billion
For 12 of the last 13 years, the YES network has been the most widely watched regional sports network in the U.S. Launched in 2002, YES has won 95 Emmys for its programming, which includes magazine and interview programs and biographies. It also owns the exclusive local TV rights to the Brooklyn Nets, New York Yankees and New York City FC, the city's Major League Soccer team. After a lengthy battle, it was announced in 2017 that YES — along with the New York Yankees, one of the biggest-spending teams in baseball — would be returning to Comcast and all the markets where it previously aired.
Value: $2 billion
The Ultimate Fighting Championship claims to be the fastest-growing sport in the world. The mixed martial arts league began in 1993 as a competition based on the brutal Brazilian "vale tudo" fighting tournament tradition. Today, UFC produces 40 live events a year and stakes a claim as the world's largest pay-per-view provider. It is watched in 800 million households in 129 countries and 28 languages.
Value: $2.4 billion
New York's MLB Advanced Media distributes digital content to and through a variety of interactive media. It has been in business for more than 16 years and delivers both live and on-demand media to mobile applications, the web and connected devices. In 2017, Disney announced it would buy a majority stake in BAMTech, a company spun off from MLBAM.
Value: $4.4 billion
Performance apparel giant Under Armour was founded in 1996. The company's ColdGear, HeatGear and AllSeasonGear simplified the decision-making process for athletes in the market for sports apparel. Known for moisture-wicking fabric, the company's clothing was featured in the 1999 movie "Any Given Sunday," which propelled the brand to national prominence. The company went public in 2005 and surpassed $1 billion in annual revenue by 2010. Today its roster of celebrity endorsements includes Steph Curry, Cam Newton, Jordan Spieth, Tom Brady and Lindsey Vonn.
Value: $5.5 billion
Part of the Sky network, Sky Sports delivers programming for Europe-friendly sports like soccer, cricket, rugby, golf and auto racing. Although Forbes reported that viewership was down for Premier League soccer in 2017, record-breaking audiences for Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy) and Champions League (Europe-wide) matches helped boost the value of Sky Sports by 10 percent.
Value: $7.9 billion
One of the biggest names in athletic apparel, footwear, accessories and gear, Adidas produces 850 million product units per year. The company employs 60,000 people in more than 160 countries and has signed some of the world's richest, most impressive athletes. In 2017, Adidas added another budding talent to their already stacked roster, entering into a four-year endorsement deal with Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine worth up to $35 million, ESPN reported.
Value: $15.8 billion
Billing itself as the "worldwide leader in sports," ESPN is synonymous with sports news in the U.S. According to Forbes, only 31 brands in the world are more valuable. Founded in 1979, the company currently employs 4,000 people and logs about $11.8 billion in yearly sales. Although 2017 saw some high-profile layoffs and a decline in profits tied to increased rights fees and a drop in cable subscribers, ESPN is still the most profitable media brand in the world, according to Forbes.
Value: $29.6 billion
Nike is a worldwide powerhouse when it comes to brand recognition. Its shoes, apparel and the iconic Nike swoosh dominate global athletic clothing and gear; its bargaining power, buying power and sheer brand power keep the company at the front of the sports brands pack. Forbes reported that Nike spent $3.3 billion on advertising in 2017, and that only 15 brands in the world are more valuable.
2017 brand values were based on data compiled by Statista, the online statistics portal.