How do sports teams make money? Details on how professional sports teams make profits

How do sports teams make money? Details on how professional sports teams make profits

Kevin Omuya
February 16, 2023 at 2:07 PM

How do sports teams make money? Money talks in the business world. One of the primary factors in practically every deal made in the industry is the presence or absence of money. While we know the importance of money, let us find the sources that help generate money for professional sports teams.

How do sports teams make money?
Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore announces to the media in central London that satellite channel BSkyB and the BBC emerged as winners in a new 1.1 billion TV football deal. Photo: Tom Hevezi
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People's ability to emotionally connect with and unite around sports is one of the main reasons money plays a huge part in sports. This explains why hundreds of thousands of fans fill every stadium hosting a sporting event every weekend. As long as people like watching and participating in sporting events, fan spending will be the primary driver of the business.

Growing Media Rights

Even though U.S. cable providers are predicted to lose more than a third of their pay-TV subscriber base by 2025 due to cable cutting, sports leagues globally, such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, Premier League, La Liga, etc., have witnessed a tremendous gain in their broadcasting rights. More than $50 billion is spent annually on sports media rights worldwide.

For example, the National Football League (NFL) just signed 10-year, $100 billion-plus broadcasting agreements with multiple networks, an increase of about 100% over their last contract. Rethink Research predicts that by 2025, global revenue from sports media rights will reach $85 billion, a 75% increase from 2018.

This increase is primarily due to the popularity of streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu TV, and others. All other sources of income pale in comparison to the money made by television and other media rights for the world's leading professional sports leagues. It is another way how sports teams make money.


How professional sports teams make money
A poster displays advertising about the 7th Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race 2023 - Team Presentation / #CadelRoadRace / on January 27, 2023, in Geelong, Australia. Photo: Tim de Waele
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Merchandise sales and advertising revenue are the industry's second and third-largest total revenue contributors. Merchandising comes in at number two because it appeals to fans more by allowing them to buy the same gear and equipment the squad would wear.

The most prominent companies in the United States are always seeking new ways to advertise because they know that the industry is one of the most profitable on the planet. Each year, the sports industry sees billions of dollars in spending on advertising from companies.

Companies are always looking to get their hands on the sports "cookie jar," whether that means being an official partner of one of the major American leagues or simply having a famous athlete showcase their brand.

Ticket Sales, Concessions & Merchandise

How do sports teams make money?
A sign reads 'FA Cup ticket Sold Out' for the Accrington Stanley v Leeds United, Emirates FA Cup at the Wham Stadium, Accrington. Picture date: Saturday, January 28, 2023. Photo: Mike Egerton
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The COVID-19 outbreak was a harsh reminder of the importance of in-person, fan-centric revenue sources like ticket sales, concessions, and souvenirs to the whole ecosystem, which are often overlooked by enormous media agreements. But still, there were ways in which various sports team owners made money.

  • NFL: $4 billion
  • NBA: $1.5 billion
  • MLB: $3 billion
  • Premier League: $2.5 billion

As most professional sporting events worldwide continue to be held with few or no spectators in attendance, those numbers only indicate losses in 2020 and will compound. Sports team owners made money via tickets, snacks, merchandise, parking passes, and other in-person sales that accounted for anything from 10% to 40% of the total revenue for professional sports leagues.

Sponsorships & Licensing Deals

How sports teams make money
Sponsors of the Sheen Panel Service W.J. Adams Stakes at Ladbrokes Park Hillside Racecourse on January 26, 2023, in Springvale, Australia. Photo: Brett Holburt
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Do owners of sports teams make money? Professional leagues and teams earn from licensing deals with firms producing and selling merchandise with the company or team's logo. In addition to the capital, they receive from media contracts and more commodities like tickets and concessions. This is how most professional sports teams make money. Here are a few examples:

  • In a deal worth $1 billion over eight years, Nike became the official gear supplier of the NBA and its teams.
  • The current jersey sponsorship arrangement between Standard Chartered and Liverpool FC is worth around $55 million annually, a 100% increase from the previous deal that concluded in 2015.
  • FTX, the first cryptocurrency exchange to sponsor a major US professional sports stadium, and the Miami Heat have agreed to a 19-year, $135 million naming-rights contract for the arena.
  • Professional sports leagues and teams will find a way to make money off anything that can be branded, labelled, and sold to the highest bidder, whether naming rights to an NFL stadium or a patch on an NBA player's jersey.

Future Opportunities

Where do sports teams get their money to pay players?
A logo sits illuminated outside the Amazon Web Services (AWS) booth at ISE 2023 and IOT Solution World Congress at Fira Barcelona on January 31, 2023, in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: Cesc Maymo
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The sector is currently experiencing various macro-related tailwinds that will assist in developing the industry for years to come. These are different from the conventional revenue streams that most sports fans prefer to think of. Prices for sports media rights are projected to rise further in the future as the introduction of streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hulu TV, and others fundamentally alters the supply and demand equation.

Sports betting

In the United States, for instance, just 27% of the population can participate in legal mobile betting in their state; however, Macquarie predicts that number will rise to 96% by 2025. Professional sports leagues and teams will have access to new sources of money as betting becomes more permitted across the country.

How money is used

It is important to note that the distribution of funds inside the organisation varies by sport. For instance, a golfer like Jordan Spieth will distribute his prize money to his team in a manner that differs from that in which the Dallas Cowboys would distribute their total earnings. While it is clear that they are different, the fact that the team will split the profits evenly among itself is another.

Whether ticket sales or item sales, much of the money in the industry comes from the fans, whose enthusiasm and emotion are the accurate motors of the industry. Once the money starts rolling in, it gets allocated according to a detailed budget plan typical of Fortune 500 businesses.

Where do sports teams get their money to pay players?

What generates the most revenue for sports teams?
A view of a betting kiosk at Boston Encore Harbor Betting on the first day of legal betting in Massachusetts. Photo: John Tlumacki
Source: Getty Images

A significant revenue source for professional sports organisations is selling the rights to manufacture and sell merchandise bearing a team's name or logo. Crews are on par with television contracts and more tangible commodities like tickets and concessions.

What generates the most revenue for sports teams?

Over $100 billion is made annually by the sports betting business, but fans know that only some sports are created equal when it comes to wagering. Bettors typically have the highest success with NFL football and European soccer.

How do sports teams make money? Teams bring money to their home cities through merchandise, ticket sales, and corporate sponsorships. Higher revenues are necessary to fund a professional football team's massive annual running costs.

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Kevin Omuya
SEO Editor