PAYOFF PITCHES

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Annual income of $10 million is de rigueur in the world of top athlete endorsers unless you're Tiger Woods or LeBron James. Then it's peanuts.

Burns Sports & Celebrities annually compiles a list of the top 10 sports endorsers, based on a survey of marketing pros who make hiring decisions for such endorsements. Advertising Age used that list as a basis for a Knowledge Networks survey gauging how consumers perceive these top athletes' effectiveness as product endorsers.

(Kobe Bryant, No. 3 on Burns' 2002 list, is excluded here in light of the potential impact of the sexual assault charges against him.)

Mr. Woods and Michael Jordan lead Burns' top 10 ; for the remaining eight, annual endorsement income usually ranges between $10 million and $15 million. Mr. James was added to the KN survey by virtue of the $100 million in endorsements he signed right out of high school.

Tiger Woods

Woods, 27, made $70 million last year from appearances and endorsements, says Forbes. "He is the No. 1 endorser in terms of popularity with advertisers and income earned annually," says Burns President Bob Williams.

Present/past endorsements include: American Express, Accenture, Buick, EA Sports, Nike, Rolex, Tag Heuer, Target, Titleist.

Michael Jordan

Jordan at his peak could pull in $50 million a year in endorsements, Burns estimates. The 40-year-old basketball icon is said to be on the prowl for his own NBA team to buy.

Present/past endorsements include: Ball Park Franks, Gatorade, Hanes, McDonald's, MCI WorldCom, Nike, Rayovac.

Anna Kournikova

Tennis trophies have eluded the 22-year-old, but endorsement deals haven't. Her latest feat on the court was on the other side of the microphone- a three-day stint reporting on the U.S. Open for USA Network.

Present/past endorsements include: Adidas, Berlei's Multiway sports bra, Xbox.

Lance Armstrong

Cyclist, 32, wins record-tying fifth Tour de France.

Present/past endorsements include: Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Coca-Cola, Nike, PowerBar, Subaru, Trek bikes, U.S. Postal Service.

Shaquille O'Neal

Shaq, 31, is pushing for a three-year contract extension, but the L.A. Lakers may be balky about acceding to their 7-foot-1 center, who's been plagued by injuries and isn't getting any younger in a league full of twentysomething stars.

Present/past endorsements include: Burger King, Digex, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nestle, Pepsi-Cola, Radio Shack, Reebok, Spalding, Starter, Taco Bell.

Venus & Serena Williams

Difficult time for Williams sisters. Both sat out U.S. Open this summer due to injuries, but that pales beside the murder of their older sister last month. Serena, 22, beat Venus, 23, earlier at Wimbledon. There's speculation the sisters are losing interest in tennis.

Venus' present/past endorsements include: Avon, McDonald's, Reebok, Sega, Wrigley gum.

Serena's present/past endorsements include: Avon, Close-Up toothpaste, Konami videogames, McDonald's, Puma, Sega, Wilson, Wrigley.

Barry Bonds

Although ESPN the Magazine featured the San Francisco Giants slugger last month in a cover story headlined "The Sad Summer of Barry Bonds," the 39-year-old reached 658 career home runs this season-two shy of the all-time record set by his godfather, Willie Mays.

Present/past endorsements include: Fila, KFC, Nike, Schwab.

Tony Hawk

Skateboarder X-traordinaire Hawk, 35, says he's retiring from competitive boarding.

Present/past endorsements include: Activision, Coca-Cola, Diet Mountain Dew, Frito-Lay's Go Snacks, Gatorade, H.J. Heinz Co.'s Bagel Bites and Hot Bites, McDonald's, Pepsi-Cola, Quiksilver.

LeBron James

Don't tell this 18-year-old from Akron that you need a college diploma to make the big bucks. Without having played a second of NCAA or NBA hoops, the latest "next Michael Jordan" signed more than $100 million in endorsement deals. All eyes will be on James as he takes to the court for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Endorsement deals include: Nike, Powerade, Sprite, Upper Deck.

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