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How Much Do Pro Bowlers Make from Sponsors?

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Professional and elite bowlers who compete on the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) Tour face a long road to becoming top performers in the sport. But those who stick it out through early struggles can be handsomely rewarded through bowling winnings, endorsements, sponsorships, and other income sources.

Of course, bowlers earn decent payouts from PBA tournaments and events themselves. But as they rise to stardom, the real money comes rolling in from big-name corporate sponsors. Brands like Storm Bowling, GEICO Insurance, and Motiv Bowling actively seek out bowling stars to represent their companies.

These sponsorship deals allow the top performers on the pro bowling circuit to earn anywhere from six figures a year up to $250,000 or more. However, the details behind these deals are kept under wraps so there’s still mystery around the true income numbers.

Let’s analyze the income sources for pro bowlers and take a data-based look at how much money they make from sponsors annually.

Bowlers’ Income from Bowling Events and Tournaments

Before looking specifically at sponsor dollars, we should quickly examine a pro bowler’s income from competition winnings.

Most full-time bowlers on the PBA Tour likely earn between $50,000 to $150,000 strictly from tournaments and events. Rookies and less accomplished pros toward the bottom of rankings tend to max out around $50k. Bowlers consistently ranking mid-pack can jump up to the low six figures.

Finally, the true stars and championship winners have the skill to break $150,000 in yearly earnings just from bowling events.

This money comes from a few different buckets:

  • Cash prizes for winning or placing high in tournaments
  • Bonuses for rolling perfect 300 games or other milestones
  • Endorsement deals directly tied to bowling performance

Of course, the exact dollar amounts fluctuate substantially based on a few key factors:

  • Bowlers’ skill level & consistency
  • Number of events entered
  • Tournament victory conversion rates
  • Changes to competitions’ prize money

There’s inherent variability for all athletes in individual sports like bowling. Paychecks ebb and flow based on weekly performance. A hot streak can greatly boost earning potential.

Pro bowling itself also continues to evolve, including changes to the tournaments’ payout structure and formats in recent years.

For example, from 2019 to 2022 the PBA tour nearly doubled its total prize money from roughly $6.3 million to $11.2 million. This reflects efforts to attract talent to the sport. But it further complicates quantifying a “typical” yearly income from bowling alone.

Suffice it to say, pro bowlers make anywhere from $50,000 to upwards of $250,000 from bowling itself depending on their pedigree. The very top talents likely eclipse a quarter million annually in winnings.

But this is just one slice of total income. As bowlers ascend to elite status, sponsorship dollars truly take earnings to new levels.

Big Dollar Sponsorship Deals Bring Bowlers Serious Cash

Now let’s examine exactly how lucrative sponsorships and endorsements become for the bowling stars.

It’s the PBA’s most visible and accomplished bowlers that attract the most interest and dollars from big brands. And the endorsement contract numbers may surprise those unfamiliar with the profitability of bowling.

Here’s a breakdown of some top PBA bowler sponsorship deals:

  • Jason Belmonte – Storm Bowling The Australian superstar secured bowling giant Storm as his headline sponsor in 2019 on a multi-year contract. While specific financial details remain private, industry sources estimate the deal pays Belmonte upwards of $250,000 per year.
  • Chris Barnes – Nationwide Insurance Barnes famously appeared in a 2012 Super Bowl commercial for Nationwide Insurance. While the exact length and dollar amount remain undisclosed, Nationwide is known as a top financial backer supporting Barnes and other pro bowlers. Estimates based on other major PBA sponsor deals peg Barnes’ deal in the same $250,000 range annually.
  • EJ Tackett – Motiv Bowling The young gun has emerged as one of bowling’s newest attractions after locking up Motiv as his primary sponsor. As a testament to Tackett’s value, the initial contract reportedly paid out $200,000 annually – one of the largest ever for an up-and-coming bowler.

There are plenty more 7-figure deals on the pro bowling circuit secured by its elite talent:

  • Kris Prather: Signed a multi-year SEVEN figure deal with Turbo 2-N-1 Grips
  • Sean Rash: Holds a long-term sponsorship with Storm reportedly at or exceeding a $150,000 annual value
  • Bill O’Neill: Secured the Ebonite Bowling sponsorship said to pay out between $100,000 – $150,000 yearly

Notice the common theme? Bowling-specific brands actively court the sport’s top pros to use and endorse their bowling balls, shoes, grips, lubricants, and other niche gear. Developing these sponsor relationships leads to massive paydays.

But the backing doesn’t end with companies directly tied to the bowling product and supply chains.

EJ Tackett also signed an intriguing sponsorship deal with Long John Silver’s fast food restaurants, migrating his stardom in bowling into a completely non-endemic partnership.

The same goes for GEICO’s insurance endorsements with champion bowlers like Chris Barnes and Kelly Kulick.

These types of arrangements demonstrate the profitability in expanding a pro bowler’s reach into mainstream consumer brands. While the dollars don’t match the rich bowling sponsor deals, incremental income adds up.

For context, here is the usual breakdown of sponsorship deliverables from pro bowlers:

  • Utilize & endorse sponsor equipment during all tournaments and events
  • Participate in 8-12 dedicated appearance days
  • Promote sponsors through website advertising and social media
  • Film commercials or advertising campaigns as needed
  • Contribute quotes, testimonials, photos & social content as needed

In exchange for visibility and network access, bowlers gain crucial financial support that transforms bowling from a passionate hobby into a truly lucrative profession.

Local and Regional Sponsor Benefits Are Harder to Quantify

So far we’ve discussed the bowling stars and blue-chip sponsors that pay pro bowlers the highest dollar values through endorsements.

But the vast majority of bowlers hustling each week on the PBA Tour rely more on the support of smaller, regional sponsors versus big national brands.

Local bowling alleys, pro shops, restaurants, sports bars, hotels, and other businesses within a bowler’s community often provide essential financial backing early in their career. Once bowlers join the national PBA Tour, these sponsors frequently stick with them and retain a presence in their inner circle.

The types of benefits these sponsors supply run the gamut depending on their industry and budget, usually consisting of combinations of the following:

  • Free or discounted bowling balls, accessories & gear
  • Complimentary food, drinks & hospitality
  • Gas cards, cash stipends, or travel reimbursements
  • Promotional merchandise
  • Discounted hotel rooms, airfare, and more

30-year pro bowler Patrick Allen shed some light on these types of relationships:

“Local sponsors have been crucial over my entire career even as national deals came later. The pro shop giving discounted equipment access is invaluable. Same for the restaurant providing free meals when I’m home between events. Those benefits definitely add up.”

The challenge lies in quantifying that real value to a bowler’s bottom-line income. It’s quite subjective to place a dollar amount on the convenience of free gear versus paying sticker prices.

But between several sponsor relationships, benefits likely total thousands per year, possibly much more depending on the circumstances.

While not matching the pure cash compensation of big national contracts, these local sponsorships remain vital to sustaining a pro bowling career amidst constantly traveling the country.

So How Much Do Bowlers Really Take Home?

Now that we’ve surveyed the range of income streams, let’s tie together total estimated earnings.

Elite PBA bowlers likely make between just $50,000 to nearly $500,000+ per year from bowling winnings, national sponsorships, regional sponsor benefits, and other sources.

Here’s a realistic down-the-middle estimate of annual pro bowler income by level:

  • Lower tier pros: ~$75k
  • Mid-tier veteran pros: ~$150k
  • Top title winners & champions: ~$300k+

However, it’s unlikely even seven-figure earners “take home” those huge dollar amounts. Being an independent contractor, bowlers must cover all their own business and travel expenses from any winnings and sponsor dollars earned.

And those expenses certainly add up with the pro bowling lifestyle:

  • Airfare & hotels across 30+ annual events
  • Bowling equipment costs
  • Tournaments entry expenses
  • Ground transportation (rental cars, gas, etc.)
  • Food and entertainment on the road

Experienced pros estimate $50,000+ in annual expenses are not uncommon to simply compete week-to-week. That means even a hypothetical $200,000 income year might result in only ~$150,000 in true take-home pay.

Clearly, the earning potential rises dramatically for those reaching the top levels of pro bowling fame. While income fluctuates heavily based on competition results and sponsor loyalty, the stars comfortably clear $250,000 annually from all revenue sources.

Conclusion: Pro Bowlers Cash In Through Massive Sponsor Dollars

Sponsorship support goes a long way to bolstering the earning ceiling for standout bowlers – sometimes even eclipsing competition winnings.

While media visibility and household fame may never reach other major sports athletes, the top talents on the pro bowling circuit still attract 7-figure incomes from primary sponsors. Secondary endorsements and regional supporters further cement bowlers’ financial security.

In the ultra-fit world of pro bowling, career longevity becomes difficult with the year-round playing schedule across repetitive precision movements. By securing lucrative long-term corporate sponsors, bowlers find a profitable path while their performance remains at a peak.

So although the best bowlers work tirelessly upon emerging on tour for modest early incomes, that discipline and persistence eventually pays off – both on the championship podium and with the sponsor stable backing their success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do pro bowlers make money from sponsors?

Yes, top professional bowlers make a significant portion of their income from sponsorship deals and endorsements. Major bowling equipment companies like Storm, Ebonite, and Motiv sponsor elite bowlers with deals that can pay over $200,000 per year. Mainstream brands like Nationwide Insurance also back top bowling stars.

How much can a pro bowler make per year?

The top pro bowlers make around $300,000+ per year when you combine competition winnings, primary sponsor salaries, secondary endorsements, special bonuses, and other revenue streams. Mid-tier pros on tour average approximately $100,000 – $200,000 in total bowling income.

Can you make a living bowling?

The best professional bowlers in the world make a good living purely from the sport, especially those with lucrative equipment sponsorships. However, modest early incomes and high travel costs mean it is difficult to solely support yourself bowling until reaching the highest competitive levels.

How much does Jason Belmonte make a year?

As the sport’s biggest star, Jason Belmonte likely earns $500,000+ per year from his multi-year contract with Storm Bowling said to pay about $250,000 annually. His additional tour earnings and secondary deals should put him over half a million in total.

What is a sponsor fee in bowling?

In bowling, a sponsor fee refers to a cash payment that a sponsor provides to a specific bowler as part of their endorsement arrangement and support. This sponsor fee goes towards travel costs and other bowling expenses.

What is the PBA lifetime earnings?

Walter Ray Williams Jr. holds the PBA record for career earnings with over $3.3 million in tournament winnings over an iconic 30+ year career.

Do pro bowlers get a bonus?

Yes, pro bowlers have opportunities to earn special monetary bonuses on top of tournament prizes. Bonuses are awarded for accomplishments like rolling perfect 300 games, clinching titles, finishing as season-long tour leaders, and more.

Do pro bowlers pay for balls?

Thanks to equipment sponsorships, top pro bowlers receive free bowling balls as well as grips, shoes, lubricants, and accessories – easily saving them thousands per year. However, most still starting out to purchase their own gear.

Do pro bowlers make good money?

The highest tier of pro bowlers makes over $250,000 per year, especially when combining competition winnings and lucrative sponsor deals and endorsements. So the elite talents certainly earn a very good living bowling once reaching the upper echelon of the PBA Tour rankings.