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$135 million per year: Instagram's 10 biggest earners revealed

Celebrity Instagram stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Beyonce, Kevin Hart, Dua Lipa
Cristiano Ronaldo, Beyonce, Kevin Hart, Dua Lipa all make a staggering amount of money from Instagram. (Source: Getty, Reuters)

Product placement was once squarely the domain of retired models and has-been sports personalities, appearing in mid-morning and late-night TV slots, but social media has changed all of that.

Instagram in particular has been instrumental in shifting endorsements from the realm of dirty work for the washed up to big business for the world's most popular celebrities.

Now, with millions made in a few key strokes and personalities having near complete creative control over their sponsored content, it's no wonder every happening star is jumping on board the Insta cash cow.


But which celeb endorsers are the most successful?

New research commissioned by US fintech outfit NetCredit attempts to answer just that by building a list of the most-followed Instagram stars around the world, then multiplying the number of sponsored posts they made in 2021 by their known or estimated ad fee.

Here are Instagram's top 10 biggest earners - who makes the list (and who doesn't) might surprise you.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo makes more money from Instagram than he does for playing football. (Source: Reuters) (David Klein / reuters)

Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo tops the Instagram rich list, raking in an estimated $135 million from sponsored content in 2021 alone.

To put that figure in perspective, that's nearly three times as much money as he earned playing as Manchester United's star forward in the same year, just $48 million.

2. Lionel Messi

Paris St Germain's Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi makes more than $100 million a year from sponsored content. (Source: Reuters) (Stephane Mahe / reuters)

Coming in at number two is another fearsome footballer, Paris Saint-Germain forward and Argentina national squad captain, Lionel Messi.

Messi may earn a bit more on the pitch than Ronaldo, at $63 million per year, but he comes up a little short on the Instagram tables, earning a measly $114 million from his sponsored posts.

3. Virat Kohli

India's Virat Kohli
Indian cricket great Virat Kohli hits big on social media too. (Source: Reuters) (Stringer . / reuters)

If you're not a cricket fan you may not have any idea who Virat Kohli is.

The former captain of the Indian national team and Challengers Bangalore batsman is hardly worried though.

There's another 218 million people around the world who follow him on Insta and he's leveraged that following to make an estimated $57 million a year from sponsored content.

4. Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres at the 2020 Golden Globes
Ellen might've made more money in TV, but her earnings from Insta endorsements are still impressive. (Source: Reuters) (Mario Anzuoni / reuters)

US TV personality Ellen DeGeneres may have made the majority of her coin from her now-defunct talk show, but she still makes a cool $52 million per year from Instagram. Not too shabby.

5. Beyoncé 

Beyonce holding Grammy Awards
Beyoncé is the USA's richest self-made woman according to Forbes. (Source: Reuters) (Mike Blake / Reuters)

Next up we have "Queen B", Beyoncé Knowles-Carter of Destiny's Child and of course her solo fame.

America's richest self-made woman, according to Forbes, has nearly 280 million followers on Instagram and, like Ellen, generated $52 million from the platform.

We'll put that 5th place down to margin of error.

6. Kevin Hart

Actor Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart is now one of Hollywood's highest-paid actors and won't post to his IG for less than $3 million. (Source: Reuters) (Ringo Chiu / reuters)

Comedian and actor Kevin Hart is up next in sixth place, raking in more than $40 million a year for Insta endorsements, and that's on top of the modest $28 million he makes on average per film.

Hart is now one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, commanding fees that rival the likes of Johnny Depp, and the big studios are more than happy to pay him $3 million a pop to promote films across his social channels.

He also makes an absolute mozza on the comedy circuit, with his What Now? tour grossing more than $55 million in under a month.

7. Jisoo

Jisoo of South Korean girl group BLACKPINK
K-pop superstar Jisoo makes big money from her 65 million followers on Instagram. (Source: Getty) (Han Myung-Gu via Getty Images)

Jis-who you say?

K-pop may not be on your radar, but it is big. Real big, and Kim Ji-soo is one of the genre's biggest stars, shooting to fame as a member of the best-selling girl group BLACKPINK.

The Korean diva has a few less followers than some names higher in the list at "just" 65 million, but generates a comparable $30 million per year in IG endorsements.

Jisoo. That's who.

8. Anitta

Anitta performs on stage
South American siren Anitta is a stalwart of Latin pop and one of Brazil's biggest exports. (Source: Reuters) (Brendan McDermid / reuters)

A name you may have missed if you're not into Latin pop or Reggaeton is Brazilian singer Anitta.

The South American superstar has multiple platinum records under her belt, spans charts in Portuguese, Spanish and English, and has collaborated with the likes of Iggy Azalea, Major Lazer, The Black Eyed Peas and Missy Elliott to name just a few.

She has more than 60 million followers on Instagram and generates an estimated $25 million per year from sponsored content.

If you haven't heard her music or seen the sultry siren's signature single-cheek twerk yet, her track Gata is worth a look.

9. Larissa Manoella

Larissa Manoela
Brazilian actress and singer Larissa Manoela owns her own telco. (Source: Getty) (Mauricio Santana via Getty Images)

Coming in at number nine is another big-hitting songstress and actress from Brazil, Larissa Manoela, who has more than 45 million followers on Instagram.

This impressive social presence generates roughly $23 million each year, and she's even the CEO of her own telecommunications company, Laricel.

10. Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa holding Grammy Awards
English singing sensation Dua Lipa has nearly 90 million Instagram followers from around the world. (Source: Getty) (Mario Anzuoni / reuters)

English singing sensation Dua Lipa winds up on our list of Instagram's biggest earners in 10th place.

Born in England to Kosovar-Albanian parents, the disco-pop star has made a huge name for herself, both at home in the UK and around the world.

She's the first female artist to be nominated for five BRIT Awards in a single year and also took out the coveted British Album of the Year award in 2021.

With nearly 90 million followers on Insta, she earns a clean $20 million per year from endorsements. Go girl.

Mighty Thor

Chris Hemsworth
Home grown hero Chris Hemsworth makes 3 million a year from his Instagram. (Source: Reuters) (David Swanson / reuters)

Other standouts from the data include Aussie superhero Chris Hemsworth, who is Australia's biggest earner, taking home $3 million a year, and family affair Khloe Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, the 5th and 6th biggest earners in the US, raking in $16 million and $14 million respectively. Kim had better lift her game.

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