Every year the world’s top athletes are evaluated to see how marketable they are, and it all depends on a number of factors including: age, willingness to be marketed, money, home market, charisma and crossover appeal. This year the list was released by SportsPro Media and named the tennis player Eugenie Bouchard as the number one most marketable athlete in the world, which bumped the young Brazilian soccer player Neymar down to number two after placing first two years in a row. All of these players listed are eligible to play in next year’s Rio 2016 Olympics if their sport is applicable, so they can expect to be given offers for product promotions, endorsements, and television opportunities between now and then.
Some of the previously listed big name athletes did not make the cut this year, such as Michael Phelps, Shaun White, and Lindsey Vonn, who were at the upper end of it a couple years ago. Usain Bolt lost his number eight slot only to be topped by a new competitor to the track and field category, Katarina Johnson-Thompson who placed above the runner at number nine. A few people were surprised to see the amazing Lionel Messi rank at only 22, but that could be partially due to his age. The only swimmer to make the list this year was Missy Franklin who showed her true colors in the last 2012 London Olympics, and it has been known that she has a goal to become the most decorated female swimmer in history.
SportsPro’s List of the Top 10 Most Marketable Athletes:
1. Eugenie Bouchard, Tennis
2. Neymar, Soccer (No. 1 in 2012 and 2013)
3. Jordan Spieth, Golf
4. Missy Franklin, Swimming
7. Stephen Curry, Basketball
8. Kei Nishikori, Tennis
9. Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Track and Field
10. Usain Bolt, Track and Field
What Should Marketers Take Away From This?
As you glance over the list, you will see a majority of the names are relatively new to their sport or have reached a new height or peak in their perspective sports. With the growth of social media, everyone has access to the latest news within seconds (kind of crazy) and sports fans seem to jump to the latest, greatest athlete based on their recent accomplishments.
Athletes who have short term success and/or are one and done, the window of becoming a household name or even remaining marketability for a sustainable period has become smaller than ever. A great example of this is Kei Nishikori who made a big impression on fans and companies around the world in 2014 and landed some major endorsements. Fast forward to 2015, he is no longer the talk of the town, many are still focused around names like Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray, and most recently Stan Wawrinka after his big win in the French Open.
Another great example is Michael Phelps, he was once of the most marketable athletes, but his retirement combined with negative press from his outside activities drove down his marketability quick.
Athletes who are viewed as a troubled or have issues that could cause issues for brands like Hope Solo, Michael Vick, Adrian Peterson and several others become untouchable or quickly go to the bottom of the list as potential brand ambassadors as they are to much of a risk.
Social Media Influence
With the growth of social media and the quick assumption of the masses that an athlete is guilty when a story is released (mainly because of how viral a story goes in such a short period of time), companies have been in the position to have to weigh heavily of the risk factors of an athlete. They will review their social media presence along with how they are perceived in the public and if they have done anything socially that may be questionable.
Much like we found with Tiger Woods, there will be occasions or times where things may come from left field as there were no warning signs or true indicators that troubling action was going on.
Bad Track Record
Tiger is definitely an isolated incident as overall many athletes already have a preexisting track record i.e. Jameis Winston. Winston is a great example as he hasn’t gotten near as many endorsements as recently drafted QB Marcus Mariota (Nike, Hawaiian Bank, Subway, Beats By Dre) who had a clean slate coming into the NFL Draft.
As we look at the sports marketing and athletes as a marketing tool to propel brands, we will see more analytic’s aligning brands with athletes who are well known but overall haven’t had any trouble or issues off the field, on the field or via social media.
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