For the first time in the history of SportsPro’s annual 50 Most Marketable Athletes (50MM) list, the selection was informed by insight from our data partners, Hookit.
The sponsorship analysts created the Hookit Marketability Score to rate the commercial tangibility of athletes’ social media presence, with the mark determined by their level of engagement on various social platforms (as explained here).
Whilst the definitive SportsPro list took in other factors in deciding its final placing, re-ordering the 50 names based simply on the Hookit Marketability Score makes for an interesting comparison.
This is not to say either is wrong but just a difference in measurement. With 100 a perfect mark, a high Hookit Marketability Score is formulated by combining an athlete’s social media reach (maximum 30 points possible), based on the number of followers the athlete has, with scores scaled by percentile of followers for all athletes; engagement (max 35 points possible), focusing specifically on how engaged the athlete’s followers are on posts promoting brands and/or sponsors; and promotion quality (max 35 points possible), measured by the value that the athlete drives for brands in promoted posts.
A top-ten list based solely on Hookit’s Marketability Scores would look like this:
Chloe Kim, as a likeable, engaging social media presence is a standout example, meeting at an almost unique cross-section of mass social media notoriety, engaged following and ability to promote naturally
Highest on their list is the youngest member of the entire top 50 – 18-year-old snowboarder Chloe Kim, whose Winter Olympic success has skyrocketed her commercial profile as well as her 50MM ranking.
Why? Kim is a prime example of success breeding popularity, with her performances in PyeongChang boosting an already proud following online, and the fact she is no prolific Tweeter by any means is a testament to her personality and likeability – qualities that are music to the ears of sponsors-in-waiting and saw her rise up 32 places in this year’s 50MM.
Aside from the intangible, action sports athletes are typically more dependent on brands for sponsorship money to supplement their income so they have naturally become better social influencers compared to the stars of major sports who get paid large sums of money by their teams and for their massive following.
Kim, as a likeable, engaging social media presence is a standout example, meeting at an almost unique cross-section of mass social media notoriety, engaged following and ability to promote naturally.
She is one of only three athletes who place in the top ten for their 50MM ranking and their Marketability Score. Tennis star Alexander Zverev and the New York Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge also achieved top-ten finishes when just taking into account their social media metrics.
New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr achieved full marks for social media reach but scored poorly for engagement and promotion quality
However, from that point on, the similarities end. The remaining seven places in the Hookit’s Marketability Scores top ten are dominated by new entries. There are drastic improvements to skateboarder Leticia Bufoni’s and basketballer Luka Doncic’s ratings, who placed 41st and 42nd respectively in the 50MM list.
The difference in rating does not always work in an athlete’s favour. New York Giants’ wideout Odell Beckham Jr’s 50MM ranking of eighth differs wildly from his Marketability Score, which places him 41st overall.
Breaking down his Marketability Score, Beckham gets a perfect 30 for reach but does not break the five point mark for either engagement (4.3) or promotion quality (2.6) as he is unable to engage actively with his high following and is not providing great value for brands in his promoted posts.
An interesting comparison is with Beckham’s Giants teammate Saquon Barkley. The latter’s reach is lower than Beckham’s but that is able to make the running back more engaging to his followers (he scores a perfect 35 in this category) and provide better value for the brands he promotes, rating 18.5.