Athletes from across the world have been ranked according to their marketing potential over a three-year period from this summer.
- Value for money
- Home market
- Willingness to be marketed
- Crossover appeal
American, 20, swimming
American swimming’s golden girl
Key partners: N/A
2016 ranking: 15
A debutante in this list last year, swimmer Katie Ledecky vindicated all the hype and expectation last summer by claiming four gold medals and one silver in Rio. Her defining moment came in the 800-metre freestyle final, where the American shaved nearly two seconds off her own world record and, most staggeringly, left Great Britain’s Jazz Carlin a distant 11.38 seconds behind her in second place.
Despite her dominance in the pool and the many accolades that have come her way off the back of it, the 20-year old Ledecky remains unable to capitalise commercially having accepted a scholarship to swim at Stanford. NCAA rules forbid athlete endorsements, of course, forcing her to forego potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorship income, but they have certainly not stopped brands from circling for Ledecky's signature once her college days are over.
“She’s somebody who is willing to dream as big as you can possibly imagine. That’s what you need. And that is what all kids should do.” - Michael Phelps, most decorated Olympian of all time.
Indeed, Ledecky’s time will come soon enough, and when it does the commercial floodgates will open. Like the long line of great American swimmers who have wowed fans and won top global honours before her, this serial record breaker embodies exactly the kind of all-American, Wheaties box material so coveted by big brands whenever marquee events like the Olympic Games roll around. ML