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
Chinese, 28, Table Tennis
China’s undisputed male athlete of the year
Key Partners: N/A
2016 Ranking: New entry
2016 was Ma Long’s vindication. He had been overlooked for the London 2012 Summer Olympics and, having won virtually everything else there is to win in his discipline, he travelled to Rio with seemingly everything to lose.
China sees table tennis gold medals as certainties rather than possibilities, and anything less would have left a question mark hanging over Ma’s legacy. So high were the stakes, in fact, that the 28-year-old’s coach even encouraged him to drink to cope with the pressure. But whatever the blend, Ma did what he’s done throughout his career: win with consummate ease. He dispatched countryman Zhang Jike in straight sets, claiming one of three Olympic titles to complete a career Grand Slam.
“Ma Long has gone unbeaten this Olympics, he has achieved perfection in his Rio journey.” - Liu Guoliang, coach of China’s Olympic table tennis team.
Despite his substantial social media following in China Ma’s absence from the major international platforms might render him a man of mystery outside the table tennis community, but his résumé reveals all. World number one since 2015, the Anshan-born maestro has won 23 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) world tour singles titles. Ma is already a major star in his home country but while China’s table tennis kingpin is rich in championships, he remains thin on endorsement deals, and represents a safe bet for global brands looking to dip their toes into the Asian market. SC