The scores are in: How our athletes fare on Repucom’s DBI Index

19 May 2014 | Posted in Features - Insights | By David Cushnan | Contact the author

The scores are in: How our athletes fare on Repucom’s DBI Index

The top three: Lewis Hamilton enjoys strong DBI and awareness ratings around the world; Virat Kohli is incredibly well recognised and liked in India; Robert Griffin III has the best ratings of any American on this year's list.

While SportsPro’s annual list looks ahead and attempts to forecast the next three years of an athlete’s career, Repucom’s DBI Index provides a here and now assessment of marketability and awareness.

The Celebrity Davie-Brown Index (DBI) measures consumer perception of more than 5,600 celebrities in 15 markets around the world. This year, for the first time, Repucom, the sports research giant which operates DBI internationally, has produced a score for a selection of the athletes on SportsPro’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes list.

Compiled through consumer surveys, DBI is considered the industry standard for celebrity evaluation, capturing public perception on not only athletes, but also actors, musicians, models and other personalities. Launched by The Marketing Arm in the US in 2006, it is now a genuinely global product which Repucom sells to talent agents, rights holders and brands.

“The surveys run approximately every month, capturing data from a nationally representative sample of 500/ market,” explains Charlie Dundas, the London-based head of strategic product innovation of Repucom’s UK and Ireland division. “We use independent panel providers specific to each local market to conduct the research.”

DBI scores are currently compiled in the USA, the UK, Australia, Japan France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia and Turkey. There is also a global list for particularly high-profile stars, creating the opportunity for cross-market comparisons.

“Awareness is the chief criteria in determining the DBI score,” says Dundas, “but we track seven additional attributes to create a comprehensive view of a celebrity: appeal, breakthrough, trendsetter, influence, trust, endorsement and aspiration. People answer a list of questions on a scoring basis [of one to 10] – obviously if people aren’t aware of the person in question, that’s it, they’re out and the survey ends.” Dundas points to Tour de France winner Chris Froome as an example of a celebrity who is often not recognised at all, but who scores highly amongst those who are aware of him.

Dundas estimates the ratio between sportspeople and other celebrities in most markets is about 60:40 – and events like the Oscars, Brit Awards, and popular, of the moment, television shows such as The X Factor are prompts in certain markets.

“The primary criteria for being surveyed is our own rationale,” Dundas says. “So, broadly speaking, we consider relevant activity around us and react accordingly. It could be an imminent event, like the World Cup, or an advertising campaign that’s pertinent to a market. We are also able to react and respond to our clients.

“Quite often people will say, ‘I’m interested, but I’d really like to know what it looks like for x, y or z.’ It’s very malleable; it’s very easy to add people on. Once people have been tested once, they remain on the panel and they will be tested again periodically on about an annual basis. But if there is a compelling reason to change that or bring it forward then of course we’ll do that and that’s just driven by what our clients need.”

Dundas believes the broad nature of the index adds to its value. “The greater the diversity of talent we have on the list the better, because you can provide a much more robust comparison,” he points out. “For a brand that generically says, ‘I don’t have a sponsorship in sport, but I want a brand ambassador and I’m targeting 16 to 24-year-old women, who do I go after?’, then we can compare Jess Ennis against [British TV presenter] Holly Willoughby against Lady Gaga, for instance. You can see the difference in what those people do.”

The information has multiple uses across the sponsorship spectrum. As Dundas puts it, DBI “holds nuggets of information that could help position the talent you’re trying to represent as being more engaging, more appealing, better as an endorser than the competition, whether that competition is other sportsmen from within the same genre, other sportsmen in general or maybe other celebrities in general.” For brands and rights holders – particularly those which hold image rights to their athletes – the index can help “either back up decisions they have made or make decisions they are looking to make, or organise their thinking around their current portfolio.”

Further expansion beyond the recent addition of Australia and Japan is not currently on Repucom’s agenda, although there remains a notable gap in Africa. The flexibility of the index, however, means that bespoke pieces of research can be carried out by Repucom should a client request it. SportsPro has procured the scores for a variety of athletes, across a variety of markets, on this year’s 50 most marketable list.

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