The first question asked of the SportsPro 50 Most Marketable Athletes list every year is invariably the same one: “How can you possibly have left out that improbably famous and successful athlete?” Or words – sometimes stronger words – to that effect.
The answer is often the same one, too. The purpose of the exercise is to judge an athlete’s potential for a new sponsor over a period of three years – this time from after this year’s Fifa World Cup until after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – taking into account age, home market size and appeal, charisma, willingness to participate and crossover potential. Critically, value for money is also a major consideration.
The result is that megastars like Serena Williams and Roger Federer, whose current partners are no doubt delighted by their extensive media reach, are excluded on the basis that they would be beyond the budget of most brands. The likes of the recently retired David Beckham and Sachin Tendulkar have never made the list for similar reasons. Age and career trajectory also play their part at the top end: Rafael Nadal and Shaun White remain among the very best at what they do but their capacity to surprise and the limits of what is left for them to achieve do not match their asking price.
There is as always a generational shift, with US skiing’s new golden girl Mikaela Shiffrin replacing Lindsey Vonn, and Nascar’s Austin Dillon coming in as Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr drop out. Others remain marketable but miss out as the conversation moves on – as in the case of now-established rally driver Robert Kubica or Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany – or injuries and poor form temporarily intervene.
Some big-name athletes are not considered for other reasons. For example, Mexico’s strawberry-golden boy Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez finds his way on to the list for second time. Floyd Mayweather Jr, the recent SportsPro cover star who so brilliantly dismantled his young pretender’s unbeaten record last September, does not. The difference is that the former is seen as someone who can sell brands, but the latter prefers to sell his own – Mayweather has never signed a major endorsement deal.
There is a distinction to be made, then, between those athletes with mass appeal and those suitable for the most marketable list. With that in mind, SportsPro has surveyed the landscape and put together a list of 20 of the world’s most marketed athletes.
The World's Most Marketed 2014