The most marketable athletes of 2017

Published: 03 Jul 2017

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World heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua has been ranked as the most marketable athlete in the world by SportsPro magazine.

Britain’s WBA and IBF title holder, who thrilled 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium and millions around the world when he stopped the great Wladimir Klitschko in 11 rounds in April, heads the eighth annual SportsPro 50 Most Marketable Athletes list (#SP50MM), which focuses on marketing potential over the next three years.

The list published by SportsPro Media features full commercial profiles of each athlete and examines how crossovers with influencers from entertainment and other media are changing the world of sporting endorsements, and looks at how the rise of digital sports is creating new heroes and new opportunities for brands.

Stephen Curry, who led the Golden State Warriors back to the National Basketball Association (NBA) title in another dominant year, drops to second in the rankings, with Manchester United and France soccer star Paul Pogba third in a hugely significant year for club and country. UFC champion Conor McGregor crashes in at four ahead of his much talked-about encounter with Floyd Mayweather Jr, while India cricket captain Virat Kohli completes the top five.

US gymnast Simone Biles, who wowed fans and won hearts in Rio last year, vaults into the list as the highest new entry at number eight, while National Football League (NFL) superstar Odell Beckham Jr makes the top ten of the list for the first time.

Athletes across the world were ranked against criteria including age, home market, charisma, willingness to be marketed and crossover appeal, following several weeks of analysis by the SportsPro team and external industry experts.

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27-year-old Joshua is the seventh athlete to top the list. He follows Curry, tennis player Eugenie Bouchard, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, Barcelona’s Brazilian soccer star Neymar, who ranked first in 2012 and 2013, retiring sprint legend Usain Bolt, and NBA icon LeBron James, who led the way when the feature launched in 2010.

SportsPro editor Eoin Connolly said: “For the past few years, we’ve all watched Anthony Joshua and asked whether he was too good to be true. He was charismatic, photogenic, humble, devastatingly powerful, yet still untested at the highest level of a sport that has laid waste to many a young reputation.

“His contest with Wladimir Klitschko was a trial of his quality and his character and it was one he handled better than he or any of his team could have imagined. This is the genuine article, a credible world heavyweight boxing champion who can charm a mainstream audience in a way not seen for a generation. He’s proved this in the UK, and now has a chance to do it around the world in the years ahead. Fans are flocking to him, brands are flocking to him, and that only looks set to continue.”

Michael Long, the Americas editor at SportsPro, added: “This year’s list comprises the usual mix of young, up and coming talent and established global stars, providing a snapshot of the sports industry today whilst offering a glimpse of how it might look, and who will shape it, in years to come. Anthony Joshua, the next in line to become a true British boxing great, was our undisputed number one, not only for his raw talent in the ring but also for his undoubted marketing potential outside of it.”

Joshua is the only boxer in the list, which welcomes several entries from soccer as the 2018 Fifa World Cup looms. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane are among those making their debut appearances, with Kane’s teammate Dele Alli the biggest riser at 13.

As ever, the future-facing nature of the list sees a handful of the world’s leading names omitted as they top out commercially or near the end of their careers, leaving room for a host of youthful new arrivals. These include Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Chicago Cubs baseball hero Kris Bryant, and winter sports stars Chloe Kim and Evgenia Medvedeva.

There are 20 American athletes on the list, with five each from the UK and Canada. 19 nationalities are represented across 22 sports.

SportsPro: The World’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes 2017 – the top ten:
1. Anthony Joshua – Boxing, UK
2. Stephen Curry – Basketball, USA
3. Paul Pogba – Soccer, France
4. Conor McGregor – MMA, Republic of Ireland
5. Virat Kohli – Cricket, India
6. Jordan Spieth – Golf, USA
7. Neymar – Soccer, Brazil
8. Simone Biles – Gymnastics, USA
9. Mikaela Shiffrin – Skiing, USA
10. Odell Beckham Jr – Football, USA

The full list of the World’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes, with comprehensive commercial analysis of each and every athlete, detailing their inclusion on this year’s list and explaining their ranking, is available here.

This article was originally published by our partners SportPro Media.


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