Professional athletes make massive amounts of money for reasons that go far and beyond what they are able to achieve on fields, on courts, on ice/snow and on any other playing surfaces you can imagine. The top athletes in the world carry with them a significant amount of marketability that makes them desirable by companies looking to sell products and also expand their brands via individuals who are recognizable all over different parts of the globe. Marketable athletes looking to cash in on their fame eventually also become models, actors/actresses and also spokespeople for products and also for companies.
SportsPro Media released its list of the most marketable athletes for 2015 in May of this year. It should come as no surprise that, on such a global list, a wide variety of sports are represented in this year’s edition of the SportsPro Media list. Tennis to auto racing to the beautiful game to Major League Baseball all take up spots in the top-20. While some of the biggest figures in all of world sport are featured in this piece, you may be surprised to see where they fall when compared to other athletes who would not, in theory, seem to be as marketable as some of their peers.
Plenty of factors affect the marketability of the athletes that are showcased in this piece. Age and longevity are important as it pertains to the now and to the future of any athlete’s brand. Successes in competitions, or lack thereof, also affect how marketable an athlete will be in any given year. A person’s charisma, crossover appeal and his or her willingness to play the game and be utilized in commercials and different advertisements will increase that athlete’s marketability each and every year. Don’t turn any and all opportunities down, athletes, because your careers could be over literally in seconds.
20. Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The only Major League Baseball player to manage to crack into this list, Mike Trout is one of the faces of the game in this post-steroid era. MLB will be hoping that Trout never pops up on such lists, and there are, as of the posting of this piece, no reasons to believe that the league has anything to worry about regarding the young power hitter. Trout would, in an ideal MLB world, feature for the New York Yankees as soon as humanly possible, but the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will have plenty to say about that. He has already inked lucrative advertising deals, and Trout is not yet even near his prime.
19. Alex Morgan – US Women’s Soccer Team
It is a good time to be the most-recognized face of the United States Women’s National Team. Alex Morgan, who will turn 26 years old this coming summer, is a proven draw, and she will, so long as she remains healthy, feature at the upcoming Women’s World Cup. The talented player with supermodel looks remains the face of US Women’s Soccer for the time being, but she could soon have competition regarding marketability. Sydney Leroux, who will also be 26 years old when the World Cup begins, could become as marketable as Morgan by the time August rolls around.
18. Mikaela Shiffrin – Women’s Alpine Skiing
The SportsPro Media piece labels Mikaela Shiffrin as “America’s next great winter athlete” and also the “new Lindsey Vonn.” Those are high expectations for anybody let alone for a young woman who turned 20 years old earlier this year. Shiffrin has, to her credit, earned such praise by notching noteworthy victories at international slalom events, and she could emerge as one of the more marketable winter athletes heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics. A lot can happen over the span of three years in any sport, but expect to see Shiffrin becoming associated with multiple brands sooner rather than later.
17. Rory McIlroy – PGA
One cannot help but feel somewhat bad for Rory McIlroy. With the PGA looking to attract viewers to events other than the so-called “Big Four,” television execs have hoped that the current world No. 1 could go on a run that would bring in fans who used to watch Tiger Woods on a weekly basis. McIlroy, who turned 26 years old in early May 2015, is not Woods now nor will he ever be, and he now has 2015 Masters winner Jordan Spieth in his rear view mirror. McIlroy is currently the face of video game golf, but he will have to earn that title moving forward.
16. Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo at 16? How can this be? He is the face of the world’s top sport, and Ronaldo remains the best overall footballer on the planet. The reality of the situation is that there is not much else that Ronaldo can accomplish as it pertains to being a marketable athlete. He won’t improve as a player. The international superstar turned 30 years old earlier this year, and Ronaldo has won all that there is to win in Europe. Ronaldo will eventually expand his brand by making a move to Major League Soccer at some point, but that may not occur until at least 2018.
15. Lexi Thompson – LPGA
Women’s golf has a new young superstar, one that the LPGA is hoping will become a crossover hit all around the world. Lexi Thompson first took the stage of golf at the young age of 15, and she experienced successes at the pro level over the past several years. Companies have also taken advantage of Thompson’s model good looks, as she has taken part in multiple magazine photo shoots. Thompson now has to take that next step in her golf career in order to grab all of the marketing opportunities out there. All eyes will be on Thompson, and we will all see how she handles that pressure.
14. Novak Djokovic – Tennis
Here is a brief summary of the men’s tennis game as of May 2015: It is Novak Djokovic‘s world, and we are all just lucky to be living in it. It would be an understatement to suggest that Djokovic is the best in the world, as he is far and away the favorite whenever he enters any tournament. Some may be wondering why Djokovic is not even more marketable at this stage of his career. The explanation is that it likely will not get any better for Djokovic as it pertains to his career than what he is experiencing right now. He has no peers and no equals, which means the 28-year old has likely hit his ceiling.
13. Grigor Dimitrov – Tennis
Has the time for Grigor Dimitrov to emerge as a next top star of men’s tennis arrived? Novak Djokovic is far and away the best in the business on the men’s side of the game, so much so that some have suggested that it is his fate to win the Grand Slam this year. Dimitrov is represented by Team 8, an agency that happens to be co-owned by tennis royalty Roger Federer, and there are hopes that the 23-year-old can break through and make a name for himself on big stages during the second half of 2015. He could be great for the game at a marketing end, but only if Dimitrov is able to reach high expectations had for him.
12. Paul Pogba – Juventus
Already one of the best young midfielders in all of world football, Paul Pogba could be on the verge of becoming one of the more marketable players in the sport. Pogba, who already features for a giant of the sport in Serie A champions Juventus, is being linked with potential swaps to several clubs. Real Madrid and Barcelona have been named as two potential future homes for Pogba, but he could also choose to link up with one of the top Premier League sides in England. Not for nothing, but staying with Juventus if they were to win the Champions League this year would not be the worst career move for the Frenchman.
11. Marc Marquez – MotoGP
What may be the most impressive thing about Marc Marquez upon first reading what is an impressive resume: He turned just 22 years old in early 2015. Marquez won motorcycle’s top series in the world – the MotoGP World Championship – in back-to-back seasons, and he set a record in 2014 when he notched victories in 13 different races. His age combined with his obvious talents have made Marquez a star for both the now and the future, and companies such as Red Bull will be looking to capitalize on this opportunity and also expand its brand and also Marquez’s marketability.
10. Usain Bolt – Track and Field
Perhaps the harshest reality in all of world sports is that age catches up with even the greatest athletes to ever take stages. Usain Bolt has already cemented himself as a historic competitor and all-time track and field legend, and the 28-year-old is on the verge of entering the final stretch of a career that will be difficult to top. Bolt’s records are well-noted, but he has done more than just win and win big on the track. He evolved into one of the more marketable athletes on the planet due to his charm and energy on and off of the track, and Bolt will not be easy to replace once he does run off into the sunset.
9. Katarina Johnson-Thompson – Track and Field
Katarina Johnson-Thompson became a favorite among British sports fans back at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. A competitor in the heptathlon, Johnson-Thompson did not win a medal three summers ago. She will not receive similar praise if she fails to win anything of merit in 2016 while in Rio. Big things are expected of the 22-year-old at the 2015 world championships, and Johnson-Thompson is already perceived to be a lock to compete for a medal at the 2016 Olympics. Standing in her way will likely be Jessica Ennis-Hill, another great British track athlete.
8. Kei Nishikori – Tennis
You are in denial if you are unable to recognize that the men’s tennis game is hurting these days. Roger Federer is closer to the twilight of his career than to his prime, and Novak Djokovic may go relatively unmatched in his pursuit of Grand Slam greatness this year. Kei Nishikori remains the only Japanese male in history to make it into the top-ten of the ATP world rankings, and his banner 2014 season was capped off with an appearance in the US Open Final. Nishikori has already inked several lucrative endorsement deals, but a historic victory at a Grand Slam event would make him even that much more marketable.
7. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
It is a good time to be a budding superstar in the National Basketball Association. The 27-year-old is the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, and Stephen Curry has been lighting up scoreboards during the playoffs. Curry may very well lift a different trophy in June when all is said and done, and he has never been as marketable at an international level as he is right now. Fans have been drawn to Curry because of his ability to bury shots from just about anywhere on the court – including from the tunnel! – and his marketability continues to grow with each postseason game that he plays.
6. Virat Kohli – Cricket
Depending on where you are located and/or which sports you actively follow on a daily basis, this name may be lost on you. Virat Kohli has become the face of the sport of cricket in India, and the 26-year-old has inked numerous lucrative deals with recognizable brands. Pepsi. Adidas. Nestle. Those and others are currently partners with Kohli. Widely thought to be one of the best in the world, Kohli has generated some criticism because of what has been referred to as a “sour” attitude. In other words, Kohli is not all that different than any other modern superstar.
5. Lewis Hamilton – Formula 1
The 30-year-old out of Great Britain is catching up to some all-time records in the Formula One world. Lewis Hamilton is now set to finish in the top-five all-time in Grand Prix wins (he is currently sitting on 33 victories), and he has won a world championship on two occasions. Widely perceived as one of the top drivers on all of the planet, Hamilton could be on the verge of putting pen to paper on a massive deal with Mercedes. He was ranked atop the 2014 edition of the SportsPro Media list for most marketable athletes in the world, and Hamilton could climb back up into the top-three over the next 12 months.
4. Missy Franklin – Swimming
Those of you who are only casual sports fans and who only follow professional leagues may be scratching your heads trying to remember how you know this name. The reason you are doing so is that 2015 is not an Olympic year. Missy Franklin put on a show at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, winning five medals in total. Four of those were gold. Franklin was just 17 years old when she made international headlines, and expectations as of the posting of this piece is that she will once again be a star the next time she features in the Olympics. See you in 2016, Ms. Franklin.
3. Jordan Spieth – PGA
The PGA desperately needs a new name to market on television for Sunday events and for major championship competitions that will occur down the road. Make no mistake about the fact that the organization is hoping Jordan Spieth can be the man to carry the flag. The 21-year-old made headlines when he led the 2015 Masters from start to finish, and his run to glory and to history had analysts and fans all thinking of one person, in particular: Tiger Woods. Tiger is likely never coming back as he was, and thus younger talents such as Spieth will be asked to pick up the slack. No pressure.
2. Neymar – Barcelona
2014 was, financial matters aside, a year to forget for Neymar. He suffered a serious back injury at the FIFA World Cup while playing on home soil, he could do nothing but watch as homeland Brazil was thrashed by Germany in the semifinal round of the competition, and Neymar was then, following an anticipated move to Barcelona, largely outdone by Gareth Bale after Bale completed his switch to Barca rivals Real Madrid. 2015 had been much kinder to the young Brazilian superstar, as Barca won the La Liga title. The Spanish giants will also play in the Champions League Final. At just 23 years old, the future remains supernova-bright for Neymar.
1. Eugenie Bouchard – Tennis
“Genie” Bouchard had a banner 2014, making multiple significant runs in Grand Slam events and becoming, in the eyes of the tennis world, a future star in the process. The 21-year-old has not yet achieved that level of success this year, but that some have deemed her to be the next face of women’s tennis makes her as marketable as anybody else in the sport when you consider her age and her perceived ceiling. She has associations with noteworthy companies such as Nike and Coca-Cola, and Bouchard has also been featured on the covers of magazines. Will she prove to be the next big thing in the tennis world?