Britain’s Lewis Hamilton has been ranked as the most marketable athlete on the planet by SportsPro magazine, in its annual list produced in association with Eurosport.
The 29-year-old, who heads into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix as the Formula One world championship leader, topped the fifth annual SportsPro 50 Most Marketable Athletes list.
Indian cricketer Virat Kohli was ranked second, with Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III taking third place. Bulgarian tennis prospect Grigor Dimitrov is the highest new entry on this year’s list, which focuses on marketing potential over the next three years.
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 other industry experts.
Mercedes driver Hamilton replaces Neymar at the top of the list. The FC Barcelona and Brazil star topped the rankings in 2012 and 2013, but drops to seventh place this time. NBA player LeBron James headed the list in its first year, 2010, with Olympic champion Usain Bolt taking top spot in 2011.
SportsPro editor-in-chief David Cushnan said: “This was a close one. Opinion was split on the top spot this year – our extensive research and debate concluded that there is no obvious standout candidate who is head and shoulders above the rest for the number one position in 2014. Several of the final top ten were considered but Hamilton scored highly in every area and certainly deserves to top the list.
“He is already a well-established global sports star, of course, but the next three years will be pivotal in determining whether he can make good on his obvious talent and add to his 2008 world title. A dominant car and his brilliant run of form so far this year only underlined our view that he is a man that brands should continue paying attention to: he will deliver the goods for them.”
Cushnan added: “There is debate every year about who does and doesn’t make the list. Our major criteria is always marketing potential over the next three years; in other words: if you were a sponsor, which athletes are going to provide value for money and help build your brand over that period? We’re trying to identify the commercial stars of the future.”
This year’s list includes 13 women, headed by Olympic swimming champion Missy Franklin in eighth.
Tennis is represented by the most athletes, with seven, followed by soccer and basketball (six each), and motorsport (five). 22 sports are represented in total, including, for the first time, biathlon, surfing and volleyball.
Dimitrov, a two-time winner on the ATP Tour already this year, heads 27 new entries. Newcomers include MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez, tennis starlet Eugenie Bouchard, former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen and golf stars Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth.
In total there are 18 Americans on the list, seven Britons, four Brazilians and two athletes each from Japan and Canada. 22 countries are represented in all.
SportsPro: The World’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes 2014 – the top ten:
- Lewis Hamilton – motorsport, Great Britain
- Virat Kohli – cricket, India
- Robert Griffin III – football, USA
- Cristiano Ronaldo – soccer, Portugal
- Grigor Dimitrov – tennis, Bulgaria
- Usain Bolt – athletics, Jamaica
- Neymar – soccer, Brazil
- Missy Franklin – swimming, USA
- Blake Griffin – basketball, USA
- Sloane Stephens – tennis, USA