In the modern era, famous sports stars’ popularity depends on a lot more than just their sporting achievements. Huge salaries, celebrity culture and the proliferation of social media, have all contributed to giving athletes of today far greater opportunities to increase their fame and fortune.
Let’s take Rio Ferdinand for example, whilst he was undoubtedly one of the finest footballers of his generation, his recent fame and success have been more heavily influenced by his pursuits outside of the game. Ferdinand has in the past launched a magazine, a fashion brand, created his own tv show, opened restaurants and clubs and been involved in numerous charitable enterprises. His agent Chris Nathaniel, of NVA Sports Agency, believes it is this willingness to diversify his pursuits that has made him the global star he is today. These factors must be considered then, when one is trying to determine who the most famous sports stars of our time are.
Unsurprisingly, Real Madrid and Portugal star Christiano Ronaldo heads up the list with an incredible 40 million plus Twitter followers and over $80 million in career earnings and endorsements. Ronaldo is also heavily involved in charitable pursuits both in his home country of Portugal and across the globe which has served to further increase his standings and respect amongst the public.
The US basketball titan Lebron James follows, albeit not that closely, in second place. James shook the sporting world with the announcement of his move to the Miami Heat in 2010, a sign of his standing in the game, and has since raised his profile further through various commercial deals, charitable pursuits and a huge social media following.
Former Barcelona pairing Lionel Messi and Neymar have also made it into the top 5 (highlighting the dominance of football in the sporting world), closely followed by the Tennis great Roger Federer. Federer has been at the top of his sport for almost two decades and as an ambassador of the game has attracted huge commercial and popular interest. Federer’s natural elegance and class meant a fashion brand was inevitable, and other commercial pursuits have cemented his position as a global sporting superstar.
Other notable stars who made it into the top 10 include golfing legend Tiger Woods; who was largely responsible for professionalising the game and whose commercial earnings are well documented, and the Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli who carries the hopes of a cricket-mad nation of 1.3 billion people on his shoulders.