Fans love football players with the same passion they feel for their favorite teams. The commercial winds of competition now blow players from country to country around the world, and as their celebrity status grows beyond domestic borders, their value to the world’s largest brands as the emotional anchors between themselves and the fan increases. Understanding how people and different markets identify with these stars is a vital consideration for corporate sponsors. Backing the right player can lead to commercial success, but not reacting to shifts in perception can spell disaster.
Mesut Özil is currently one of the most commercially successful German footballer playing today, having secured deals with adidas, estimated to be worth around $5m per year and fashion brands such as Cyrus Genève.
Having joined Spainsh giants, Real Madrid in 2010, Özil went on to join Arsenal FC in 2013 for a club record fee of approximately $58m. He has played and won a domestic trophy in each of Europe’s top three leagues (Germany, Spain and England) and ended the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualification campaign as Germany’s top scorer with eight goals. As such, 45% of people globally know of the forward who is seen increasingly as becoming one of the most marketable players on the planet.
Of the percentage of people that do know of him globally, 75% recognize Özil as an influential brand spokesman and 64% believe he reflects modern trends.
Regarded by many as the best player in the world, four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has won two FIFA Club World Cups, six La Liga titles, three Champions League trophies and Olympic gold with his native Argentina in 2008. Amongst an extensive list of records, the 26 year old has also netted over 350 goals for his club FC Barcelona, making him the club’s all-time record goal scorer.
Messi’s latest deal to keep him at the club has made him the world’s best paid player, earning the forward around $27.5m per year. His off-the-pitch qualities are similarly impressive. As well as making a number of charitable donations, Messi is also an ambassador for UNICEF and the most liked players in football today. He is known of by over 76% of people globally, making him one of the top endorsers not just in football, but in sport. Messi’s commercial activities include deals with Turkish Airlines and adidas (worth an estimated $2m and $9m per year), Dolce & Gabbana and Pepsi as well as numerous domestic deals, such as for a Japanese face wash product and for messaging applications in China. The Argentine’s 57 million Facebook fans highlight just how appealing a commercial entity he is today
Having won his second FIFA Ballon d’Or earlier in 2014,Cristiano Ronaldo has secured his place as the current best player in the world. He is also the most well-known and marketable player today.
Globally, 83.87% of people know of the Portuguese star and in markets such as Italy, Spain, Germany,Turkey and Argentina, this figure is above 95%. Ronaldo is also seen as the best trendsetter globally of all the players with 82.45% of people saying he reflects today’s trends in society. After leaving Manchester United in 2009 where he won three English Premier League titles, one FIFA Club World Cup and one UEFA Champions League trophy with the club, Ronaldo joined Real Madrid for what was then a world record transfer fee (approx. $135m),helping the Spanish giants to lift the La Liga title in 2012. On the pitch, Ronaldo’s emotions are never very far from the surface, an element which helps to humanize the star. Over 72% of people who know of the player globally say that they like him. With his hard work ethic, the Portuguese captain has
also become a model footballer.
Having played and won major trophies with two of the most famous football clubs in two of the most popular leagues in the world, Ronaldo has become a global superstar and his marketing endorsements reflect his fame. Deals ranging across a wide range of companies such as Emporio Armani, Herbalife, KFC as well as an estimated $9.5m per year deal with Nike and a $2.5m deal with Fly Emirates have all added to Ronaldo’s global profile as an aspirational and influential product and brand endorser.
As a sign of his marketability, over one million Real Madrid shirts with Ronaldo’s name printed on the back were sold in 2013. Ronaldo’s charity work is also well documented. His attributes both on the field and off it combine to make him the most marketable player in the world today.
Having lifted three UEFA Champions League trophies, two of which in consecutive years with two different club (Manchester United and FC Barcelona), Gerard Piqué boasts a large trophy cabinet which also 3 includes the FIFA World Cup, one Premier League and four La Liga titles. His relationship with international music star Shakira has meant that the defender enjoys a heightened level of global public awareness.
Over 58% of people know of Piqué globally and of them, over three in four people say they like him. In his native Spain, this figure is over 97% of the population. One of the stars of Nike’s new ‘Risk Everything’ campaign, Piqué often projects the image of a cheerful family man and this quality along with his fame boosts his marketability, making him an incredibly aspirational, influential and trusted public figure.
Although he has perhaps not shown the same winning form for his current
club, Chelsea, that he did for Liverpool and Atlético Madrid previously, Fernando Torres is still a marketing force to be reckoned with on a global level. Almost 60% of people know of the striker, making him the third most recognized player globally.
Torres has won the European Championship twice as well as the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League, and he has had major deals with adidas, worth an estimated $1.5m per year, and Pepsi. Of those people that do know of him, 79% say he is an aspirational role model and 78% say he is an influential spokesperson. Appearances in music videos as well as cameo roles in films have also helped to show the player’s appeal and commercial diversity.
Since signing for Manchester United in 2004, Rooney has become the club’s third highest all-time top goal scorer and one of the English Premier League’s top strikers for over a decade. Manchester United’s global appeal and large international fan base have helped to raise Rooney’s personal profile. Over 55% of people globally know of the 28-year-old striker, keeping his marketability high. He boasts major deals with global brands such as Nike (worth an estimated $4m per year), HarperCollins and Samsung. In his native England, Rooney has appeared on six consecutive covers of the UK version of Electronic Arts’ FIFA series. Rooney is prolific on social media, with around 20 million Facebook and 8.5 million Twitter followers, and his engagement with fans fuels his appeal.
Over 52% of people globally know of Iniesta and of that group, over 80% say the midfielder impacts on their purchasing intent and brand consideration. Having scored the winning goal at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals, FC Barcelona’s playmaker went on to help Spain lift the European Championship in 2012, as he had done in 2008, and has since become one of the most popular Spanish athletes, boasting around 20 million Facebook fans.
His fame has been bolstered by winning six La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions League trophies and two FIFA Club World Cups with FC Barcelona, making him one most decorated players in the history of a club that he joined at the young age of 12. Deals with Nike, estimated to be worth approximately $1m per year, EA Sports and Kalise have maintained his high profile internationally. His appearances in Sony commercials most recently have helped show his sense of humour, a key trait in making him one of the world’s fourth most liked player.
At 22, Neymar is one of the rising stars of international football and the most famous Brazilian player globally. His big money move to FC Barcelona in May 2013 marked a giant leap in terms of his notoriety as a global superstar. Nike had already recognized his marketing clout in 2011 when the brand signed him to an 11-year endorsement deal worth today an estimated $7m per year. Red Bull’s sponsorship of the Brazilian is worth an estimated $2m per year. Neymar’s flair, skill and technique are matched by his goal scoring ability for 2014 FIFA World Cup host nation Brazil, one of the world’s best-known teams, for whom he has scored 30 goals in his first 47 matches. He is already a very influential spokesperson with over 81% of the 53.33% of people that know of him globally saying so.
As captain of both Real Madrid and Spain, goalkeeper Iker Casillas has won everything at international and domestic levels of the game. His playing position in goal is probably a key factor keeping him from ranking more highly. The Spanish captain is the 15th most famous footballer globally, with just over 49% of people knowing of him.
However, among those people that do know of him, Casillas ranks within the top three players globally in seven of the eight attributes against which a player’s marketability is measured. Of that figure, over 83% say they find him appealing and more than 84% aspire to be like him. He is the second most trusted footballer globally and third most influential. These traits are reflected in the endorsements he has secured, the biggest of which is his deal with adidas estimated to be worth approximately $1.5m per year.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the most marketable footballer not to be heading to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as his native Sweden failed to qualify for the tournament. The charismatic star is one of the most decorated players in the world at club level, having won a total of 10 league titles with six clubs in four countries including FC Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.
A talisman for club and country, outspoken Ibrahimovic is never far from the limelight and is almost as well known for his one-liners and self-confidence as for his titles. He is the sixth most famous footballer globally, and 74.67% of the people who know of him say that he is an influential voice in today’s world. Major deals with Volvo and most recently Nike’s ‘Dare to Zlatan’ campaign certainly prove his marketability. His Nike endorsement is estimated to be worth around $3m per year
Henry is the third highest goal scorer in the English Premier League History and having enjoyed spells with AS Monaco, Arsenal and FC Barcelona, he benefits from global appeal and familarity. His international profile was strengthened in 2010 when he moved to the US signing with the New York Red Bulls, where he remains as the captain.
With the French National Team, Henry has lifted the FIFA World Cup and European Championship and although now retired from international duty, he remains France´s all-time leading goal scorer and is the second most-capped player. At 36 he may be nearing the end of his playing career, but his notoriety puts Henry into the Top 10 rankings. Known by 51,62% of people globally, he is, commercially speaking, still a major contender. Most recently he announced a multi-year partnership for Puma, estimated to be worth over $1 m per year, as his lifestyle, footwear and apparel sponsor.
After joining Manchester United in 2012 from Arsenal FC, Robin Van Persie has gone on to cement his place as one of world’s top strikers, scoring over half of his total goals in professional football in the last four seasons for both clubs.
Van Persie has benefited from the Premier League’s global exposure over the last decade. As a result, 44% of people globally know who he is, helping to make him the Netherlands’ most marketable football player today.
Van Persie is Holland’s all-time top goal scorer and after netting two goals against Spain in their opening group game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, which they won 5-1, the Dutch captain has certainly made his mark on the world stage this year already. 81% of people globally that know of Van Persie think he is an effective brand spokesman and alongside deals with adidas, worth an estimated $2m per year, and Pepsi, a successful World Cup could see his endorsement activity intensify.
At 34, Tim Cahill has enjoyed a long career playing in England since joining Millwall in 1998. Moving to the Premier League team Everton in 2004, the Australian forward went onto establish himself as a fan’s favourite, becoming an FA Cup finalist in 2009.
The international exposure afforded to Cahill during his time at Everton combined with his international appearances for Australia at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups™, where he has become only the fourth player to score in all three tournaments, has helped him to become known by 43% of the world’s population.
Deals with Weet-Bix and Warrior Football combined with his move to New York Red Bulls in 2012 are ensuring Cahill’s profile remains high in a number of international markets. He is also heavily involved with UNICEF and his charitable work around the world may well have helped raise his overall marketability. Today, 67% of people that know of him globally say they like the player.
*Tim Cahill’s DBI Score does not include US representative views.
His reputation off the pitch has also provided the Italian striker plenty of attention. Balotelli is never far from controversy, something that both the Italian and English press have covered to great extent. Whilst a string of off the pitch antics have been widely reported, this has only helped to bolster the player’s fame and notoriety. Today, over half of the world’s population know of Balotelli who is often and lovingly referred to as, “Super Mario”.
Already at a young age, he has garnered a cult following of fans. Commercially, his ‘wild man of football’ reputation is actually very appealing, especially among young consumers. Of those that know of him, 70% say he is an influential voice in today’s world.
His deal with Puma, estimated to be worth almost $7m per year proves his reputation combined with his on field talent are a potent duo.
French forward, Karim Benzema is liked by three quarters (75%) of the 43% of people that know of him globally. Having won five league titles in France and Spain as well as a UEFA Champions League title with his club Real Madrid, the France number 10 opened his goal scoring account at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ with two goals against Honduras.
Benzema is one of France’s most popular players and certainly the most marketable at the tournament in Brazil. Since 2008, Benzema has appeared several times on the front of EA Sports’ FIFA video game series and currently boasts a $2m a year deal with adidas.
Public awareness of Hazard is relatively high in Europe’s largest football markets, especially in the UK (34%) and France (44%) where the midfielder has already enjoyed playing spells. Globally, Hazard is already known by over a quarter of the population (28%) and of that percentage, 77% say that he is a personality they aspire to be like.
His deal with Nike, estimated to be worth just under $1.5m per year, as well as a deal with Nivea shows that already the Red Devil’s starlet is making a name for himself as an effective brand endorser.
Shinji Kagawa is one of Japanese football’s best known exports having won one Premier League and two German Bundesliga titles.
Signing from Borussia Dortmund in 2012, the attacking midfielder become Manchester United’s first ever Japanese player and in 2013 became the English Premier League’s first ever Asian player to score at hat-trick. Kagawa has also helped Manchester United’s commercial push into the Asian market, often centre stage during the club’s recent pre-season tours of the region.
The player has himself benefited from his association with Manchester United’s global brand. Just under a third (32%) of people globally now know who Kagawa is, in his native Japan, this figure is over 96% of the population. Of those that do know of him globally, 79% say they like him. His $1m a year deal with adidas as well as a lucrative deal with Audi show his capability as an effective brand and product endorser.