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Cashing In: Most Marketable Athletes of 2016
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Cashing In: Most Marketable Athletes of 2016

Championships. Cinderella stories. Scandals. Injuries. They all play a role in how much of a personal fortune an athlete can amass when endorsement deals often exceed the pay to play. The marketability of an athlete often rises and falls with the tide of public opinion beyond their “on-field” performance. Nielsen’s N-Score Talent Tracker quantifies a celebrity’s marketability, taking into account Awareness and Likeability in addition to 10 other attributes such as: “Influential,” “Stylish” and “Social Media Savvy.” The weighted N-Score is on a scale of 1-100.

Additionally, N-Score has the capability to calculate a particular personalities’ fan affinity to thousands of brands, behaviors and programs.

The top five most marketable athletes in the U.S. in 2016 based on N-Score, Awareness and Likeability were Peyton Manning, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Serena Williams and LeBron James.

Manning is Money

Peyton Manning may be sitting on a sofa in a bathrobe watching the NFL on DirecTV this season, but he is still earning a paycheck. He tops the most marketable athletes of 2016 list after a Super Bowl 50 victory and retirement announcement in February. With an N-Score of 88, he ranks in the top 2% among all celebrities in the N-Score database. And he’s is not slowing down. Manning became the new spokesman for OtterBox several months into retirement and continues his relationships with brands like Nike, Buick, DirecTV, Gatorade, Nationwide and Papa John’s Pizza.

Phelps Face

The Rio 2016 Summer Games elevated several U.S. athletes to a new level of marketability. For the most decorated Olympian in history, it was a chance for Michael Phelps to rebuild his image tarnished by behavior outside of the pool. Phelps came back as a father and mature leader, carrying the flag for the American team. He was the second most marketable athlete of 2016, and shares an N-Score of 88 with Peyton Manning. Endorsements have come and gone for Phelps throughout his career. Currently, Phelps’ “Rule Yourself” video is Under Armour’s most popular clip on YouTube with more than 11.5 million views. Phelps is also making waves on television by starring in an Intel commercial featuring his “Phelps Face” expression that quickly turned into an internet meme during Rio 2016.

America’s Sweetheart: Simone Biles

Olympian Simone Biles’ Cinderella story and gymnastics dominance combined to make her the most marketable female athlete of 2016. Her N-Score is 87; however, fewer people know her than Manning and Phelps. Still, Biles shines with a likeability score of 83, putting her in the top 1% for likeability among celebrities. She was relatively unknown to the world before Rio 2016, yet left with five medals and an outpouring of commercial opportunities. Biles, 19, decided to forgo NCAA eligibility so she could accept endorsement deals with companies like Nike, Kellogg’s, Hershey’s and Procter & Gamble.

Serena’s Strength

Even with a disappointing Olympics performance and injury-plagued second half of 2016, Serena Williams unseated Maria Sharapova as the highest paid female athlete in the world. Williams, currently ranked as the No. 2 women’s tennis player, has spent a total of 309 weeks as the No. 1 ranked woman during her career and was on a streak of 183 weeks before falling to Angelique Kerber in September. Williams, with an N-Score of 80, has more than a dozen endorsement deals with brands including Nike, Chase Bank, Gatorade, Delta Air Lines and Beats by Dre.

Another Jewel in the Crown: LeBron James

LeBron James brought Cleveland its first NBA Championship in 2016, as the Cavaliers made a dramatic Finals comeback against the Golden State Warriors. In December, Sports Illustrated named James Sportsperson of the Year. He (@KingJames), with an N-Score of 76, is the second most-followed athlete in the world on Twitter, behind global soccer sensation Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano). James is one of the biggest faces of Nike, an endorsement deal that reaches back to when he was just 18 years old. He also has endorsement deals with McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Kia and Beats by Dre.  

Fan Affinity

How well athletes fit with a brand is critical for them to be effective brand ambassadors. Nielsen’s N-Score Fan Affinity module measures the fit of a celebrity’s built-in fan base with specific consumer behaviors, preferred brands and lifestyle characteristics. In 2016, LeBron James fans were more likely to lease a new car than Serena Williams fans. Her fans were more likely to buy a new or used model. Home improvement projects were very popular with Peyton Manning fans, so he could be selling hardware in the near future, and Simone Biles fans are thinking about the future education of their children, as they invest in college savings plans.

Manning is Money

Peyton Manning may be sitting on a sofa in a bathrobe watching the NFL on DirecTV this season, but he is still earning a paycheck. He tops the most marketable athletes of 2016 list after a Super Bowl 50 victory and retirement announcement in February. With an N-Score of 88, he ranks in the top 2% among all celebrities in the N-Score database. And he’s is not slowing down. Manning became the new spokesman for OtterBox several months into retirement and continues his relationships with brands like Nike, Buick, DirecTV, Gatorade, Nationwide and Papa John’s Pizza.

Phelps Face

The Rio 2016 Summer Games elevated several U.S. athletes to a new level of marketability. For the most decorated Olympian in history, it was a chance for Michael Phelps to rebuild his image tarnished by behavior outside of the pool. Phelps came back as a father and mature leader, carrying the flag for the American team. He was the second most marketable athlete of 2016, and shares an N-Score of 88 with Peyton Manning. Endorsements have come and gone for Phelps throughout his career. Currently, Phelps’ “Rule Yourself” video is Under Armour’s most popular clip on YouTube with more than 11.5 million views. Phelps is also making waves on television by starring in an Intel commercial featuring his “Phelps Face” expression that quickly turned into an internet meme during Rio 2016.

America’s Sweetheart: Simone Biles

lympian Simone Biles’ Cinderella story and gymnastics dominance combined to make her the most marketable female athlete of 2016. Her N-Score is 87; however, fewer people know her than Manning and Phelps. Still, Biles shines with a likeability score of 83, putting her in the top 1% for likeability among celebrities. She was relatively unknown to the world before Rio 2016, yet left with five medals and an outpouring of commercial opportunities. Biles, 19, decided to forgo NCAA eligibility so she could accept endorsement deals with companies like Nike, Kellogg’s, Hershey’s and Procter & Gamble.

Serena’s Strength

Even with a disappointing Olympics performance and injury-plagued second half of 2016, Serena Williams unseated Maria Sharapova as the highest paid female athlete in the world. Williams, currently ranked as the No. 2 women’s tennis player, has spent a total of 309 weeks as the No. 1 ranked woman during her career and was on a streak of 183 weeks before falling to Angelique Kerber in September. Williams, with an N-Score of 80, has more than a dozen endorsement deals with brands including Nike, Chase Bank, Gatorade, Delta Air Lines and Beats by Dre.

Another Jewel in the Crown: LeBron James

LeBron James brought Cleveland its first NBA Championship in 2016, as the Cavaliers made a dramatic Finals comeback against the Golden State Warriors. In December, Sports Illustrated named James Sportsperson of the Year. He (@KingJames), with an N-Score of 76, is the second most-followed athlete in the world on Twitter, behind global soccer sensation Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano). James is one of the biggest faces of Nike, an endorsement deal that reaches back to when he was just 18 years old. He also has endorsement deals with McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Kia and Beats by Dre.  

Fan Affinity

How well athletes fit with a brand is critical for them to be effective brand ambassadors. Nielsen’s N-Score Fan Affinity module measures the fit of a celebrity’s built-in fan base with specific consumer behaviors, preferred brands and lifestyle characteristics. In 2016, LeBron James fans were more likely to lease a new car than Serena Williams fans. Her fans were more likely to buy a new or used model. Home improvement projects were very popular with Peyton Manning fans, so he could be selling hardware in the near future, and Simone Biles fans are thinking about the future education of their children, as they invest in college savings plans.

Manning is Money

Peyton Manning may be sitting on a sofa in a bathrobe watching the NFL on DirecTV this season, but he is still earning a paycheck. He tops the most marketable athletes of 2016 list after a Super Bowl 50 victory and retirement announcement in February. With an N-Score of 88, he ranks in the top 2% among all celebrities in the N-Score database. And he’s is not slowing down. Manning became the new spokesman for OtterBox several months into retirement and continues his relationships with brands like Nike, Buick, DirecTV, Gatorade, Nationwide and Papa John’s Pizza.

Phelps Face

The Rio 2016 Summer Games elevated several U.S. athletes to a new level of marketability. For the most decorated Olympian in history, it was a chance for Michael Phelps to rebuild his image tarnished by behavior outside of the pool. Phelps came back as a father and mature leader, carrying the flag for the American team. He was the second most marketable athlete of 2016, and shares an N-Score of 88 with Peyton Manning. Endorsements have come and gone for Phelps throughout his career. Currently, Phelps’ “Rule Yourself” video is Under Armour’s most popular clip on YouTube with more than 11.5 million views. Phelps is also making waves on television by starring in an Intel commercial featuring his “Phelps Face” expression that quickly turned into an internet meme during Rio 2016.

America’s Sweetheart: Simone Biles

lympian Simone Biles’ Cinderella story and gymnastics dominance combined to make her the most marketable female athlete of 2016. Her N-Score is 87; however, fewer people know her than Manning and Phelps. Still, Biles shines with a likeability score of 83, putting her in the top 1% for likeability among celebrities. She was relatively unknown to the world before Rio 2016, yet left with five medals and an outpouring of commercial opportunities. Biles, 19, decided to forgo NCAA eligibility so she could accept endorsement deals with companies like Nike, Kellogg’s, Hershey’s and Procter & Gamble.

Serena’s Strength

Even with a disappointing Olympics performance and injury-plagued second half of 2016, Serena Williams unseated Maria Sharapova as the highest paid female athlete in the world. Williams, currently ranked as the No. 2 women’s tennis player, has spent a total of 309 weeks as the No. 1 ranked woman during her career and was on a streak of 183 weeks before falling to Angelique Kerber in September. Williams, with an N-Score of 80, has more than a dozen endorsement deals with brands including Nike, Chase Bank, Gatorade, Delta Air Lines and Beats by Dre.

Another Jewel in the Crown: LeBron James

LeBron James brought Cleveland its first NBA Championship in 2016, as the Cavaliers made a dramatic Finals comeback against the Golden State Warriors. In December, Sports Illustrated named James Sportsperson of the Year. He (@KingJames), with an N-Score of 76, is the second most-followed athlete in the world on Twitter, behind global soccer sensation Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano). James is one of the biggest faces of Nike, an endorsement deal that reaches back to when he was just 18 years old. He also has endorsement deals with McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Kia and Beats by Dre.  

Fan Affinity

How well athletes fit with a brand is critical for them to be effective brand ambassadors. Nielsen’s N-Score Fan Affinity module measures the fit of a celebrity’s built-in fan base with specific consumer behaviors, preferred brands and lifestyle characteristics. In 2016, LeBron James fans were more likely to lease a new car than Serena Williams fans. Her fans were more likely to buy a new or used model. Home improvement projects were very popular with Peyton Manning fans, so he could be selling hardware in the near future, and Simone Biles fans are thinking about the future education of their children, as they invest in college savings plans.