Athlete Influencers and How They Impact Brands

Sports and sports marketing continue to evolve as many athletes, brands, and sports leagues are sharing their views on the urgent topics of the day. While some fans prefer their sports without politics and wish athletes and leagues would #JustPlayTheGame, many others are paying attention to who is getting involved and what they are representing, such as the #MoreThanaVote campaign spearheaded by LeBron James and a coalition of athletes and entertainers.

E-Score Brand and Celebrity provide detailed insight to let brands and advertisers know how consumers are responding amid this political climate.

Athlete Activists

Some of the most vocal and most recognizable faces in the fight for social justice are athletes. The platform they enjoy often places pressure on the leagues to support causes endorsed by their players. Below is a list of athletes ranking highest in Activist along with their Social Impact and Real (Authentic) scores.

  • US Open Tennis champion Naomi Osaka is currently the highest-earning female athlete in the world. Her vocal support for Black Lives Matter over the Summer led to a big jump in her Activist and Social Impact scores and shows the power of activism in sports marketing.
  • Megan Rapinoe is a triple threat when it comes to activist athletes. She not only holds a top Activist score but also has the highest Social Impact Score and is among the top in Real (Authentic), making her one of the few athletes on our list to have top marks in all three attributes.
  • LeBron James has one of the top Social Impact Scores and has recently worked closely with the NBA on a campaign to advocate voting in the upcoming election. Having earned his 4th Finals MVP trophy along with a Lakers’ championship, his platform has become even more formidable.
  • Athletes can retain their activism after their playing careers are over. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Adam Rippon and Aly Raisman are retired athletes who rank highly on this list.

Sports Leagues

Sports leagues have had a lot to address in 2020. From working around a worldwide pandemic to addressing the social justice issues in America, sports leagues are doing their best to navigate all these issues while keeping their viewership. Below are some of the top sports leagues and how they rank on key attributes among sports viewers.

  • Despite all the hurdles it has had to overcome from postponed games and fan-less stadiums, the NFL leads all other sports leagues in these three key attributes: Exciting, Fun, and Relevant to Me.
  • While the UFC reigns as the top MMA sports league, its competitor, Bellator MMA, ranks higher in Exciting, Fun, and Relevant to Me.
  • Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MLB, NBA, and NFL have all had competing schedules, with the former two having their post seasons during the NFL season. Despite not ranking the most Exciting of the three, MLB edges out the NBA in Fun and Relevant to Me.

Brands Among Sports Viewers

Whether a brand decides to take a political stance or not, it is crucial for them to be aware of their perception among those they are advertising to. Below are the top brands that consumers who are Very Interested in Sports Programming said they Would be Proud to be Associated With.

  • Nike has been one of the strongest supporters of racial justice among all brands by supporting activist athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe and scores among the highest in Would be Proud to be Associated With.
  • Amazon leads all competitors in Would be Proud to be Associated with, Better than Competitors, and Would Try Brand’s New Products and Services among sports viewers while publicly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and pledging $10 million to organizations supporting that cause.
  • Coca-Cola is a major advertiser in sports whose CEO, James Quincey, has recently released a statement on social justice identifying the company as an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for other companies to speak up. The beverage brand ranks in the top 5 among brands sports viewers Would be Proud to be Associated With.

In a fraught and polarized political world, sports no longer have the luxury of silence. Leagues, athletes and the brands that work with them will all be drawn into the conversation somehow. E-Score Brand and Celebrity provide sports marketers with critical tools for understanding where they and their fans stand on these issues.

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