Sonny Bill cracks most marketable athletes list
Lewis Hamilton's winning streak will make him one of the world's richest sports stars, according to a new survey.
Already said to be worth £68 million, Hamilton has now been ranked as the "most marketable athlete on the planet" by SportsPro magazine.
Hamilton has emerged this year as the brightest star in world sport, winning four of five grands prix.
The British driver is in Monaco this weekend as the overwhelming favourite to win Formula One's showpiece race and to go on to the world championship.
He was ranked at the head of a list of 50 athletes, including Ronaldo and Usain Bolt. He knocked Neymar, the Barcelona and Brazil star, off the top spot even though football heads to the World Cup on Brazilian soil next month.
Sonny Bill Williams is the only New Zealander on the list, breaking into the ranks at 41.
SportsPro experts ranked athletes on charisma, age, how desirable they are to sponsors and their appeal across all sports over the next three years. Hamilton ticked all of the boxes with his winning streak, a glamorous lifestyle and a pop star girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger.
The Indian cricketer Virat Kohli was ranked second with Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins quarterback, third.
"This was a close one," David Cushnan, the SportsPro editor-in-chief, said. "Several of the final top 10 were considered but Hamilton scored highly in every area and certainly deserves to top the list.
"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 because he will deliver the goods for them."
The 2014 list includes 13 women, headed by Missy Franklin, the Olympic swimming champion. Tennis has the most entries with seven, followed by football and basketball with six each, and motor racing with four: Sebastian Vettel, the four-times world champion, at 27. Simona de Silvestro, bidding to become the first women in two decades to race in F1, gets the final slot at 50.
There are 18 Americans on the list and seven Britons.
In ranking Williams, they said: "You might have a prop that has freakish ability but he might not necessarily have freakish marketability. Whereas you might have Sonny Bill Williams, Israel Folau-type characters, it's a bit like your Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter - they look the part as well as play the part."
They said Williams' looming return to rugby and a tilt at the Olympics was a key to his value.
"No one in rugby shares Sonny Bill's celebrity or commercial draw. It is difficult to overstate the value of Olympic status for rugby. If - and it remains a big if - Williams achieves the unofficial rugby trinity, he could become the sport's first-ever global star, surpassing the aforementioned Carter or Wilkinson, who never had the chance to cash in on Olympic fever. Media-friendly, active on social media and still in his prime at 29, Williams has a chance to break out of rugby's inner circle and into the mainstream."
AT A GLANCE
Most marketable athletes on the planet
1: Lewis Hamilton, Formula One, Great Britain
2: Virat Kohli, cricket, India
3: Robert Griffin III, American football, USA
4: Cristiano Ronaldo, football, Portugal
5: Grigor Dimitrov, tennis, Bulgaria
6: Usain Bolt, athletics, Jamaica
7: Neymar, football, Brazil
8: Missy Franklin, swimming, USA
9: Blake Griffin, basketball, USA
10: Sloane Stephens, tennis, USA.
Also: 41: Sonny Bill Williams, rugby/rugby league, NZ
Source: SportsPro magazine