Only half of the most influential Brits in sport are still active athletes

Gary Linkeker and Jess Ennis populate the top 10

Brands often scout for sports ambassadors that imbue traits worthy of association through partnership, but recent research from Exposure has found that active athletes will not always provide the best bang for their buck.

The creative communications agency has released the findings of its most influential Brits in sport measuring performance across more than a thousand metrics best categorized into online, offline and brand strength groups.

Topping the list is Leicester City footballer Jamie Vardy, followed by Welsh Rugby Union star Sam Warburton and swimmer Adam Peaty. Three of the top five performers are in rugby with player Owen Farrell and presenter Gareth Thomas making up the top five.

Following is Olympian diver Tom Daley, retired Olympian and presenter Jess Ennis, footballer Marcus Rashford, Dame Katherine Grainger, the chair of UK Sport and Match of the Day host and former Leicester striker Gary Lineker.

Just outside the top ten is a cluster of new media types, solely the Copa 90 YouTube brand, influencer Joe Wickes and Spencer FC. The research found a disproportionately good performance from rugby and swimming types. Further to this, only half of the top 20 are active sports performers. A fifth in this grouping is female.

The study broke down the 250 biggest names in UK sport, showing the value in a wide range of sporting interests and institutions beyond football.

Andy Jephson, head of sport and culture at Exposure, said: “Some of the ‘traditional’ big names of UK sport have been surpassed by players who fans have a closer connection to. From Jamie Vardy’s rise from the lower leagues to the emergence of young British stars like Marcus Rashford, our research suggests that football fans are looking for players who are authentic and real.”

Jephson also commented on the emergence of the influencer into the list. “It’s incredible to see Joe Wicks, Spencer FC and Copa90 in the top 20 as it is evidence of the democratisation of sport, where there are now opportunities for people outside of the establishment to get involved in the sports that they love.”

Jephson underlined that brands need not home in immediately on athlete at the top of their field, there are opportunities beyond on-pitch performance.

He concluded: “The varied results that we’ve seen, including stars who might not be at the very pinnacle of their sport, social media influencers, non-traditional broadcasters, retired sportspeople, organisation head and presenters demonstrates how truly diverse UK sports fans have become. The opportunity for brands to engage with them via unexpected spokespeople and ambassadors have never been more exciting and achievable.”

The list only looked at UK sports figures, the likes of France's Paul Pogba, Manchester United midfielder, for one, would likely place highly in the list.

John McCarthy

John is an entertainment marketing reporter at The Drum. He writes about the amazing marketing stories coming from the movie, TV, music and video game industries. He's also the hunt for the weirder trends in marketing and advertising.

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