It may lack the year-round profile of some other sports but athletics and stars such as Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis-Hill remain a bankable commodity for sponsors, according to industry experts.
City A.M. will this week publish the Rio 50 – a ranking of the most marketable sportsmen and women due to compete at this month’s Olympic and Paralympic Games – and athletics provides the most entries.
The 15 track and field names in the top 50, who include reigning heptathlon champion Ennis-Hill, sprint king Bolt and double-gold winning distance specialist Mo Farah, is more than double the sport with the next biggest contribution.
Other athletics stars to make the list are Bolt’s training partner Yohan Blake, their fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, American decathlon supremo Ashton Eaton and Ennis-Hill’s Team GB colleague and rival Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
Tennis boasts six entries, among them Britain’s Andy Murray, world No1s Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza.
Swimming is next most popular with five entries, including American quartet Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky.
Cycling, represented by Tour de France heroes Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins, fellow Briton Laura Trott and three-time world champion Marianne Vos, has four entries, as does golf in Masters winner Danny Willett, Americans Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson and women’s world No1 Lydia Ko.
Football and basketball are next with three entries apiece.
The Rio 50 was chosen and ranked by leading figures from the sports marketing, sponsorship, communications and management industries. To see who else makes the list and the final ranking, see CityAM.com on Wednesday and your copy of City A.M. on Thursday.