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Which Agency Has The Most Marketable Athletes?

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton (GBR) during practice for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Prevost/Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton (GBR) during practice for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix. Photo Credit: Jerome Prevost/Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports

On Monday SportsPro Magazine released its annual list of the most marketable athletes on the planet. Athletes are judged on their marketability over the next three years, with criteria that includes age, home country awareness and crossover appeal. Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton topped this year’s list.

The list raises the question, which company manages the most marketable athletes? In 2013, IMG took the crown, with its clients Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova featuring in the top 20 of the list.

To determine the victor, each player has been awarded points based on his or her ranking. Working on a sliding scale, the first place athlete received 50 points, while the 50th place athlete received 1 point. Where an athlete has separate representation for his or her playing contract and marketing, the points are awarded to the marketing agency. 7th ranked Neymar and 33rd ranked Johnny Manziel both have dual representation. It should be noted that six athletes’ representation could not be found.

Missy Franklin, who came in at No.8, is the most interesting athlete on the list. The four time Olympic gold medallist currently attends the University Of California, Berkeley. Due to NCAA rules, Missy is unable to accept any money in the form of sponsorship and prize money connected to swimming. Therefore, she has no endorsement deals.

The top 5 agencies in ascending order are listed below:

5th Place: Excel Sports Management (48 points)
Athletes: Blake Griffin (9th), Masahiro Tanaka (45th)

Excel was formed in 2002 by Jeff A. Schwarz. Initially a basketball agency, the company expanded in 2011 when baseball agent Casey Close and golf agent Mark Steinberg joined. Steinberg had left IMG, taking star client Tiger Woods with him.

Blake Griffin currently has deals with Nike’s Jordan brand and Kia, with Forbes estimating his endorsement income at $6 million per year. Masahiro Tanaka is playing his first season in the MLB, signing a 7 year, $155 million contract with the Yankees after moving from the Japan.

4th Place: Creative Artists Agency (CAA) (53 points)
Athletes: Robert Griffin III (3rd), Carmelo Anthony (46th)

CAA drop from No.3 on the list last year, with snowboarding champion Shaun White not being featured this year. Outside of sport, the company represents clients in the field of music, film and television.

Robert Griffin III has a large stable of endorsements deals including Adidas, Subway and Nissan. ESPN reported that Griffin made more money than any other rookie before playing, which was mainly due to his sponsors. Carmelo Anthony makes approximately $9 million from endorsements from companies including Nike, Delta and Samsung.

3rd Place: Wasserman Media Group (WMG) (74 points)
Athletes: Alex Morgan (13th), Anthony Davis (29th), Brittney Griner (36th)

WMG nearly cracked the top 5 last year, having Alex Morgan and cyclist Mark Cavendish on the list. The company formed in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2006 when WMG bought the business of NBA and MLB agent Arn Tellem that they truly become a powerhouse in the industry. In the same year they acquired UK based SFX Sports, adding the representation of soccer players to their client base.

US soccer star Alex Morgan’s endorsement portfolio includes Nike, Chapstick and Panasonic, netting her nearly $1 million per year. Anthony Davis and Brittney Griner are also signed to Nike.

2nd Place: IMG/WME (77 points)
Athletes: Novak Djokovic (15th), Ronda Rousey (18th), Gabriel Medina (43rd)

Dropping from the coveted No.1 position last year, the newly formed conglomerate still holds up well in the runner-up spot. The deal, believed to be upwards of $2 billion, gave entertainment focused WME the exposure to sport that they longed for.

Novak Djokovic is only one of three athletes to have an apparel deal with Japanese brand Uniqlo. He also has a shoe deal with Adidas in his portfolio. UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, who was with WME prior to the acquisition, lists energy drink company Xyience as her major sponsor. Medina is currently sponsored by Rip Curl and Nike.

1st Place: Lagardère (164 points)
Athletes: Sloane Stephens (10th), Eugenie Bouchard (13th), Jordan Spieth (19th), Andy Murray (21st), Victoria Azarenka (31st), Caroline Wozniacki (48th)

Taking out the No.1 spot by more than double the points of it’s nearest rival is Lagardère. The French company is one of the most dominant forces in the representation of golfers and tennis players. They have six of the seven tennis players on their books, and the most marketable golfer on the list. After Andy Murray left XIX to form his own company, he enlisted Lagardère as the agency to handle his commercial interests. His apparel contract with Adidas expires at the end of this year.

Sloane Stephens featured on the 2013 list at No.9, and has since inked deals with Listerine and American Express. Bouchard, who was named WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2013, currently lists Nike as her major sponsor. Azarenka added insurance company Esurance to her portfolio this year, while Wozniacki has commercial deals with 12 companies.

20 year-old golfer Jordan Spieth has amassed a large stable of sponsors on his short time on the tour. These include Under Armour, Biosteel and most recently AT&T.

Notably Octagon were the only other company to have more than one athlete represented. They had Mikaela Shiffrin and Stephen Curry rank at No.23 and No.26 respectively. This would put their points at 53. However, Octagon co-manage Shiffrin with her agent Killan Albrecht. Therefore, counting only half of Shiffrin’s points has Octagon on 39.

The highest debut was at No.5 by tennis player Grigor Dimitrov. The 23 year-old tennis player left Octagon last year to join Roger Federer’s new agency Team8.