The 2012 Power 100 ranking of the most powerful athletes in sports (created by Bloomberg Businessweek and Horrow Sports Ventures) was just released. What’s interesting is that athletes used to be measured more by their performance on the field than in business. Today, that is no longer the case. In order to be deemed successful, athletes not only have to perform well, they also must have a certain rapport with the public. This Power list looks at athlete’s performance both on-and off-the field.

 

 

The top of the list is dominated by male athletes who have found their niche by winning championships and securing solid business deals. Three NFL elite quarterbacks, all with Super Bowl rings and lucrative endorsement deals, Drew Brees of New Orleans, Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay, and Tom Brady of New England, lead the pack. Also in the top 10 –  the now retired Shaquille O’Neal, action sports star Shaun White, and three male tennis players, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic.

 

There are no wallflowers on the list for sure.

Today we view the individual as a brand, one that can be marketed across the world as much as across the street. The 24/7 news cycle has put access to athletes in real time, and the public’s interest is sometimes even greater with off-field activities than with on-field success.

Those in positions of influence need to balance the time they spend improving their vocation with something I call “brand time.” For some, that’s endorsements. For others, it’s interacting with a voracious public, or telling their story through the various levels of social media.

Has this need to be a “brand” always been associated with elite athletes? Perhaps. You know Babe Ruth would have embraced the limelight today as much as he did when he was playing for the Yankees, while someone like Roger Maris probably would have been lacking on the list. Magic Johnson would be tops; Larry Bird, who spent the offseason mowing his lawn, probably not so much.

Dr. Harvey W. Schiller is CEO of Global Options Group and is former head of Turner Sports, YankeeNets and the United States Olympic Committee