Power 100: What is Power?

For many athletes, power on the field often translates to power off the field, but power embodies more than physical aptitude and high scores

(Corrects references to Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score.)

For the second year in a row, Businessweek.com, Horrow Sports Ventures, and CSE Group have defined an elusive concept: "power" in athletics.

As we stated in last year's Power 100, "power in athletics" has a meaning far beyond bulging muscles and unbeaten records in today's elite sports environment. These days the center of power in sports drills down to the earning potential for athletes, owners, agents, and communities, as well as the everyday familiarity of brands that range from breakfast cereals to cell-phone service providers to beer.

Sports are a lifestyle and wellspring of fan passion, with the power to drive significant consumer brand affinity—the recognition of which dominates a huge and growing share of corporate marketing budgets. As such, sports (both pro and amateur) command gargantuan sums from both media and sponsors, demanding top consideration from the corporate marketing elite. What began in many cases as a way for chief executives to get close to their favorite athletes and pastimes has become a industrial behemoth: Plunkett's Sports Industry Almanac 2011 estimates annual spending for sports marketing and advertising in the U.S. to surpass $27 billion.

With so much money at stake, the question for brand managers and general managers alike is: "Which athlete should become the face of our brand?" The ability to choose the right athlete—one who will heighten, not humiliate, a sponsor—is the difference between millions of dollars and a metaphorical cleat in the face.

As the $750 billion business of sports grows, the stakes become higher and such decisions grow ever-more meaningful. With every sports-centric tabloid headline or ill-advised smartphone photograph, athletic contracts become shorter, easier to terminate, and more intently scrutinized.

An Evolving Effort To Measure Change

Each year there's some sort of industry or media attempt to quantify the influence and power of athletes. With Horrow Sports Ventures' and Businessweek.com's continued alliance with CSE (formerly Career Sports & Entertainment)—and a new partnership with Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score—we have attempted to evolve the sophistication of the methodology while keeping the assumptions as similar as possible to those of the 2009 Power 100, thereby maintaining a year-to-year, "apples-to-apples" comparison.

In short, unlike other industry assessments that focus on one metric or the other, we held firm to the notion that 50 percent of the score should reflect "on-field" performance, using existing statistics. The remaining 50 percent is based on "off-field" measurements. The latter comprises a blend of E-Poll's data and CSE's estimate of off-field earnings. The new single score—the Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score—is a composite measurement of awareness, trustworthiness, appeal, and influence that's designed to measure overall popularity and thus best capture a sports personality's endorsement potential.

While the specifics are quite revealing (especially as they relate to No. 3 Tiger Woods and No.11 LeBron James following a year of controversy for both), the Power 100 process should be viewed as a significant analytic breakthrough that could be applied to measure all aspects of the "power" of sports industry professionals in the coming years. Over time, executives, owners, college officials, international performers, and athletes/entertainers will be similarly analyzed.

To see the full methodology, click here.

Click here to see the world's most powerful athletes in the 2011 Power 100.

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