LeBron James Tops the Bloomberg “Sportfolio”/Horrow Sports Ventures 2013 Power 100

By Brian Finkel @thefinktank and Karla Swatek @kswak

Power Panel: Bloomberg “Sportfolio” host Rick Horrow, right, discusses Power 100 No. 1 LeBron James and No. 2 Tiger Woods with panelists Kenneth Shropshire, Director, Wharton Sports Business Initiative; Seth Abraham, Media Executive and Marketing Consultant, and Ann Wool, Managing Partner, Ketchum Sports and Entertainment (from left) Source:Bloomberg TV


In the ad-driven, social media-crazed world we now live in, Twitter followers, endorsement dollars, and videos gone viral are just as highly valued as touchdowns and homeruns. The most powerful athletes in sports today don’t just exert their will on the field—they make their presence felt off it as well.

If 2010 gave us “The Decision,” 2012 brought “The Redemption.” In a year in which he claimed his third NBA Most Valuable Player award, his first NBA championship, his second Olympic gold medal, and two multimillion-dollar endorsement deals, the Miami Heat’s LeBron James can add another accolade to his ever-growing list: the top spot in the Bloomberg “Sportfolio”/Horrow Sports Ventures 2013 Power 100.

Three former Power 100 No. 1’s follow James in this year’s rankings: golfer Tiger Woods (No. 2); Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (No. 3); and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (No. 4). Tennis star Roger Federer rounds out the top five. (View the full list here.)

To determine who the 100 most powerful athletes are on- and off-the-field going into 2013, Rick Horrow, host of Bloomberg TV “Sportfolio” and CEO of Horrow Sports Ventures, collaborated with CSE, a leading integrated marketing agency that created the Power 100 list for the fourth consecutive year using proprietary methodology; the Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score; and BSports. The Power 100 rankings are based 50% on these on “off-field” measurements, and 50% on “on-field” performance using a variety of industry statistics.

“This is the fourth year of the Power 100, and it continues to command attention as an invaluable tool to evaluate an athlete’s brand and measure his or her market value,” says Horrow. “In today’s 24/7 news cycle, as athletes increasingly dominate front page headlines well out of the sports section, their endorsement contracts are increasingly under scrutiny.”

With a first NBA title under his belt and in the hunt for a second, the sky is the limit for James. He’s in the midst of arguably the best season of his basketball career, and is backed by a blue-chip endorsement portfolio that includes Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Samsung, and State Farm. All this basketball and business bounty came after James’ Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score, a measure of marketability used for this study, reached the lowest point in his career following the Heat’s loss to the Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.

James can also claim another distinction from his Top Five Power 100 peers: he’s the only one in that grouping who’s younger than 30.

“Longevity is the key to this year’s top grouping. From Peyton to Federer to Kobe to Brady, these athletes are on the backside of their historic careers yet still command on and off field attention and respect,” notes Gerry Philpott, CEO of E-Poll Market Research. “It will be interesting to see if the young stars of today can hold up over the years like these pros.”

Unlike prior years, in which the NFL dominated the top quarter of the list, the 2013 Power 100 reveals a more homogenous balance between athletes participating in individual sports and team sports. Tennis players continued to show their marketplace mettle, led by Federer, Novak Djokovic (No. 6), and Serena Williams (No. 12, the top-ranked woman on the list).

Coming off the 2012 London Games, a number of Olympians also appeared on the list, including top swimmer and seasoned pitchman Michael Phelps (No. 8), track and field sensation Usain Bolt (No. 15), and gymnastic favorite Gabby Douglas (No. 18).

The most notable drops this year include boxer Manny Pacquiao (falling from No. 28 to No. 72) in his first non-victorious year; slugger Albert Pujols, declining with age and a rocky transition to a new MLB franchise (from No. 4-9-26-54 over the past four years), and golfer Lee Westwood who failed to deliver on the course for sponsors including UPS (from No. 19 off the list to No. 140).

NASCAR overall also continued to show a slow but steady decline. “In 2009, there were eight drivers on the list. Now, there are half that number,” notes David Newman, CSE’s Vice President of Analytics.

Social media also continues to play a key role in an athlete’s off-field clout. The top 15 athletes on the 2012 Power 100 claim an average 6.2 million Facebook fans, and 1.8 million Twitter followers. James, soccer star David Beckham, tennis’ Rafael Nadal, Bryant, and sprinter Usain Bolt command the highest overall social media presence. Yet, Peyton and Eli Manning and golfer Phil Mickelson maintain their high off-field numbers with no social media presence at all.

All told, the 2013 Power 100 included 39 newcomers, including top rookie quarterback Robert Griffin, III and a record 15 women (read more about this here).