Our Third Annual Ranking of the
Biggest Names in Sports
To find the 100 most famous athletes in the world, we started with 600 of the biggest names in sports, drawn from 68 countries. ESPN's Sports Analytics Group then ranked them based on a proprietary formula that took into account three fame factors:
Which measures how often a name is searched, using Cristiano Ronaldo's score of 100 as a baseline
Our sources ranged from Forbes to ESPN contributors such as Darren Rovell
Social Media Followers
Since not all athletes are on every platform, we used only the number from their most popular account. So if an athlete had 2 million Instagram followers but his or her other accounts had only 1 million followers, the social media score was 2 million.
Easy, right? Now for the fine print: If we could not find accurate endorsement figures, we estimated an athlete's endorsement dollars based on the search, social and endorsement data for all athletes under review; for Chinese athletes, we used the Baidu search score and the Weibo social numbers because Google and Western social platforms have been blocked in China.
If an athlete had no confirmed social media account, we marked a "0" for social media. Our deadline for all underlying metrics was March 19; the currency conversions were done by that date.
Primary research by Sachin Dave Chandan and Charlotte Gibson. Additional research by Fernando Olivieri