Topend Sports Logo

ESPN World Fame 100 Popular Athletes Lists

ESPN has been calculating the world's most popular ('famous') athletes since 2016. They start with a large list of athletes, which are then ranked using a proprietary formula created by Ben Alamar, ESPN's director of sports analytics. The formula is based on the factors of online searches, endorsements and social media followers. The list has been going since 2016, and for the first three years the winner has been the same, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. See the top-10 sports people on the lists for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. See also the top women on the list. No list was published in 2020.

How is it (currently) calculated?

Each year in March the data is collected to calculate the world most famous sports person. ESPN start with a large list of well-known sports people from around the world. Then each player is ranked based on a proprietary formula that takes into account three fame factors:

  1. SEARCH SCORE - Google trends of how often a name is searched (using Cristiano Ronaldo's score of 100 as a baseline).
  2. ENDORSEMENTS DOLLARS - details from a range of sources.
  3. SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS - using only the number of followers from their most popular account (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc).

Changes in the Calculations

In 2016 and 2017, followers from all three major social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, were taken into account. In terms of earnings, in 2016 the salary as well as endorsements was also a factor.

The Winners

For the first four years that the list has been created, the winner has been the same, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

Related Pages

send us a comment Any comments, suggestions, or corrections? Please let us know.

Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

 → How to Cite