Messi Becomes First Soccer Player To Crack Top 10 List Of America's Favorite Athletes
La Liga club FC Barcelona F Lionel Messi is the first soccer player to "break into the top-10 list of America's favorite athletes," according to ESPN Sports Poll data cited by Roger Bennett of ESPN FC. Messi was ranked seventh overall, while the 12- to 24-year-old demographic has him as its "fourth-favorite athlete" in the U.S. Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan, Broncos QB Peyton Manning and Heat F LeBron James make up the top three, but only one MLBer, Yankees SS Derek Jeter, finishes ahead of Messi. ESPN Senior Dir of Sports Marketing Seth Ader said of Messi's ranking, "It is a constellation of factors. International soccer has become an increasing favorite of sports fans. The more they are exposed to broadcasts of elite leagues, the more they fall in love with it. World Cup ratings are rising on a 45-degree angle up to the sky. The EA Sports factor cannot be exaggerated. Their FIFA game is the No. 2 best-seller in the U.S. sports category, behind the Madden franchise, and the more the Hispanic community assimilate ... the more they fuel the overall conversation." The study, which was conducted from October '12-September '13, "tracks the fan base sizes and demographic trends for all major sports through a monthly telephone survey of 1,500 Americans ages 12 and over" (ESPNFC.com, 10/22).