Only two of the world’s 10 most marketable soccer players are actually still in the World Cup

There were no shortage of things written before the World Cup began about the marketing efforts therein, especially as relates to NIKE vs. Adidas. Here’s one I read on a plane in May, and here’s a recent goal-tracker for their different stars. There’s a new article on Quartz about these same topics, and while the article is broadly interesting on face, check out this chart of the 10 most marketable soccer players in the world as measured by The Davie-Brown Index:

World's Most Marketable Soccer Players

Notice anything? Well, this might explain one of the problems with soccer’s popularity in the United States — which tends to be a very celebrity-and-brand-driven culture. See, out of these 10 people, only two are actually playing as of the knockout round. Now, there were four Spanish players on this list, and they got sent home early unexpectedly (or perhaps expectedly relative to how you viewed their age). That’s almost half the list. Wayne Rooney is on an England side that has been under-achieving on the global stage for years (yet dominating in some ways on the club stage). Zlatan and Thierry Henry weren’t even in this World Cup. Ronaldo’s Portugal side went home in the group stage, largely because they lost 4-0 to Germany in the opener (oddly perhaps, no German guys made this list, despite having some of the world’s most famous players currently).

That leaves Lionel Messi and Neymar, clearly both under some legit pressure now that the knockout stage has arrived. Neymar’s Brazil side almost went out yesterday vs. Chile — if not for the top post and the right side post, they might have — which would have left us with just Messi from this list.

I love the idea of marketing — in that it’s really just a multi-tiered way to tell a story — but sometimes, reading articles about the “marketing impact” of certain “demand generation acquisition” (read: getting endorsers) for major sportswear companies can get annoying. If the guys you ink are going to have relevance, they need to be there in the final eight, final four, and World Cup Championship. This is a little-bit better breakdown of what companies sponsor what sides and what all that might ultimately mean, but for now just think about that chart and what that means for soccer: only 20 percent of the most-recognized players in the world are here at the knockout stage. Is that why, despite the gaudy TV and live-stream numbers we’ll ultimately see for this World Cup, that the sport can’t completely catch on in a place like the United States?

Ted Bauer