image: Ryan Garcia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
When we talk about influential athletes, we are referring to those who have had a significant impact on their sport, on society, and on the lives of people around the world.
These athletes may have achieved great things on the field, but their influence goes beyond just their performance. They may use their platform to advocate for important causes, to inspire others to pursue their dreams, or to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes.
On the other hand, when we talk about marketable athletes, we are referring to those who have a high commercial value and are sought after by brands and advertisers.
These athletes may have a strong public image and are seen as role models by many people, but their influence doesn't correlate to their performance. Many athletes who fit this mold may have more in common with influencers in the sense that their popularity may stem from their charisma or their good looks.
Advertisers and marketers will often use these athletes to promote their products or services, hoping to capitalize on their popularity and influence.
While influential and marketable athletes may overlap to some extent, they are not necessarily the same thing. An athlete can be highly influential without being very marketable, or vice versa. For example, an athlete who uses their platform to speak out on social justice issues may be highly influential but may not be as attractive to advertisers who want to avoid controversy. Similarly, an athlete who is very marketable may not have a significant impact on society or inspire others in the same way that a more influential athlete might.
In summary, influential athletes have a significant impact on their sport and society as a whole, while marketable athletes have a high commercial value and are sought after by advertisers and brands. While there can be some overlap between the two, they are not the same thing and athletes can be influential without being marketable, or vice versa.
There's a balance between the two when viewing who the highest paid athletes are, but there's also a line between when influence doesn't align with corporate interests (see Kyrie Irving or Ja Morant). These may be extreme examples, but do indicate that marketability is the preference of your sponsors, and influence is the preference of the people.