Women Surfers Are Officially More Marketable Than Men
And it’s got nothing to do with “sex sells”.
We did it. Surfers finally cracked the coveted top 50 most marketable sports pros list.
Although you’ve probably never heard of this list, it comes from a credible source: Nielsen—yes, the same people that have been tracking our household TV consumption since the ‘50s.
When it comes to collecting data and generating market research, Nielsen still reigns supreme. The system they used for this particular study is an athlete-influencer score derived from social media data. The key points listed are ‘Relevance, Reach, Return, and Resonance.’
Athletes at the top of the list include soccer, basketball, cricket, and tennis players, plus MMA fighters. Although our sport is more niche than those aforementioned, it’s no surprise surfers cracked the 50. Despite how squeaky clean our sport’s image has become, we still occupy that ‘cool’ sector of society that people seem to appreciate and covet.
What I did find surprising, however, was that the four surfers who made the list have something in common—they’re all female.
I always thought men were superior. After all, we throw bigger airs and punch bigger holes in our boards when a wave doesn’t go our way. That must translate to energy drink sales, right?
Let’s break this down by athlete, and see if we can figure where my misogynistic presumptions steered me wrong.
Kelia Termini (formerly Moniz) (422K followers)
Coming in at number 38 is Kelia Termini. Name doesn’t ring a bell? How about Kelia Moniz? You know, the 2x World Champ that crashed fantastically while attempting to thread Teahupo’o on a log. The Hawaiian native married contemporary artist Joe Termini a few years back, hence the name change. (Not too sure what contemporary art actually is, but considering the hefty price tags on Termini’s paintings, I’m interested.)
Being a professional surfer and a descendant of Hawaiian surfing royalty is a solid blueprint for marketing success. But is it the reason Kelia cracked this list? I could be wrong, but I’d bet it has more to do with the fact that Kelia’s best friend is Haley Bieber (you can probably guess who the 23-year-old supermodel is married to). Getting a product anywhere near the hands of that Hollywood power couple is a dream for any marketing department. That’s probably what Roxy was thinking when they had the 2 friends collaborate on a swimsuit collection.
Bethany Hamilton (2M followers)
Bethany Hamilton was able to snag number 40 on the list of marketable athletes. This is not surprising by any means. Her story sells itself. Returning to professional surfing after losing an arm to a shark? That’ll score high for resonance. Hamilton’s story of redemption is emotional, inspirational, and well-known. While my inferior non-surfer friends refer to Bethany as “Soul Surfer Girl”, this only serves to prove that they are familiar with her story. Having a target audience that includes hardcore surfers and civilians is usually a recipe for disaster, but like most things in life, Hamilton conquered it with class and style.
Carissa Moore (400k followers)
Carissa Moore, number 41. The 4x World Champion is a force to be reckoned with in structured competition. But what makes her social media so important for sales? Carissa is a feminine superhero. Despite being a fierce competitor, she returns to land with a genuine personality and a radiant smile. Carissa is a role model for young girls, as they seem to feel a real connection with her. Companies recognize this, along with the fact that kids largely drive their parents’ purchase decisions, which makes Riss an invaluable asset for promoting products. Marketing with an authentic character like Carissa is simple and usually pays off. Even non-surf companies like Visa, Xfinity, and Gillette have weaseled their way into Moore’s sponsor list, meaning she has the ability to reach demographics of all ages. A true renaissance woman.
Sky Brown (762k followers)
Sky Brown is listed as a skateboarder on this list, but if we learned anything from her Stab High Ladybirds performance, the girl can flat out surf. Despite only being 12 years old, Sky is ranked 27 on the list. Dual-sport phenom? Yeah, that’ll get you a Nike contract. Brown’s youth is something that the ladies mentioned above can’t buy. Progression is inevitable, which is why so many brands are willing to sponsor athletes at such a young age. Think of it as an investment. If she qualified for the Olympics at the age of 11, can you imagine what her track record will look like at 25? Put a sticker on her board, people will see it…
You might be wondering why the surfers with the largest social followings—Gabriel Medina (8.3M) and Kelly Slater (2.7M)—didn’t make this list. There’s no single reason for female athletes being objectively more marketable than males. It could have to do with the social media conspiracy threads men love to tug on. Or perhaps the unapproachable macho energy that males proudly flaunt. Sure, it scores them cool guy points, but being an asshole isn’t exactly the key to a good sales pitch. Maybe women are more empathetic and thus form a deeper personal connection with consumers. Every case is different.
The only thing I’m certain of is that the female role in today’s world of marketing is a much bigger contribution than “sex sells”.
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