Skills to pay the bills: Why soccer star Sam Kerr is a marketer’s dream

With a debut ranking of ninth, Sam Kerr is the highest new entry on SportsPro’s latest list of the world’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes. So what makes the Chelsea and Australia goal-getter such a force off the field?

Sam Kerr’s goalscoring record speaks for itself.

The only soccer player to have won the golden boot in three different domestic leagues, the 29-year-old forward boasts all-time scoring records for Australia and in America’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), as well as for three of the teams she has represented at club level. Last season she led the scoring chart for a second successive season in England’s Women’s Super League (WSL), her 20 league goals firing Chelsea to a fifth domestic crown, in addition to helping them retain the FA Cup.

Except for the pandemic-hit 2020 season, Kerr has scored 30 goals or more every year since 2017. But she is not only a prolific goal machine with a trademark backflip celebration to boot. Her prowess on the field has earned the Perth-born striker widespread recognition among fans and journalists and a glut of individual accolades, including five MVP awards and a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to soccer.

Indeed, as her ranking of ninth in SportsPro’s latest list of the world’s 50 Most Marketable Athletes reveals, this tenacious talent is now firmly established among the most sought-after individuals in elite sport.

Face of the game

Represented by A&V Sports, a boutique agency whose client roster includes fellow soccer star Ada Hegerberg, Kerr boasts personal endorsement deals with Nike, EA Sports and Mastercard. That relatively modest portfolio smacks of untapped potential, not least since Kerr has fast become a flag-bearer for women’s soccer.

For Nike, her boot sponsor and apparel partner, Kerr has appeared in major advertising campaigns, including ‘Dream Crazier’, which positioned her alongside the likes of Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe, and ‘Dream Further’, a video spot intended to inspire young female soccer fans ahead of the France 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup.

In July, EA Sports announced that she would become the first female soccer player to grace the cover of its ultra-popular FIFA video game franchise. In a move she herself described as “an honour and a dream come true”, Kerr now serves as the face of the title’s ‘Ultimate’ edition, as well as appearing on the more widely available standard edition in Australia and New Zealand.

EA’s decision to put a woman on the cover of FIFA undoubtedly represented a watershed moment for both Kerr and women’s soccer. Rising interest among fans and growing investment from brands, broadcasters and national associations alike is helping to raise the profile of the game, boosting its commercial maturity and creating new earning opportunities for its standout performers on and off the field of play.

That upward trajectory is reflected by the fact that Kerr is one of five female soccer players in this year’s 50MM list. Of those, only Alex Morgan, in eighth, is ranked higher, yet not even the American icon can match Kerr’s playing salary.

In November 2021, having seen their star striker score 39 goals in 47 games since joining midway through the 2019 season, Chelsea signed Kerr to a two-year contract extension, tying her to the west London club until at least 2024. Now, the Australian is said to be the world’s best-paid female player, with a salary reportedly exceeding UK£400,000 (US$452,000) per year.

She shoots, she scores

With an overall marketability score of 48.01 out of a possible 100, Kerr’s status as the highest new entry in this year’s 50MM list is driven by a multitude of factors, each of which were evaluated in depth by NorthStar as part of its months-long assessment of the world’s top athletes.

Interestingly, Kerr’s brand strength score (12.74 out of 20) is higher than many better-known names, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Novak Djokovic and Max Verstappen. That component of the overall marketability score considers factors such as sporting performance and citizenship – for example, the extent to which an athlete makes his or her teammates better and impacts the world around them – to determine the strength of their brand identity. This includes everything from the causes they support and how well they dress, to how well-spoken they are in interviews and how authentic they are deemed to be as brand ambassadors.

Kerr, as a young gay woman in a relationship with another high-profile professional athlete, the American soccer player Kristie Mewis, has been a vocal advocate for equality and diversity throughout her stellar career. It is that willingness to speak out which makes her more attractive to brands in today’s purpose-driven era of sports marketing.

Added to that is the fact that Kerr’s audience and reach score (27.32 out of 50) is the fourth highest among assessed athletes. That means she appeals to a broad range of demographics within a large total addressable market, and that fan sentiment towards her is generally positive. It also confirms the overall visibility and popularity of her sport, in addition to her impressive social media metrics, such as mentions, follower growth and engagement. With more than 139,000 followers on Twitter and over a million on Instagram, Kerr clearly has a platform to reach a vast, engaged audience.

In terms of her economics score, which signifies an athlete’s position and visibility on certain social and environmental issues and how that activity can generate potential returns across the triple bottom line, Kerr ranks around the middle of the 50MM list, with a score of 7.94 out of 30. Still, that score is higher than household names like Rory McIlroy, Simona Halep and Harry Kane.

All told, then, Kerr is the epitome of the modern-day marketable athlete: likeable, outspoken, authentic, and uniquely talented. In any era, that is an alluring cocktail for a brand marketer.