Who is the Most Recognizable Athlete in the World?

Believe it or not, we’re a pretty competitive crew over here at SSC HQ. Given that we run sports leagues for a living, you can imagine that almost all of our social discussions quickly turn into heated debates, especially when the topic involves athletics. A quick trip to the water cooler may result in an all-out brawl about which sport provides the best workout. Grab a coffee in the kitchen and you might get caught in the sharknado that is my stance on appropriate jersey protocol.  And don’t you dare tell Katherine that Michael Phelps isn’t the greatest Olympian ever

This brings us to last week when I posed a seemingly simple question that spiralled into one of our most heated and contentious arguments yet  Who is the most recognizable athlete in the world?

The genesis of this question was to find out which athlete has succeeded in achieving that mythical legendary status that supersedes fame, glory, and personal accolades.  Not the most famous or wealthy (Forbes can easily answer that), but the most recognizable across the entire world.  We’re talking about the farthest stretches of the earth. If I dropped you off at the North Pole, amongst nothing but penguins and the frozen tundra, which athlete would be identified above all others?

Amidst this debate, two dominant factions emerged as leaders of the pack, both making a strong case and neither willing to budge from their rock solid conclusion.  Below I present the contenders and kindly ask for your vote to settle this debate. It’s time to finally answer the age-old question: who is the most recognizable athlete in the world?

Contender #1 – Usain Bolt


  • Proud owner of 9 Olympic gold medals; undoubtedly one of the greatest Olympians of all time
  • Running is universal, so being best sprinter in the world, every nation/country/group/tribe can identify with his sport
  • A larger than life personality
  • Usain’s proving ground, the Olympics, is the second largest international competition in the world by attendance and viewership, and his reach far exceeds his native Jamaica and the Western World with a strong Olympic focus
  • However, his star only has the chance to shine on the global stage every 4 years: is that often enough to really having the staying power as the most recognizable athlete?

Contender #2 – Cristiano Ronaldo


  • Save the FIFA World Cup, he’s won every team and individual championship or award in the game
  • A consensus pick for most famous soccer player in the world today
  • #1 on Forbes list of the World’s Highest Paid Athletes
  • Massive social media following (most liked person on Facebook in 2015)
  • The face of the beautiful game; a sport played by more than 250 million, and watched by more than 2 billion people across the world
  • He plays all year, every year, and doesn’t have to wait for the Olympics to shine
  • Like any true celebrity, he always has to be the centre of attention, which lends to his recognizability




~ Written by Calum McCullough

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