Marketing Stars Tiger, Serena Top Survey Of Most Popular Athletes (But MJ Just Won't Go Away)

Tiger Woods is so popular he even has his own line of Gatorade.July 16, 2009: Despite his shortcoming at the recent U.S. Open, Tiger Woods is accustomed to being in the lead spot. He far outdistances all other athletes in endorsements, for example, making close to $100 million annually, more tha twice with golfer Phil Mickelson takes in. No surprise, then, that for the fourth year in a row Tiger Woods has been named "America’s favorite male sports star" in a survey from The Harris Poll, conducted by Harris Interactive. Woods, now in Turnberry, Scotland, seeking his fourth British Open title, crosses many lines when it comes to favoritism: Woods was tops among both men and women, White and Hispanic respondents, and also was No. 1 among baby boomers (aged 45-63) and "matures" (64+), according to the survey.

Behind Woods is Michael Jordan, whose staying power is defined by the fact that he is the only athlete to be on this list since it started in 1993, where he ranked No. 1 1993-2005 and has been no lower than No. 3 since. Although retired from active play, Jordan has been active in marketing campaigns for Nike, Gatorade and Hanes, and is very visible as president of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats. Jordan this year is being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame presented by Allstate along with his teammates from the 1992 gold-winning U.S. men's basketball squad, better known as the Dream Team.

Among women athletes, the Williams sisters dominate: Serena, the recently crowned Wimbledon champion is No. 1 (the spot she held in 2007) and Venus, who lost to her sister in the Wimbledon finals, is No. 2. They both moved ahead of race car driver Danica Patrick, last year’s favorite female sports star, who came in at No. 3 in the new survey. Serena Williams, who earns about $13 million a year in endorsements, was named favorite female athletes by both men and women as well as "echo boomers (18-32), Gen X (33-44) and baby boomers (45-63). Matures (64+) went for Patrick.

Third on the men's list is LeBron James, who was not even among the top 10 in the previous survey after coming in at No. 5 in 2007. The male athlete who fell the farthest was NFL quarterback Brett Favre, from third to ninth. Last year at this time he was making headlines with what ultimately became a trade from the Green Bay Packers to the New York Jets; this year, he may or may not return from another announced retirement to possibly play with the Minnesota Vikings. On the women's side, Chris Evert returned to the top 10 for the first time since 2005; although retired, she is very visible with her Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic and the Chris Evert Tennis Academy, and last June she made headlines when she married golf star Greg Norman.

Dropping off the men's list this year were Tom Brady, quarterback with the New England Patriots, who was No. 8 in the 2008 survey but spent the last football season on the sidelines with an injury; and Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who was No. 10 10 last year. Falling off the women's list from 2008 were skater Kristi Yamaguchi, who was No 8 last year, and tennis legend Billie Jean King, who was No. 10. Conspicuous by his absence was Michael Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing but whose image may have been hurt by the photo of him with marijuna paraphernalia.

The Harris Poll was a nationwide survey of 2,177 U.S. adults conducted online June 8-15, 2009 by Harris Interactive.

The Top Ten Male Athletes (2008 ranking):
1. Tiger Woods, golf (1)
2. Michael Jordan, basketball (2)
3. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (not among top 10)
4. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (4)
5. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees (7)
6. Jeff Gordon, Nascar (5)
7. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts (6t)
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Nascar (6t)
9. Brett Favre, NFL (3)
10. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (not among top 10).

The Top Ten Female Athletes (2008 ranking):
1. Serena Williams, tennis (2)
2. Venus Williams, tennis (3)
3. Danica Patrick, Indy racing (1)
4. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks (7)
5. Mia Hamm, soccer (5)
6. (tie) Maria Sharapova, tennis (4)
6. (tie) Annika Sorenstam, golf (6)
8. Chris Evert, returning to the list for the first time since 2005;
9. Anna Kournikova, tennis (not among top 10)
10. Michelle Kwan, figure skater (9)
Source: Harris Poll

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