The rise of the athlete influencer

Athletes: They’re just like you and me. They eat, sleep, and are painfully aware of how many views their latest Instagram story is getting. 

Driving the news: As the US Open continues, Genie Bouchard will be on the sidelines after failing to qualify. Despite this, and the fact she also failed to qualify for Wimbledon this summer, a recent study ranked her as the fifth-most valuable Canadian athlete influencer

  • With a devoted fanbase and 2.4 million Instagram followers, Bouchard still scores big endorsements as an influencer despite being far removed from the top of her game. 

Zoom out: Subpar athletic performance (relatively speaking, obviously) hasn't gotten in the way of non-stars using social media to earn popularity and pivot to more lucrative careers. 

  • Ex-NHL’er Paul Bissonette (seven career goals) and Ex-NFL’er Pat McAfee (a punter) both became popular pundits mainly because they were funny on Twitter.

  • Golf influencer Paige Spiranac converted a failed professional golf career into “golf’s largest social media empire,” where she can earn US$100,000 per sponsored post. 

Plus: Since 2021, NCAA athletes have been able to profit from their image, leading to a rush of US college athletes turning to influencer marketing to cash in. Many of the most popular college athletes on social media aren’t necessarily the best in their field.  

  • Livvy Dunne, the poster child for NCAA athlete influencers, has had a good, not amazing, collegiate career…

  • …but thanks to viral videos and 7.8 million TikTok followers, she’s accrued millions and once made US$500,000 for a single sponsored post.

Bottom line: Influencing offers a way for athletes who aren’t top-level talent to rake in top-level cheques. Ultimately, real superstars are still going to come out on top—like soccer phenom Alphonso Davies, who conquered the list of Canadian athlete influencers.—QH