The Frontstretch: Jimmie Johnson Named "Most Influential Athlete" In One Company's Eyes Only by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday May 12, 2011

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Jimmie Johnson Named "Most Influential Athlete" In One Company's Eyes Only

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday May 12, 2011


If I were to come up to you and ask you who you thought the most influential athlete in America was, would you honestly spout out Jimmie Johnson? I mean, yeah, YOU might, simply because you are logged into a Web site devoted to stock car racing, so the results, if I were to ask it here, might be a little skewered, but seriously? Heck, chances are, even if we did ask that question on here, I still doubt Jimmie Johnson would top the list! Remember, we are talking ‘athlete’, not just ‘stock car driver!’

Imagine my surprise when I read that Jimmie had indeed been named, America’s Most Influential Athlete! There it was, right there amongst all the latest NASCAR related news, on that one web portal that millions of fans flock to for their daily NASCAR fix. I had to investigate further. A few links and wasted brain cells later, here is what I found out.

While this fabulous news was aimed directly at the NASCAR fan in a shameless attempt to make you think that Jimmie had actually accomplished something special, he did not. There was no fanfare, no ceremony, not even an award (that I am aware of). All this news is based on, is the answers to a poll of 1000 people. Yes, that is right, 1000 people! What is the population of this country now…350 million or something like that? At any rate, if you take the time to read the full story, you will find that it is nothing more than an attempt to lead you (the NASCAR sheep) straight to the cash register (the slaughter!)

This is a poll that is strictly market research (my favorite thing as you know) and was created solely for self righteous, uppity, upper management types of large corporations. In other words, Brian France probably had an “early” accident in his pants when he read it. And you know he read it because it was put out there by Forbes. I just don’t see Brian sitting on the can with a copy of the latest Hot Rod magazine. Just sayin’.

According to a recent poll, Jimmie Johnson was named the most influential athlete over a number of well-known stick and ball athletes.

Okay, so it is market research. I understand that to run a successful business, you need to know who your costumers are. That is a no brainer. However, if you go by the polls own numbers, there are a few things I DON’T understand. For instance, here is a small bit from the news release that explains the poll.

‘E-Poll and Nielsen Media Research surveyed over 1,000 adults as to the athletes they considered influential, while also assessing their likeability and awareness levels. Only those known to at least 20 percent of the respondents were considered. That eliminated boxer Manny Pacquiao, who scores the highest influence numbers of anyone, but who’s familiar to only 12 percent of the population. What does it say about boxing that its most exciting champion toils in near anonymity?

I left that last part about Manny Pacquiao in for reasons that will become clear in a moment. Anyway, the poll had these categories: Influential, Awareness, Like/Like a lot, Dislike/Dislike a lot and the (supposedly) all important N-Score, which they list as ‘endorsement potential.’

Now, in this years Top 10, there were 3 NASCAR drivers. Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jeff Gordon rated 1st, 3rd and 8th respectively. Let’s start with Gordon.

Jeff Gordon, 8th
Influential: 20%
Awareness: 39%
Like/Like a lot: 35%
Dislike/Dislike a lot: 7%
N-Score (endorsement potential): 144 (avg. athlete 14)

Dale Jr. 3rd
Influential: 22%
Awareness: 40%
Like/Like a lot: 45%
Dislike/Dislike a lot: 3%
N-Score (endorsement potential): 217

Jimmie Johnson, 1st
Influential: 25%
Awareness: 20%
Like/Like a lot: 47%
Dislike/Dislike a lot: 6%
N-Score (endorsement potential): 72

Market research not withstanding, can someone please explain to me how Johnson rates first place with those numbers? That just does not make sense. And remember what the poll said about Manny Pacquiao? Well what does it say about NASCAR that its historic five-time champion toils with HALF the public awareness of the third and eighth place guys on the list!! In fact, when it comes to ‘Awareness,’ Johnson barely makes the list and is only one percentage point higher than number 10, Tim Tebow who theoretically, by their own minimum standards of 20 percent, shouldn’t even be on the list! Oh! Let’s not forget the all important N-Score! Johnson, 72. Tebow, 41 !!!

Another point to ponder…how many commercials (different companies) have you ever seen Jimmie Johnson in?

Folks, I’m not writing this to try and take anything away or negate Jimmie Johnson’s talent as a champion NASCAR driver. I just want folks to know the truth. Jimmie Johnson did not save a bunch of kids in Haiti (well maybe, but I never heard of it), he didn’t find a cure for cancer, he didn’t over come some insanely insurmountable odds to be where he is today…all he did (thanks to Brian’s ‘Chase’) was become “Ole Five-in-a-row”.

All this is just a tool (and a sorely misguided one at that) for some big corporation to try and get the guy, who is known for being bland and vanilla, but somehow has suddenly become the most influential athlete in America, to hock their products for them. I think Lowe’s has that covered!

Stay off the wall, (and off the list!)

Jeff Meyer

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Stephen HOOD
05/12/2011 07:34 AM

Not to defend Johnson, but you asked how many commercials have you seen him in. Well, he rode around in Chevy Silverado commercials for four or five years and a day doesn’t go by that a Kobalt commercial appears on ESPN. The Kobalt commercials ran throughout the NFL season and college football season here in Alabama. No, I don’t see Jimmy as much as Junior, but I do see him more than most. I think Edwards is the one missing from this list.

05/12/2011 09:53 AM

The first question is who was behind or commissioned the poll. To have 3 of the top 10 Nascar drivers makes me suspicious.
This is just another of the avalanche of “positive” news regarding Nascar being spewed this year. You have to wonder how many of these polls are conducted every year. Most nobody ever hears about and wouldn’t care if they did.

05/12/2011 11:09 AM

Jimmie Johnson IS the most influential athlete in America… I know this because he influenced me to rediscover and fall in love with vanilla ice cream!

Oh, c’mon… you knew somebody was going to say it.

05/12/2011 02:44 PM

Jimmie Johnson replaces Brian France—Junior replaces Mike Helton and FOX fires DW. Within a year NASCAR will be on top and the fans will have a hell of a great time at the track and at home watching on TV.

05/13/2011 01:20 PM

JJ- I laughed out loud!!! At work.

Bobby O
05/13/2011 02:16 PM

I love you Susan!

Jeff Meyer FS staff
05/13/2011 07:32 PM

Susan, do you understand what you read?

I believe I clearly stated that this poll is strictly made for corporate marketing use. I never said NASCAR commisioned it. Just saying that it is intended for corporate types who are trying to figure out where to spend their advertising dollars.

Not to mention that I think it is totally out of whack with reality as almost no one on the street you may ask(except maybe a nascar/jj fan)would name Johnson as America’s most influential athlete!

Baaaalieve it if you want to!

Jeff Meyer FS staff
05/13/2011 07:55 PM

I bashed NASCAR and or JJ over the head? Oh! Silly me. And here I thought I was giving the ‘bashing’ to idiotic companys that create such polls…wait a sec..

Whats that, honey? The neighbors pig wants voice lessons? Ok, just a minute…

Sorry Susan, I gotta run. Gotta try and teach a pig to sing! Wish me luck!

05/16/2011 12:06 AM

I can’t understand Dale Jr. not beating Johnson. His numbers are better than Johnson’s. His awareness is twice Jonhson, his endorsement potential is three times Johnson, and his dislikeability is half Johnson. His likeability is about the same. WTH were these guys smoking?

Based on the numbers Shaq should have been #1, Peyton Manning should have been #2, and Earnhardt should have been #3.

With an awareness score of 20% Johnson barely made the cut to be judged at all. Combine that with an endorsement potential of 72 (lower than anyone on the list except Tebow) and he should have been no better than 9th.


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.