Footballer Neymar is now a playable character in Fortnite. What other athletes are gamer favorites?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
March 26, 2021, 5:16 PM UTC

Paris Saint-German forward Neymar became the first playable athlete in Fortnite this month, paving the way for more sports stars to appear in the uber-popular video game title. 

As part of the launch of the game’s sixth season, called “Primal,” players will be able to dress as Neymar during Battle Royale competitions. This development begs the question – which other athletes would get a warm reception from Fortnite fans? 

According to YouGov's Global Fan Profiles tool – which collects consumer data in 38 global markets those who follow or watch Fortnite Battle Royale competitions are most likely to be fans of basketball (20%), football (20%), and American football (12%). 

Among followers of Fortnite around the world who are also football (soccer) fans, roughly half say Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo is a favorite (52%), followed by Barcelona forward Lionel Messi (47%), and Neymar (41%). Rounding out our list of football faves among Fortnite followers is Liverpool forward Mo Salah (30%) and Paris Saint-German attacker Kylian Mbappé (27%). 

Epic Games Global Head of Partnerships, Nate Nanzer, told ESPN that sport is a key growth area for Fortnite, and football is of particular importance, given the game's global nature. However, YouGov data reveals favorability in other sports too. 

Looking at global consumers who follow both Fortnite and basketball, Los Angeles Laker LeBron James (47%), as well as Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry (43%) and Kevin Durant (37%) are favored NBA stars. James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets (32%) and Anthony Davis (27%) of the Lakers are also Fortnite-player favorites. 

Perhaps an NFL star quarterback may want to appear as a playable character in Fortnite. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers (26%), Cam Newton of the New England Patriots, and Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are American football favorites among Fortnite fans who follow the sport. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (24%) and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (23%) may also be solid choices for an activation. 

While Neymar is the first pro athlete to have a skin in Fornite, players have had the ability to play as characters from Star Wars, the Walking Dead and Marvel, providing rich cross-fertilization opportunities for brands and franchises. 

Meanwhile, YouGov BrandIndex data shows Fortnite has seen an 18% boot in Awareness boost among Americans who are interested in European football over the last quarter in which Neymar’s skin was introduced. 

Methodology: YouGov Global Fan Profiles is based on continuously collected data from several sources, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Data referenced is based on an overall sample size of 2,072 consumers who follow Fortnite Battle Royale in 38 markets. Online interviews were conducted between December 2020 – March 2021. BrandIndex collects data on thousands of brands every day. Fortnite’s Awareness score is based on the question: “Which of the following video games have you ever heard of? ”and delivered as a percentage. Scores are based on an average daily sample size of 180 US adults who are interested in European football between December 2020 and March 2021. Figures are based on a four-week moving average. Learn more about BrandIndex.