The mysterious 'Q Score'

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Ryan Sheckler and Dwyane Wade

Since you're currently reading the section of devoted to high-quality, comprehensive and occasionally irreverent skateboarding coverage, it's probably safe to assume that you can recite most of the major aspects of Paul Rodriguez's biography by heart:

Paul Rodriguez, or "P-Rod," is a 28-year-old professional skateboarder. He is the son of comedian Paul Rodriguez. His sponsors include Nike, AT&T and Plan B. Just before his runs at X Games or Street League, Rodriguez -- a devout Christian -- will ritualistically remove his ball cap, bring it upturned toward his face as though it were a bowl, and pray. Some of his noted videos are "Street Cinema," "In Bloom" and "Me, Myself, & I."

Very good.

But can you name Paul Rodriguez's Q Score?

Have you ever heard of a Q Score?

Minding your N's and Q's

Though you may not be familiar with it, within certain circles a Q Score, or Q Rating, can be quite consequential. In fact, millions of dollars can hinge on its fluctuations. Advertising executives will sometimes use it to help choose spokespeople. Television and movie producers will examine Q Scores in an attempt to gauge how well a show or film is doing.

But what is it, exactly?

Derived from national online polls, a Q Score is an attempt to measure the popular appeal of a company, brand or person.

Simply put, Q Scores are a rating system for fame, a way of grading celebrity, quantifying sometimes fluid and hard-to-pin-down concepts like "cachet." When a lot of respondents in a Q Score survey know who someone is -- and particularly when a lot of people pick an athlete/entertainer/brand as a favorite -- then Q Scores go up.

During the 1980s, Bill Cosby had a record-breaking 70-plus Q Score. Mickey Mouse has a Q Score (44). Even deceased persons can have Q Scores. (These scores are called "Dead Q," and were formerly known as "The Performers of the Past Q.") That means Tupac Shakur, Whitney Houston and John Wayne all have Q Scores.

Of active sports figures, Peyton Manning leads the pack with a score of 32. Drew Brees comes in next at 29 points, with Aaron Rodgers rounding out the top three with a Q Score of 27.

Michael Jordan continues to hold the top slot for all professional athletes, with an impressive Q Score of 43.

And yes, now some skateboarders have Q Scores as well.

So let's take a look.

Hawk soars above "Flying Tomato"
According to Q Scores, Tony Hawk remains the most well-known and well-liked professional skateboarder among sports fans. Actually, more than 12 years after his retirement in 1999, Hawk still possesses the highest market "awareness" of any "action-sports athlete." His lofty achievements have earned him a Q Score of 22.

"Tony Hawk is the high-water mark," Henry Schafer, executive vice president at Marketing Evaluations Inc./The Q Scores Company -- the Manhasset, N.Y.-based company that has produced the Q Score since 1963 -- tells "Tony Hawk is known by almost 80 percent of sports fans right now. He has an above-average Q Score. He's got the highest awareness of any extreme athlete we measured this year. Shaun White, again, is not that far behind him, at 68 percent. Then there's nobody of real distinction after that, except for [NFL player/MMA fighter] Herschel Walker."

P-Rod and Ryan Sheckler also have Q Scores.

"Ryan Sheckler and Paul Rodriguez have about the same level of awareness among those polled by Q Scores, but Rodriguez is a little better liked," says Schafer. "So they have about the same level of awareness, but the intensity of likability for Rodriguez is stronger."

"Basically," Schafer explains, "every year, we measure the awareness or familiarity and positive or negative [opinion of the person]. In the case of sports personalities, we often measure them two different ways -- among the general population and among sports fans, as in the case of Paul Rodriguez. We do that for our clients so that they can see whether or not the sports personality has the ability to transcend the world of sports, to become more of a general[ly] appealing icon, out there in the marketplace, which gives them, as a spokesperson, more flexibility and a greater variety of products they could represent. Not just sports-related products.

"So, somebody like Paul Rodriguez has a 21 percent familiarity [among sports fans], just in terms of people knowing who he is. But for those sports fans who do know him, and have had experience with him, they really like him. The intensity of his Q Score is striking. It's a strong score," said Schafer.

Skateboarding itself has a Q Score. Among 40 sports measured, skateboarding is currently the 28th-most popular.

"It's doing fine. It's right in the mix," Schafer says, summarizing skateboarding's respectable showing.

As a point of comparison, in the action-sports category, monster trucks and skateboarding are just about equal in popularity.

"If you consider monster trucks an action sport," Schafer says with a slight chuckle.

Ryan Sheckler is sexy, survey says
However, Q Scores is far from the only consumer-data company to measure the marketability of certain highly visible skateboarders.

Like Q Scores, Nielsen/E‐Poll is a widely cited consumer-research service that ranks a public figure's popularity and, according to its literature, evaluates the appeal, awareness and endorsement potential of more than 1,400 sports figures on a national and local basis. Its sports-specific "N-Score" contains data about athletes, coaches, commentators and other sports figures.

The Nielsen/E-Poll gleans much of its data from asking respondents to view photographs of famous athletes and then pick among 46 personal traits in an attribute survey to assign to the athletes. These are "personal traits relative to endorsement effectiveness." Among the 46 choices are: funny, aggressive, down-to-earth, good energy, approachable, kooky/wacky, trendsetter, sexy, sincere, stylish and unique.

Here, according to Nielsen/E‐Poll's survey of about 1,100 Americans, are some statistical fun facts about some well-known skaters:

--Paul Rodriguez: Funny (49 percent), Down-to-Earth (29 percent), Versatile (21 percent)
--Rob Dyrdek: Funny (58 percent), Good Energy (46 percent), Exciting (31 percent)
--Ryan Sheckler: Attractive (30 percent), Trendsetter (27 percent), Sexy (23 percent)

"P-Rod's 'versatile' score, or Sheckler's 'trendsetter,' are significantly above the average for their category and therefore help identify what sets them apart from their peers," Randy Parker, senior director of marketing and communications at E-Poll Market Research, told in an email. "Ryan Sheckler has achieved success with young adults. His N‐Score of 71 among the 13-to-25 age group places him slightly higher even than NBA star Dwyane Wade. And Sheckler's 'sexy' score would presumably be even higher if we considered responses from women only."

Parker also noted that N-Score's rankings produced similar results to's recently released list of the "50 Most Influential People In Action Sports."

"'Influential' is one of the attributes we measure," adds Parker. Hawk tops the list with 31 percent, with Dyrdek rounding out the set with a score of 16 percent. "In our case we are measuring the extent to which an individual is considered 'influential' in the minds of our survey respondents as opposed to a direct measurement of how much they have impacted their sport."

Will a Face Tattoo Crater My Q Score?
Because skateboarding is still primarily an adolescent activity -- and is often captivated by fleeting micro-trends and idiosyncratic cult figures like Gino Ianucci, Anthony Van Engelen and Dylan Rieder -- don't look to these surveys for a complete, nuanced picture of the teeming, socially stratified high school cafeteria that is the skateboarding industry. What such surveys can do is offer a statistical snapshot of those skaters who have made the largest inroads into the mainstream world.

Closer to home, Transworld Business magazine produces a "skate exposure meter," but rather than polling, the tabulations are based exclusively on the number of pictures a given skater has in the four major American skateboard magazines: Thrasher, Skateboarder, Transworld Skateboarding and The Skateboard Mag.

Incidentally, neither Q Scores nor E-Poll possessed data about 18-year-old contest juggernaut Nyjah Huston. He was still below their radars.

But Huston has already displayed a strong competitive streak. Perhaps in the near future -- as skateboarding starts to more closely resemble a competitive sport -- top-tier skaters will, like senate candidates caught in a closely contested race, start parsing their own polling data. In 2013, one can already almost imagine a brand manager/CEO/marketing director saying, "He's got nollie cab flips down, but he really needs to get those Q Scores up."

And, for the record: Whereas the average celebrity Q Score is 17, Paul Rodriguez's Q Score is 25.

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