This company uncovers shocking news on pro athletes

Cristiano Ronaldo, the most famous soccer player in the world, is underpaid. Leticia Bufoni, a Brazilian-American skateboarder, is the second most valuable female athlete for Nike. These are just a few of the financial nuggets that a new company, Hookit, has uncovered so far. Clearly, this is just the beginning.

Hookit is to social and digital media what Nielsen ratings are to old-fashioned television. The company's technology tracks every single post that an athlete makes to social and digital media. It then analyzes the post for brand value.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Getty Images

"We look for hashtags and mentions of a brand. We do image recognition against all the content to find logos, and we value what all of that means from a media perspective to their sponsors," said Hookit CEO Scott Tilton, who says the company then sells the data.

Knowing that is invaluable.

Tilton was touting the numbers this week at the Sports & Fitness Industry Association's Industry Leaders Summit in Denver. Hookit was one of the five finalists in the SFIA's first-ever disruptor competition, and it won

"The future of this business is change, is disruption. No one in our business today is thinking about what they're going to make tomorrow or next year. They're already thinking about where they are five years from now," said Tom Cove, president and CEO of SFIA.

Hookit's analysts have surprised themselves, running the numbers and finding comparisons they never expected, like with Ronaldo, who they say has more social media value than LeBron James. When Forbes magazine asked Hookit to run the numbers on Ronaldo, reporters there concluded that he was underpaid due to that value.

"The top 100 highest-paid athletes in the world generate about $375 million in value, and Cristiano drove 176 million by himself; it's an amazing stat," said Tilton, sounding surprised all over again. "The amount of engagement that he drove from his followers, he drove 1.2 billion engagements, which is more than the entire NFL league combined."

Not only does Ronaldo have followers — he is one of just three people on the planet who have more than 250,000, the others being Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber — the quality of his posts are exceptional. They include sponsor promotion and draw strong engagement, which translates into a tremendous amount of value for every single post he puts out there, according to Tilton.

Hookit began as a company that tracked amateur athletes, but GoPro approached it asking about professionals, and it took off from there. Clients now include the Los Angeles Lakers, U.S. Tennis Association, Major League Soccer, the U.S. Ski Team, the Canadian Olympic team and GoPro. The list is only expanding.

Hookit's company website says simply: We track the entire sports ecosystem.

CORRECTION: The president and CEO of SFIA is Tom Cove.