The Superstar Effect in 100-Meter Tournaments

Brian C. Hill

Rank-order tournaments with heterogeneous competitors work best when the competitors are relatively equal in abilities. Using data from 2007-2012 on major track and field events, this paper examines whether the presence of a superstar, Usain Bolt, has an effect on competitors. Results indicate a positive superstar effect. For average runners, the presence of Bolt is associated with running faster times and a higher likelihood of setting a personal record, but these results vary across runner abilities and stage of tournament. In general, the positive superstar effect is smaller for relatively fast runners, and the positive effect diminishes as the tournament progresses.