Which sports have the best social media presence?

Professional sports is a multi-billion dollar industry. The average NFL team alone is worth $3.5 billion, totalling $112 billion across the entire league and the audiences are a key element for this. 

There are many options nowadays to engage with fans. It can be with creative content through Social Media, involving the fans with sportsbooks like Paddy Power where they can test their knowledge with free offers and other promotions and many other ways with which they can get closer to their favourite teams.

They have grown to this size because of the huge audiences they attract. Millions of people are willing to spend tens or even hundreds of dollars to watch their team live and many more spend thousands for cable packages that let them watch games from home. 

But for many decades, the relationship that sports, leagues, teams, and athletes had with their fans was almost entirely one-sided.

A small but dedicated army of supporters would hang around after games, outside training grounds, and other places they were likely to bump into their favourite stars in the hopes of getting a photo or an autograph. 

Another popular way to engage fans was (and still is) through sportsbooks. Betting on games allows those who are interested in sport to use their in-depth knowledge of the teams, players, and other factors to make predictions on what they expect to happen. 

Outside of that, fans could watch sports and cheer on their team and the only thing they’d get in return was (potentially) a good performance on the field, court or racetrack. 

The advent of social media changed this though. It provided a way for “regular” folks to communicate with celebrities and businesses in a far more dynamic and interactive environment.

Just like consumer brands, actors, and musicians did, leagues, teams, and athletes have also embraced this new form of communication to engage with fans and build stronger relationships. But of all the social media presences in the world of sport, here are the best efforts. 

Formula 1

F1 cars starting grid
F1 cars. Credit: thesportsmole.co.uk

Formula 1 was very late to the social media game. Although the sport had registered official accounts much earlier, they went almost completely unused until Liberty Media took over the sport in 2017. 

In an effort to attract audiences from new countries and younger demographics, F1 has gone full throttle with its social media efforts. 

In the run-up to each race, the sport has a dedicated presenting team that creates TV-quality build-up live on YouTube and its own F1 TV platform. After the checkered flag has fallen, they return to social media to provide live reactions to what happened in the race. 

Short sub-10-minute highlight videos of each race are also uploaded, helping to engage fans that may not be interested in watching a full two-hour Grand Prix. On top of that, funny, interesting, and entertaining clips are posted to platforms like Instagram. 

Spectators are also encouraged to share their thoughts on events, creating a large community of like-minded fans. 

The NBA

LeBron James. Source: NBA
Lebron James. Credit: nba.com

The NBA was much earlier to the game than F1 and it continues to innovate today. It posts highlights of all games very quickly after they’ve finished, helping to connect with even the most casual of fans. 

The league’s Commission, Adam Silver, has compared it to offering “free snacks” to fans so that they can be there for them when they want “to eat a meal”. He uses the rationale that a short Facebook clip is no comparison to the live game experience so, therefore, offering this short-form content is not going to deprive the league of more revenue. 

The Premier League

Mohamed Salah. Source: Sky Sports
Mo Salah. Credit: bleacherreport.com

In England, social media is used extensively right across the Premier League. Many of the biggest soccer players and teams boast tens of millions of followers across all platforms, with Arsenal’s Mesut Özil and David Luiz having 76 and 52 million respectively. 

Though this is dwarfed by the more than 123 million that Manchester United has secured. 

English soccer culture is built around “banter” and friendly rivalries. Teams and players will often make amusing and well-intentioned digs at each other, helping to spark similar reactions from their fans and the team or player on the receiving end. 

Nearly all clubs work with their players to create bespoke social media plans to help them create a joined-up approach and maximize their reach, often with spectacular results. 

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