Who are the most influential sports stars on social media?
Social media continues to grow every single day, with thousands of people signing up around the world. Many top sports stars have accounts on Twitter, Instagram and even Facebook that are followed and liked by adoring fans and supporters who hang on their every word. Who are the most influential in 2017 and how do they maintain their dedicated online fanbase? Whether you follow fitness bloggers, fashion designers or TV personalities on social media you’ll have surely come across a number of sports stars who create an online persona away from the field – but who are the most popular?
The Real Madrid star has a global appeal and his following on social media reflects that. The former Manchester United player is currently the most valuable sports person online, with one of his Instagram posts apparently worth around $5.8 million because of the interactivity it created and the brands incorporated within. Forbes estimated that around $32 million of his income arrives through endorsements on social media. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner is estimated to reach around 262 million people through his social media channels and was the first athlete to surpass the 200 million mark, tweeting “A big thank you to all my fans” upon hearing the news. Those eye-watering figures gazump the collective followers of LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
The UFC star isn’t shy in coming forward and his Instagram and Twitter feeds always make interesting viewing. He set up his Instagram account back in 2013, posting just 25 times throughout the first 12 months although since his profile has been raised he has become increasingly prolific. Betway have spent time observing his social media habits and produced a breakdown of the range of topics and subjects McGregor has opted to post about. They discover that just 55% of his posts since 2013 have actually been about fighting with the UFC star opening up about his personal life on a regular basis.
Despite all of the bravado which comes with McGregor, he has proved that he’s a family man posting about his young son at least once every four days. They also discovered that his thoughts on other celebrities have increased by 7% since becoming a household name. He also regularly talks about cars and watches. As of July 2017, McGregor added 12.7 million new followers to his various accounts in just 12 months. Of course, McGregor will have been helped by publicity surrounding his upcoming fight with Floyd Mayweather but he has generated three times more interaction than his opponent in the last 12 months with the total standing at 419 million.
McGregor still has around 10 million fewer followers than Floyd Mayweather but is far more personable and open through his various feeds and this has endeared him to his copious Instagram and Twitter followers. His total number of interactions put him in second place behind Cristiano Ronaldo. He continues to attract attention online with his feed appealing not just to UFC fans but a much wider audience. He poked fun at rapper 50 Cent during a press conference at the Brooklyn Center, which provoked a well-publicised spat between the two on social media. This was viewed millions of times, increasing the awareness of Conor McGregor and his career in the process. The entertaining nature of his profile continually adds to his popularity and his numbers could be set to soar once again when the much-anticipated fight takes place at the end of August.
LeBron James is the most followed NBA player, with his total number of Twitter followers currently standing at 37.7 million as of August 2017. He also boasts over 10 million Instagram followers and his profile helps raise the profile of basketball, which is not as universally popular in countries outside of the USA. On average, each of his tweets will pocket the sporting giant an impressive $126,000 courtesy of endorsements. Social media can be a terrific platform for marketing business ventures and LeBron James currently has deals with Coca-Cola, Beats and Nike amongst others which net him a huge profit for every Twitter or Instagram post he produces.
2016 was a big year for sport around the world with both the European Championships in France and the Olympics in Brazil helping grow the profiles of many top stars. Other big names in the world of social media include John Cena and former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar but the majority of the field is predictably dominated by footballers including Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Kaka. Interestingly, the NFL recently announced that it plans to hire a number of experts to work with some of their key players on their social media profiles with one of the responsibilities to help each athlete grow their interactivity.
Sport and social media have combined to great effect over the last couple of years and the world’s top sportspeople are enjoying more exposure online than ever before. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Connor McGregor are likely to remain in the spotlight for many years to come and the pair look set to expand their followings further with millions of dedicated fans awaiting their next post.
The editorial unit
Photo: Keith Allison