SBJ/April 25 - May 1, 2011/Media

European teams lead social media boom

'Like'
leaders
Top teams worldwide for social media
(combined Twitter and Facebook totals)
RANK TEAM TOTAL
1 FC Barcelona 13,540,055
2 Real Madrid 13,255,196
3 Manchester United 12,157,901
4 Los Angeles Lakers 9,577,996
5 Arsenal 5,903,251


Despite the continuing meteoric growth of sports on social media outlets, particularly Facebook and Twitter, most North American sports properties remain well behind top European and Asian soccer clubs in terms of global followers.

Of the 20 individual sports teams in terms of largest combined Facebook and Twitter audiences, nine of them, including the top three and seven of the top eight, are soccer teams from England, Spain or Turkey.

“If there’s anything to be learned from what’s happening abroad, it’s that these [soccer] teams are global brands,” said Bryan Perez, NBA Digital senior vice president and general manager. NBA Digital, a partnership between the league and Turner Sports, collaborates with NBA executives, notably marketing vice president Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, on the property’s social media efforts.

“They have truly vibrant global followings, exactly the kind of thing we’re trying to build here, and social media, of course, is going to be a key tool in that,” Perez said.

Fenway Sports Group, owner of Liverpool FC, which sports a Facebook following of more than 5.2 million, said marketing and commercial elements are not necessarily as overt on social media with many European soccer clubs.

“A lot of what’s happening there is content-based, a lot of unique content, and the players are really involved,” said Billy Hogan, managing director for FSG’s Fenway Sports Management and a key liaison to Liverpool FC and the club’s head of technology, Andrew Robinson.

“They’ve taken extra pains to make sure the social media is primarily about engaging fans, as opposed to it being more marketing related. In fact, they don’t market as much as they maybe could. But they’ve really grasped that it’s one thing … to have someone sign up and follow, but yet another to keep them engaged.”

Back in the U.S., another set of emerging dynamics is at play. The NBA, as it has for some time, holds the largest following of the major leagues with more than 37.8 million total fans and followers when combining the Twitter and Facebook audiences for the central league feed and those of the 30 individual teams.

But numbers and rankings are changing almost by the day. Major League Baseball’s total Facebook and Twitter audience of more than 20.6 million has more than doubled in size just since the end of the 2010 World Series, and projects to be north of 30 million by this fall. The more even balance among team-level followings in MLB and the NFL show a more localized social media fan development strategy than the more league-centric strategies shown by the NBA and others.

“We have an overarching strategy that we want Facebook users to become baseball fans, and not necessarily the other way around,” said Bob Bowman, MLB Advanced Media president and chief executive. “And beyond sheer numbers, we want to grow our [social media] users in two dimensions, both qualitatively and quantitatively, and be truly engaged.”

Clubs’ social media followings are getting large enough that they are dictating long-term, high-level strategic thought on the same level given to traditional broadband and TV programming efforts.

“You’re going to see every league realize that … these are sort of parallel cable networks,” said Michael Lazerow, chief executive of Buddy Media, which has counseled many teams and leagues and built tools for their social media endeavors. “That means you have to program against them with content in a concerted, dedicated way. We definitely continue to move into uncharted waters here.”

Still, debate within the industry percolates as to what social media audience sizes really mean beyond bragging rights.

“Whatever you do in social media ideally has to be tied to some kind of measurable business objective,” said Pat Coyle, president of Coyle Media, which also counsels sports properties and has created SportsFanGraph.com, a real-time ranking of social media followers for teams and leagues. “Whether it’s selling tickets, building an audience for sponsorship or whatever, there needs to be a stronger, direct link.”

MLB  
RANK LEAGUE/TEAM TWITTER FACEBOOK TOTAL
MLB 1,186,103 321,018 1,507,121
1 N.Y. Yankees 352,191 3,548,692 3,900,883
2 Boston 64,582 2,292,832 2,357,414
3 Philadelphia 618,503 834,722 1,453,225
4 Chicago Cubs 37,049 1,143,409 1,180,458
5 San Francisco 115,534 908,811 1,024,345
6 Atlanta 60,090 662,383 722,473
7 St. Louis 20,957 688,506 709,463
8 L.A. Dodgers 49,085 593,053 642,138
9 Detroit 8,935 595,491 604,426
10 Chicago White Sox 18,409 583,393 601,802
11 Texas 34,982 565,964 600,946
12 Minnesota 9,162 564,309 573,471
13 N.Y.Mets 25,017 375,760 400,777
14 Milwaukee 15,807 357,980 373,787
15 Cincinnati 8,156 340,265 348,421
16 Cleveland 9,560 332,108 341,668
17 Seattle 19,287 301,619 320,906
18 Colorado 10,757 283,627 294,384
19 Tampa Bay 19,480 270,082 289,562
20 Toronto 32,286 249,529 281,815
21 Houston 8,406 271,852 280,258
22 L.A. Angels 16,319 249,052 265,371
23 Oakland 4,894 254,156 259,050
24 Baltimore 16,091 234,827 250,918
25 San Diego 5,968 239,469 245,437
26 Kansas City 18,661 197,670 216,331
27 Pittsburgh 7,647 171,741 179,388
28 Florida 5,350 150,390 155,740
29 Arizona 10,277 126,288 136,565
30 Washington 11,610 84,422 96,032
  TOTALS 2,821,155 17,793,420 20,614,575

 

NBA  
RANK LEAGUE/TEAM TWITTER FACEBOOK TOTAL
NBA 2,464,557 8,234,810 10,699,367
1 L.A. Lakers 1,944,384 7,633,612 9,577,996
2 Boston 163,676 3,949,904 4,113,580
3 Miami 140,828 2,099,736 2,240,564
4 Chicago 112,249 1,949,103 2,061,352
5 Orlando 1,061,001 771,877 1,832,878
6 N.Y. Knicks 93,409 806,243 899,652
7 Cleveland 65,208 669,770 734,978
8 San Antonio 56,743 612,260 669,003
9 Denver 41,123 530,254 571,377
10 Dallas 48,921 439,799 488,720
11 Phoenix 61,031 425,986 487,017
12 Oklahoma City 38,075 371,321 409,396
13 Houston 42,415 306,261 348,676
14 Portland 32,600 252,356 284,956
15 Detroit 26,226 251,026 277,252
16 Utah 36,090 229,750 265,840
17 Toronto 30,693 204,690 235,383
18 GoldenState 25,700 203,337 229,037
19 Philadelphia 31,229 154,015 185,244
20 Milwaukee 22,524 137,442 159,966
21 New Jersey 38,782 103,223 142,005
22 Atlanta 21,968 119,081 141,049
23 Sacramento 23,295 116,935 140,230
24 L.A. Clippers 34,475 77,865 112,340
25 Indiana 22,787 84,273 107,060
26 Washington 25,563 77,556 103,119
27 Minnesota 18,524 79,813 98,337
28 Charlotte 20,524 60,939 81,463
29 Memphis 23,882 55,419 79,301
30 New Orleans 26,140 33,912 60,052

 TOTALS   6,794,622   31,042,568   37,837,190 

 

NHL  
RANK LEAGUE/TEAM TWITTER FACEBOOK TOTAL
NHL 570,605 1,491,130 2,061,735
1 Montreal 124,808 641,313 766,121
2 Chicago 65,830 698,308 764,138
3 Boston 39,875 577,970 617,845
4 Pittsburgh 80,386 522,482 602,868
5 Philadelphia 43,925 518,549 562,474
6 Detroit 54,049 502,026 556,075
7 Vancouver 86,485 364,941 451,426
8 Toronto 48,679 378,764 427,443
9 Washington 39,247 305,748 344,995
10 N.Y. Rangers 34,212 242,980 277,192
11 Colorado 18,900 228,201 247,101
12 SanJose 29,197 206,652 235,849
13 Buffalo 24,663 195,921 220,584
14 New Jersey 22,684 165,880 188,564
15 Edmonton 41,818 127,345 169,163
16 Minnesota 19,149 126,285 145,434
17 Los Angeles 27,535 110,674 138,209
18 St. Louis 22,479 115,501 137,980
19 Anaheim 19,727 118,138 137,865
20 Carolina 14,908 115,837 130,745
21 Tampa Bay 18,949 109,923 128,872
22 Dallas 20,546 100,457 121,003
23 Ottawa 17,579 89,879 107,458
24 Calgary 37,492 61,943 99,435
25 Nashville 14,014 59,650 73,664
26 Phoenix 10,962 46,073 57,035
27 Columbus 14,055 42,859 56,914
28 N.Y. Islanders 10,629 32,969 43,598
29 Florida 11,332 32,074 43,406
30 Atlanta 11,895 30,574 42,469

 TOTALS   1,596,614   8,361,046   9,957,660 

 

NFL  
RANK LEAGUE/TEAM TWITTER FACEBOOK TOTAL
NFL 2,033,992 3,002,111 5,036,103
1 Dallas 72,466 2,573,707 2,646,173
2 Pittsburgh 83,925 2,209,866 2,293,791
3 New England 87,209 1,935,500 2,022,709
4 GreenBay 71,436 1,500,069 1,571,505
5 Chicago 45,988 1,498,398 1,544,386
6 New Orleans 49,175 1,292,911 1,342,086
7 Indianapolis 8,831 1,066,858 1,075,689
8 Minnesota 47,351 918,788 966,139
9 Philadelphia 33,945 904,106 938,051
10 N.Y. Jets 134,346 747,875 882,221
11 Oakland 53,981 784,584 838,565
12 N.Y. Giants 10,668 789,205 799,873
13 San Diego 58,340 720,539 778,879
14 Miami 47,843 643,620 691,463
15 San Francisco 49,903 597,615 647,518
16 Denver 44,505 595,507 640,012
17 Washington 19,130 555,803 574,933
18 Baltimore 32,901 501,231 534,132
19 Seattle 34,587 460,163 494,750
20 Kansas City 30,109 408,098 438,207
21 Cincinnati 38,190 386,092 424,282
22 Detroit 21,443 316,817 338,260
23 Cleveland 32,650 265,944 298,594
24 Houston 22,966 259,056 282,022
25 Tampa Bay 18,287 246,987 265,274
26 Arizona 5,614 245,479 251,093
27 Buffalo 24,635 221,201 245,836
28 Tennessee 30,663 204,755 235,418
29 Carolina 15,956 205,144 221,100
30 Atlanta 43,495 160,486 203,981
31 Jacksonville 13,692 160,422 174,114
32 St. Louis 15,241 90,754 105,995
  TOTALS  3,333,463  26,469,691  29,803,154 

 

Worldwide
teams
 
RANK TEAM TWITTER FACEBOOK TOTAL
1 FC Barcelona 660,378 12,879,677 13,540,055
2 Real Madrid 1,441,758 11,813,438 13,255,196
3 Manchester United 0 12,157,901 12,157,901
4 Los Angeles Lakers 1,944,384 7,633,612 9,577,996
5 Arsenal 567,179 5,336,072 5,903,251
6 Galatasaray 101,801 5,203,835 5,305,636
7 Liverpool 4,109 5,260,015 5,264,124
8 Chelsea 170,095 4,898,204 5,068,299
9 Boston Celtics 163,676 3,949,904 4,113,580
10 New York Yankees 352,191 3,548,692 3,900,883
11 Fenerbahçe 0 3,790,151 3,790,151
12 AC Milan 60,604 3,417,345 3,477,949
13 Dallas Cowboys 72,466 2,573,707 2,646,173
14 Boston Red Sox 64,582 2,292,832 2,357,414
15 Pittsburgh Steelers 83,925 2,209,866 2,293,791
16 Miami Heat 140,828 2,099,736 2,240,564
17 Chicago Bulls 112,249 1,949,103 2,061,352
18 New England Patriots 87,209 1,935,500 2,022,709
19 Orlando Magic 1,061,001 771,877 1,832,878
20 Green Bay Packers 71,436 1,500,069 1,571,505

 

Leagues and Properties  
LEAGUE/PROPERTY TWITTER FACEBOOK TOTAL
NBA 2,464,557 8,234,810 10,699,367
WWE 311,614 5,122,833 5,434,447
UFC 239,423 5,157,739 5,397,162
NFL 2,033,992 3,002,111 5,036,103
IOC 53,796 2,120,292 2,174,088
NHL 570,605 1,491,130 2,061,735
NASCAR 116,039 1,421,220 1,537,259
MLB 1,186,103 321,018 1,507,121
WTA 17,482 752,335 769,817
ATP World Tour 62,859 383,151 446,010
USOC/Team USA 13,004 325,247 338,251
PGA Tour 73,339 261,710 335,049
NHRA 10,532 217,313 227,845
MLS 20,877 171,408 192,285
Formula One 88,406 41,481 129,887
Indy Racing League 19,966 37,874 57,840


About the research
The charts presented here show the number of Twitter “followers” and Facebook “likes” for team and league sites as of April 19. The teams are ranked by their combined number of fans across the two sites.

The sites tracked were those sites identified as “official sites” by the leagues and teams. Many teams do have multiple sites — official and unofficial — used to reach fans, including sites created by front-office personnel.

Player sites also provide points of access, but for this listing, only “official sites” were monitored.

Numbers listed reflect what was reported on each individual site. For the league/property and worldwide teams charts, teams were identified for listing by the rankings available from SportsFanGraph.com, and the individual sites’ updated numbers were then taken directly from the listed sites.

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