According to a 2020 report by BCW Sports, the sports division of global communications agency BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), the International Cricket Council (ICC) has the biggest platform on social media of all international athletic federations. You can read the full rankings and report here. This is the fourth annual social media ranking done by BCW.
The study took many factors into consideration to craft their rankings, including follower count, follower engagement level, account growth, views per post and more. The ICC, with over 59 million followers between Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, runs circles around the next-best ranked federation, FIFA. Despite soccer/football being a beloved sport worldwide, FIFA checked in at only 37 million followers, a good 20 million behind ICC.
Among Olympic sports, FIFA was the clear top rank, coming in well ahead of FIBA (12 million), the international federation for basketball. In the overall rankings, with both Olympic and non-Olympic federations, FIVB (volleyball) and World Rugby joined the top five at fourth and fifth, respectively, behind ICC, FIFA and FIBA. Only the top three federations, ICC, FIFA and FIBA, surpassed 10 million followers on social last year.
FINA, the international federation for aquatic sports including swimming, diving, high diving, artistic swimming, open water swimming and water polo, made two different top 10 sub-rankings. FINA ranks #8 for most views-per-video on Facebook, with an average of 143,698 views-per-video, and they also rank #9 in terms of LinkedIn follower count with 252,383.
FINA has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. It only took 958 followers to get onto the top 10 follower rankings for TikTok, a platform that international federations have been slower to latch onto. That #10 spot was taken by FIL, the International Luge Federation, and they’ve since surpassed 1,000 followers there.
TOP TEN MOST-FOLLOWED ATHLETIC FEDERATIONS ON SOCIAL MEDIA – 2020
Considered platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn
- International Cricket Council (ICC) – 59,048,874
- FIFA – 37,758,132
- FIBA – 12,233,101
- FIVB – 5,431,537
- World Rugby – 5,129,043
- World Athletics – 4,038,496
- International Teqball Federation – 3,793,708
- International Cheer Union – 3,432,398
- UCI (cycling) – 3,264,180
- Badminton World Federation – 3,109,672
“Our study shows that smaller, younger IFs have already gone through what many traditional IFs are forced to be going through right now: A digital transformation,” said Lars Haue-Pedersen, BCW Sports Managing Director.
“These younger IFs were forced to do so because of lack of coverage in traditional media and are now in the fast lane. It is absolutely stunning to see Teqball and Cheerleading in the top ten, clearly ahead of many larger, Olympic IFs. These more well-established IFs need to act soon if they want to catch up with the younger ones, who for sure will continue to move fast forward. This will indeed be an interesting development to follow post-COVID.”
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE STUDY
- Social media channels becoming even more important, as international federation social media channels grew their followings and engagement rates significantly. COVID-19 pushed 2020 to the year of virtual engagement, resulting in athletes, fans and rights-holders converging online. This also boosted digital transformation efforts of any international federation. The results show that social media in general has further increased its importance among IFs, with significantly growing followings and engagement rates across platforms. This is largely attributable to the fact that, due to Covid-19, the year 2020 turned out to be the year of virtual engagement, pushing all interaction between athletes, fans and rights-holders into the digital sphere and boosting the digital transformation efforts of any IF.
- Non-Olympic sports are at the top, chiefly, cricket. Cheerleading and teqball (a mix of table tennis and soccer, sort of) were two other non-Olympic sports that finished in the top eight of the combined rankings.
- Facebook and Instagram remain central. Despite growth of apps like TikTok, Facebook is still at the heart of most sport organizations’ social media efforts. Between all 105 international federations studied, Facebook followers accounted for over 63 million social media users. Instagram is the second-most popular social media platform among international federations, consisting of just over 30 million followers.