MVPindex Co Founders Shawn Spieth and Kyle Nelson presented the 2015 Sports Social Media Awards at the Cynopsis Sports Engagement Summit this past week at the New York Athletic Club. The awards, focused on US sports and athletes, were given in four categories:
- Most Social Retired Athlete
- Most Social League
- Most Social Athlete – Female
- Most Social Athlete – Male
Shaq’s authenticity is what makes him a great follow on Instagram and Twitter, and part of the reason why he is being awarded the best retired athlete on social media this year. Shaq is the most followed retired athlete on Instagram with 2 million followers, and the most followed athlete on Twitter with 10.8 million followers.
Shaq racks up engagement, too. If Shaq were still an active NBA player, he would have the top Engagement score in the league with a 9.8, beating out current superstars LeBron James, Jeremy Lin, Russell Westbrook, and Stephen Curry in that order.
Shaq loves engaging his fans with his sense of humor and, sometimes, with the instigation of a basketball debate. Earlier this year, Shaq started a debate regarding the matchup between the All-Time Bulls and Lakers squads – resulting in a beef with Scottie Pippen and two of his top 10 Instagram Posts of all time.
When determining the most social league, MVP Index looked at three different criteria among athletes on social media within the sport:
Quantity of posts per athlete,
Average popularity of those posts, and
Percentage of the athletes in the sport participating on social media.
When these criteria are considered, four leagues rose to the top in the consideration set for most social league: NFL, UFC, NASCAR and the NBA.
NBA Athletes have posted over 40,600 photos to Instagram this year, resulting in a staggering average of 8,752 likes per photo on the platform. The 426 active Instagram accounts by current and former NBA players give fans of the game a unique perspective through the eyes of their favorite athletes, and gives their brand sponsors optimal opportunities to engage fans with unique and fun content. NBA athletes on Instagram generated over 69 million more likes on IG in 2015 than the NFL, and NFL athletes out posted basketball players by almost a 3:1 margin.
On Twitter, where frequency matters, the NBA players know how to engage fans. The league comes in second to NASCAR in tweets/athlete at 356 this year. NASCAR boasted a staggering 1,011 tweets/athlete, proving that they understand the medium, but the NBA wins in average popularity with 140 retweets per tweet per athlete. NASCAR fell behind in this category in 2015 with 68. The only league to beat the NBA in average popularity is the NHL, who came in with a dead last 77 tweets per athlete, but registered an astounding 223 RT/tweet, proving that there is a massive void to be filled by the league for hockey fans in social media.
On Facebook, the NFL barely edged out the NBA in terms of average popularity per post with 3,600 likes per post to 3,058. The leagues finished first and second on the platform respectively. In terms of total posts, the NFL’s 31K total posts beat out the NBA’s 27.7K, however this is an impressive standing for the NBA due to the fact that there are 348 more verified NFL pages on the platform than for NBA athletes.
Athletes in the NBA are constantly using their social media real estate to connect with fans, share their lives, and promote brand sponsors.
Number one athlete on social media in UFC, male or female, for the majority of 2015. She currently does battle with Jon Jones for the top spot day in and day out since his return to UFC. Rousey boasts a social audience of 18.5 million, and her engagement is next-level among all athletes.
Rousey authored the number one post for any American athlete on Facebook this year, collecting over 1.2 million post likes after her victory over Cat Zingano. JJ Watt hit the number 2 and 3 spots, but those two posts COMBINED do not equal the engagement of Rousey’s number one post. She owns 5 of the top 10 posts of the year on the platform, and 20% of the top 100 – beating Tom Brady’s 16% and LeBron James’ 13%.
MVPindex recently valued the social media promotion of the Reebok brand by UFC fighters to be $2.35 million, of which Ronda Rousey contributed almost half at $917K.
In American sports, nobody touches LeBron James on social media. LeBron. He’s number one in terms of reach on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with over 62.9 million fans and followers – the closest anyone gets on any platform is Kevin Durant, and he’s 1.76 million fans behind on Facebook. Ronda Rousey has the second most Instagram followers of any athlete in American sports, she sits 8.6 million followers behind LeBron James, who rules Instagram with over 15.5 million followers. and Instagram, second on Twitter in terms of average popularity per post.
LeBron gets fans excited about whatever it is he’s posting, and they reward him with the highest engagement per post on Facebook and Instagram. It’s really only a two man race for Instagram engagement among athletes in American sports in Stephen Curry and LeBron James. LeBron leads the category with 164,147 likes per photo with Curry right behind him in second place 154,667 likes/photo. To give you an idea of the separation these two have from the rest of the pack, Kobe Bryant is in third place with 113,560 – 50,000 likes per photo behind James.
LeBron’s engagement per post also tops Facebook where his content engages fans to the tune of 70,041 likes/post, putting him above the next four top Facebook engagement kings Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, JJ Watt and Tom Brady.