Digital audience experts Horizm in their latest report titled ‘‘The Digital Value of Fans’ compared social media value of world’s major sports leagues & clubs.
The report found that the world’s top sports teams generated over €2.1B from digital assets this year which shows the top leagues have created over €2.1 billion digitally over the past year.
The Playknox spoke with Luis Viveiros, COO of Horizm who said: “The report combines the capability we have as a company to capture the industry data. We are a platform that allows rights holders and leagues in general to understand the performance of the social channels and also to help them understand the commercial value they have and identify opportunities for them to commercialize assets. We have a market intelligence team that looks at all the industry news. The report encapsulates the last 12 months of the industry.”
English and European football clubs dominate what Horizm has coined the ‘Global Brands’ category, those with an audience of 20 million and above, made up of 28 teams across four sports. Manchester United lead the category with The Red Devils creating €209 million in value from their digital assets this year alone, €32 million more than second placed Barcelona.
Luis further added: “We looked at 2 different angles. The first angle is the size like who’s the biggest player out there, who has the most digital value. Another interesting angle for us is who’s the most efficient. There are normal suspects of the Manchester United, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid as we know they are the biggest ones. But also the interesting thing is that who’s able to extract the most value from the fans they have. That’s an interesting analysis which is not very common because of the sheer size of the audience.”
The Premier League was the league boasting the most digital value, with over €613m generated across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube in 2021. This was almost twice the value of second place La Liga at €337m, the NBA taking up bronze with €237m generated.
As to why the Premier League has been so successful, Luis said: “It has to do with the global popularity of the sport. If you see the comparison between Premier League, European leagues and American sports for instance, Premier League has definitely been more popular globally as it has most powerful players within the league.”
Audience wise, PSG added the most fans in 2021 gaining 28.7 million, ahead of Manchester United who gained 22.4 million. This made PSG’s growth 33.3% compared to Barcelona’s 6.3%, and Man United’s fanbase grew by 16.2% compared to Juventus’ 3.7%. These statistics exemplify the ‘Messi and Ronaldo effect’ respectively and suggest that, despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s larger digital following, Lionel Messi’s impact may be larger in terms of creating new digital fans.
Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona have the biggest digital followings in sport, but Real Madrid edge the battle with 282 million compared to Barcelona’s 278. This of course could all change with Barcelona’s Spotify deal on the horizon.
Leading teams in F1 all exhibited high levels of audience growth claiming 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in terms of year-on-year audience growth. No doubt this is linked to the huge success of Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ series as well as the blockbuster nature of last season.
The report also analyses a category, dubbed ‘Elite Teams’ which are teams with a following between 2m and 20m. This is where US franchises dominate, making up 18 of the top 20 for efficiency – the ability to generate value on a per capita basis. Leeds United and Athletic Bilbao are the only non-US teams.
Twitter proved to be the most valuable of social media channels across all competitions, accounting for 36% of the €2.1 billion generated. This was closely followed by Instagram with 34.1% and Facebook with 27.5%. YouTube and TikTok however only accounted for 2.3% combined.
In terms of TikTok, only NFL has 100% of its teams on the platform. NHL has 96.8% and PL has 91.3%. At the other end Bundesliga and Serie A only have 70% of their teams during 2021 on TikTok. PSG have the biggest following on TikTok by far with 25m, 9m more than second placed Tottenham Hotspur. The Parisian giants also generated the most value on the channel with €5.6m ahead of Man Utd with €4.8m.
Horizm CEO Pedro Mestriner said: “Our report shows that the digital channels of elite sport are a multi-billion dollar opportunity; one that, increasingly, we are seeing right holders and brands looking to embrace. The growing digital audiences of teams and leagues represent a huge well of revenue potential, one that is still largely untapped and for sponsors, looking for greater ROI on their investments, digital sports content offers them much higher levels of engagement compared with standard content – engagement they are now able to secure outside the confines of traditional sponsorship agreements.”
The report is the second edition of the annual report from Horizm and part of a range of industry reports covering a mix of sports, regions and channels.
Digital inventories were calculated using publicly available data across the five primary social media networks currently; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube. This is the first year TikTok and YouTube has been included in the report. It must be noted that this report analyses data by calendar year, not by sports season.