Many leagues began to embrace athlete-driven social strategies in 2018, but numerous teams have already hit the ground running.

Across professional sports, we witnessed first-hand how powerful player-driven strategy can be. The NFL showed us how activity from a few top players can produce a league-wide leader.  Meanwhile, NBA and MLB teams saw huge jumps in performance by acquiring some of the biggest stars in sports. 

This report  —  focused on the athletes and teams in the six major North American leagues — shows us how a balance of in-sport success, activity, and influence can impact a team’s athlete-driven performance on social.
The Lakers’ acquisition of LeBron may have been the biggest story in sports from 2018, and looks to have had the most significant impact on team social rankings. The addition took the Lakers to the top of both total athlete followers and engagements.

The Pittsburgh Steelers benefitted from the unmatched activity of its stars in Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. While Pittsburgh ranks outside the top ten in total followers, a consistent stream of engaging content from its receiving duo drove the team to finish second overall and first among NFL teams in total engagements.

MLS and NHL players claim smaller audiences than their peers, but consistently own the highest engagement rates.

Young star-power proved to be a significant factor for growth rate. The Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Browns, and Milwaukee Bucks rosters each feature a premier up-and-coming star in their respective sport. Not only are Joel Embiid, Baker Mayfield, and Giannis Antetokounmpo excellent inside the lines, but they are all among the fastest growing athletes on social. This is reflected by each of these teams landing inside the top ten in athlete growth rate. 

2018’s top athlete-driven teams

Below is our team ranking for North America’s “big six” leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, WNBA) based on their athletes’ performance on social.  The analysis includes data for all active athletes from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018.

Get the full report

Athlete audience by team
  • LA Lakers  — 138.9 million followers
  • Golden State Warriors  — 109.0 million followers
  • LA Galaxy  — 83.4 million followers
  • Houston Rockets  — 61.7 million followers
  • DC United — 56 million followers
  • Oklahoma City Thunder — 38.1 million followers
  • Miami Heat — 31 million followers
  • Boston Celtics — 28.2 million followers
  • New York City FC — 26.6 million followers
  • New England Patriots  — 23.8 million followers
Athlete activity by team
  • New Orleans Saints  — 13.8 thousand posts
  • Pittsburgh Steelers  — 13.1 thousand posts
  • Detroit Lions  — 11.3 thousand posts
  • Carolina Panthers  — 10.8 thousand posts
  • Houston Texans — 10.3 thousand posts
  • Philadelphia Eagles — 9.9 thousand posts
  • Baltimore Ravens  — 9.5 thousand posts
  • Cleveland Browns  — 9.4 thousand posts
  • San Francisco 49ers  — 8.6 thousand posts
  • Seattle Seahawks  — 8.5 thousand posts
Athlete engagements by team
  • LA Lakers  — 402.9 million engagements
  • Pittsburgh Steelers  — 147.5 million engagements
  • New York Giants  — 146.7 million engagements
  • Golden State Warriors  —133.6 million engagements
  • LA Galaxy  — 124.2 million engagements
  • New England Patriots  — 94.5 million engagements
  • Philadelphia 76ers  — 87.2 million engagements
  • Houston Rockets  — 74.6 million engagements
  • Oklahoma City Thunder  — 73.5 million engagements
  • Miami Heat  — 67.5 million engagements
Athlete engagement rate by team
  • New England Revolution  — 15.5%
  • Carolina Hurricanes  —  15.5%
  • Vegas Golden Knights  — 15.2%
  • Winnipeg Jets — 15.0%
  • Anaheim Ducks  — 14.9%
  • Tampa Bay Lightning  — 14.7%
  • Washington Capitals  — 13.8%
  • Seattle Sounders FC  — 13.5%
  • Toronto Maple Leafs  — 13.2%
  • Calgary Flames  — 12.8%
Athlete growth by team
  • LA Lakers — 20.8 million followers
  • Golden State Warriors  — 11 million followers
  • LA Galaxy  — 8.1 million followers
  • Philadelphia 76ers  — 6.3 million followers
  • Boston Celtics — 6.2 million followers
  • Pittsburgh Steelers — 5.6 million followers
  • Houston Rockets — 5.2 million followers
  • Oklahoma City Thunder — 5.2 million followers
  • New York Giants — 5 million followers
  • Cleveland Cavaliers — 4.3 million followers
Athlete growth rate by team
  • Philadelphia Union  — 63.8%
  • Vegas Golden Knights  — 50.7%
  • Philadelphia 76ers  — 50.2%
  • Las Vegas Aces  — 47%
  • Cleveland Browns  — 45.8%
  • Philadelphia Eagles  — 43.7%
  • Minnesota Vikings  — 38.3%
  • Atlanta Braves  — 38.1%
  • Milwaukee Brewers  — 38.1%
  • Milwaukee Bucks  — 37.3%