Top Athlete-Driven Teams of 2018

athlete-driven social media athletes teams 2018 report endorsement players

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.

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Big shout to the DEFENSE y’all went CRAZY!!! Big win!!! #SteelersNation

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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.

Athlete audience by team

Alex Ovechkin — 4.1 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%

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