Social MVPs of Major League Soccer

MLS-01

Zlatan has arrived in Los Angeles, the regular season is over, and the MLS playoffs are upon us.

Throughout the regular season, soccer’s top players took to social to build their brands beyond the pitch. With his charisma, relentless confidence, and on-field success, Zlatan was able to captivate a following that surpasses any other MLS player and continues to outpace the league in terms of engagement and audience.

The MLS’s biggest winners may have been its stars who previously played overseas, but the league’s up-and-coming talent was also able to capture momentum from the regular season to build strong followings and share their experiences with their audience. There’s no denying that athletes are a force on social and MLS players presented a perfect example of that influence this season. Their collective audience size, activity, and engagement significantly outrank that of their teams and the league itself.

 
 
 
 
 
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We can do whatever we want #venom

A post shared by Zlatan Ibrahimovic (@iamzlatanibrahimovic) on

We analyzed Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram data from the MLS’ owned channels, all 23 teams, and the top 50 players on social throughout the regular season (3/3/2018-10/28/2018). Below, we show how the players compare with their teams and league, then share the league’s regular season MVPs on social.

Audience

MLS players — 227.1 million followers
MLS teams — 22.4 million followers
MLS — 7.3 million followers

TWITTER

MLS players — 58.8 million followers
MLS teams — 7 million followers
MLS — 3.2 million followers

FACEBOOK

MLS players — 84.6 million followers
MLS teams — 11.6 million followers
MLS — 3.1 million followers

INSTAGRAM

MLS players — 83.6 million followers
MLS teams — 3.8 million followers
MLS — 1.1 million followers

Activity

MLS teams — 114.7 thousand posts
MLS players — 40.9 thousand posts
MLS — 15.3 thousand posts

TWITTER

MLS teams — 69.7 thousand posts
MLS players — 15.1 thousand posts
MLS — 9.7 thousand posts

FACEBOOK

MLS teams — 28.1 thousand posts
MLS players — 12.6 thousand posts
MLS — 3.8 thousand posts

INSTAGRAM

MLS teams — 17 thousand posts
MLS players — 13.2 thousand posts
MLS — 1.8 thousand posts

Engagement

MLS players — 193 million engagements
MLS players — 40.9 thousand posts
MLS — 26.1 million engagements

TWITTER

MLS teams — 10.19 million engagements
MLS players — 10.17 million engagements
MLS — 2.6 million engagements

FACEBOOK

MLS players — 12 million engagements
MLS teams — 9.2 million engagements
MLS — 3.8 million engagements

INSTAGRAM

MLS players — 170.8 million engagements
MLS teams — 60.4 million engagements
MLS — 19.7 million engagements

Engagement Rate

MLS players — 7.62%
MLS teams — 0.40%
MLS — 0.15%

TWITTER

MLS players — 4.31%
MLS teams — 0.05%
MLS — 0.01%

FACEBOOK

MLS players — 2.78%
MLS teams — 9.2 million engagements
MLS — 3.8 million engagements

INSTAGRAM

MLS players — 15.99%
MLS — 1.19%
MLS — 0.03%

Growth

We discovered one outlier in the data involving MLS player growth rate on Facebook. This is the only category displaying a decline in numbers on any social channel.

The cause of this decrease can be traced back to the players who came to the MLS from European professional leagues. Once these players transitioned from their Premier and Champions League clubs, a small percentage of their Facebook fanbase (presumably European fans) elected to unfollow their pages. The four most followed MLS players — Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, David Villa, and Bastian Schweinsteiger — are all former European players who saw a slight decline in Facebook follower growth rate.

However — with a collective follower growth of 11.9 million followers, MLS players continue to outpace their teams and league by nearly seven times.

MLS players — 11.9 million followers
MLS teams — 1.8 million followers
MLS — 437.4 thousand followers

TWITTER

MLS players — 2 million followers
MLS teams — 374.3 thousand followers
MLS — 62.3 thousand followers

FACEBOOK

MLS teams — 583.5 thousand followers
MLS — 191.2 thousand followers
MLS players — -494.5 thousand followers

INSTAGRAM

MLS players — 10.4 million followers
MLS — 183.6 thousand followers
MLS — 0.03%

Growth Rate

MLS teams — 8.92%
MLS players — 6.35%
MLS — 5.53%

TWITTER

MLS teams — 5.67%
MLS players — 3.44%
MLS — 1.98%

FACEBOOK

MLS — 6.66%
MLS players — 5.30%
MLS teams — -0.58%

INSTAGRAM

MLS teams — 29.92%
MLS — 21.78%
MLS players — 14.25%

The athlete-driven MVPs of the MLS

Below is the performance analysis for the top 50 most-followed MLS players on social. We break down the data by audience, activity, engagement, and growth on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram from March 3, 2018, to October 28, 2018. These are the strongest brands on social from the MLS regular season.

Audience

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 67.4 million followers
Wayne Rooney — 55.1 million followers
David Villa — 28.2 million followers
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 23.7 million followers
Sergio Pérez — 3 million followers

TWITTER

Wayne Rooney — 17.1 million followers
David Villa — 8.9 million followers
Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 5.5 million followers
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 5.1 million followers
Giovani dos Santos — 3.5 million followers

FACEBOOK

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 26.5 million followers
Wayne Rooney — 25 million followers
David Villa — 14.1 million followers
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 9.3 million followers
Giovani dos Santos — 2.7 million followers

INSTAGRAM

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 35.4 million followers
Wayne Rooney — 13 million followers
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 9.3 million followers
David Villa — 5.2 million followers
Kendall Waston — 531 posts

Activity

Valterri Bottas — 936 posts
Calos Vela — 479 posts
David Villa — 446 posts
Tim Howard — 324 posts
Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 315 posts

TWITTER

Nick Rimando — 188 posts
Kendall Waston — 187 posts
David Villa — 164 posts
Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 121 posts
Tim Howard — 110 posts

FACEBOOK

Carlos Vela — 456 posts
Haris Medunjanin — 167 posts
Kendall Waston — 128 posts
David Villa — 118 posts
Tim Howard — 109 posts

INSTAGRAM

Román Torres — 239 posts
Claude Dielna — 211 posts
Kendall Waston — 185 posts
David Villa — 164 posts
Ronald Matarrita — 125 posts

Engagement

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 96.9 million engagements
Wayne Rooney — 24 million engagementss
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 13.1 million engagements
David Villa — 10.8 million engagements
Jonathan dos Dantos — 3 million engagements

TWITTER

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 4 million engagements
Wayne Rooney — 1.5 million engagements
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 678.5 thousand engagements
David Villa — 340 thousand engagements
Omar Gaber — 287.9 thousand engagements

FACEBOOK

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 6.9 million engagements
Wayne Rooney — 2 million engagements
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 1.2 million engagements
Carlos Vela — 341.4 thousand engagements
David Villa — 259.1 thousand engagements

INSTAGRAM

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 85.9 million engagements
Wayne Rooney — 20.5 million engagements
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 11.3 million engagements
David Villa — 10.2 million engagements
Jonathan dos Santos — 2.9 million engagements

Engagement Rate

*min 18 posts
Chris Wondolowski — 15.73%
Sebastian Lletget — 9.40%
Yoshimar Yotún — 7.14%
Josef Martínez — 5.75%
Sebastian Giovinco — 4.73%

TWITTER

Carlos Vela — 1.01%
Aly Ghazal — 0.84%
Clint Dempsey — 0.74%
Omar Gaber — 0.74%
Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 0.65%

FACEBOOK

Yura Movsisyan — 1.42%
Kendall Waston — .42%
Clint Dempsey — .34%
Zlatan Ibrahimovic — .27%
Bastian Schweinsteiger — .16%

INSTAGRAM

Carlos Vela — 14.77%
Josef Martínez — 10.03%
Sebastian Lletget — 9.40%
Clint Dempsey — 9.30%
Miguel Almirón — 9.09%

Growth

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 5.4 million followers
Carlos Vela — 734.3 thouand followers
Wayne Rooney — 585.2 thousand followers
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 582.6 thousand follower
Giovani dos Santos — 572.4 thousand followers

TWITTER

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 601.7 thousand followers
Omar Gaber — 487.7 thousand followers
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 219.7 thousand followers
Aly Ghazal — 171 thousand followers
David Villa — 150.6 thousand followers

FACEBOOK

Giovani dos Santos — 287.7 thousand fans
Carlos Vela — 69.5 thousand fans
Kendall Waston — 28 thousand fans
Ronald Matarrita — 9.1 thousand fans
Aly Ghazal — 6.6 thousand fans

INSTAGRAM

Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 4.9 million followers
Wayne Rooney — 938.3 thousand followers
David Villa — 603.2 thousand followers
Carlos Vela — 556.6 thousand followers
Bastian Schweinsteiger — 533.8 thousand followers

Growth Rate

Aly Ghazal — 56.18%
Sebastian Lletget — 47.55%
Carlos Vela — 41.22%
Josef Martínez — 39.27%
Miguel Almirón — 31.45%

TWITTER

Aly Ghazal — 76.15%
Omar Gaber — 55.69%
Nick Rimando — 24.69%
Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 12.38%
Carlos Vela — 11.45%

FACEBOOK

Kendall Waston — 15.71%
Giovani dos Santos — 12.05%
Aly Ghazal — 7.44%
Ronald Matarrita — 7.11%
Alberth Elis — 2.11%

INSTAGRAM

Carlos Vela — 69.84%
Román Torres — 60.17%
Josef Martínez — 48.39%
Sebastian Lletget — 47.55%
Ronald Matarrita — 47.16%

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