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In 2018, teams and athletes from major US sports leagues shared more content on social media than ever before.  On Facebook alone, teams posted at a collective rate of more than 33 times per hour. We chose to look back at these posts to find how much of that content was sponsored and determine where sponsors saw the most engagement.

For the purpose of this report, we included all content shared on Instagram and Facebook between May 2018 and May 2019. Twitter activity was not included in the study because, unlike the other two platforms, Twitter does not allow users to tag posts as “branded” or by sponsor affiliation.

Now let’s take a look at the numbers.

Over the past year, teams from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and MLS posted 465 thousand times. Of these posts, 44,213 contained sponsored content (9.5 percent).

In comparison, athletes from these leagues posted 193.8 thousand times over the same period, but only 1,182 of their posts contained sponsored content (0.6 percent).

Despite sharing content at a lower rate, sponsored posts from athletes made a much bigger impact among followers. Posts from athlete accounts had an average engagement rate of 3.94 percent, which was 9.3-times higher than the average engagement on sponsored posts from team accounts.

These numbers showcase the power of athlete-driven content and the untapped marketing potential that athletes can provide brands.  By reaching fans in their favorite feeds, sponsors can build a scroll-stopping connection that is unmatched on social.

Sponsored Content on Social Media | 2019

Below is our complete analysis of sponsored content in sports and social media. The report includes data from more than 150 professional teams and 3,950 athletes, measuring their activity and engagement on Facebook and Instagram from May 2, 2018 to May 2, 2019.

Get the full report

Total Sponsored Posts
  • NBA Teams – 14,883 posts
  • NBA Athletes – 345 posts
  • NFL Teams – 12,411 posts
  • NFL Athletes – 455 posts
  • NHL Teams – 9,391 posts
  • NHL Athletes – 41 posts
  • MLS Teams – 5,221 posts
  • MLS Athletes – 215 posts
  • MLB Teams – 2,307 posts
  • MLB Athletes – 126 posts
Average Engagement Rate
  • NHL Athletes – 7.49%
  • NHL Teams – 0.40%
  • MLS Athletes – 4.23%
  • MLS Teams – 0.41%
  • MLB Athletes – 3.69%
  • MLB Teams – 0.26%
  • NFL Athletes – 3.18%
  • NFL Teams – 0.30%
  • NBA Athletes – 2.57%
  • NBA Teams – 0.25%