Champions League’s Successes on the Pitch Bring Huge Growth to Social
Since its inception, the UEFA Champions League (UCL) has become the most critical benchmark of success for a European team’s season. Win your team’s league? Great. Win the UCL? That’s a whole different story. As you probably know, here at Blinkfire we love numbers…and the UCL too (I mean, who doesn’t?). So, we’ve analyzed the UCL to determine if the magnitude of the competition on the pitch translated to its “social sphere.” From follower growth and engagements to comparisons with other world-renowned leagues such as the Premier League and NFL. Buckle up and get ready for an engaging ride (get it?).
Focusing on the followers of each league from Jan 1, 2015 through Nov 1, 2018, UCL followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have grown 86, compared to 72% in the Premier League and 41% in the NFL. Comparing all three leagues, Twitter and Facebook followers have experienced minimal growth, ranging from 1-20%. On the contrary, Instagram has seen a tremendous increase in followers gained. Case in point — Instagram followers for the UCL, Premier League, and NFL, on average, have increased by 168%, 87%, and 39% respectively year-over-year.
A captivating trend that appeared throughout the past four years has been the battle between Instagram and Facebook engagement. In an age where social media platforms are continuously evolving and striving for likes, virality, and engagements, Instagram has done just that. Since 2015, the UCL’s Instagram engagements have increased on average at a rate of 339% (based on estimated engagement growth for the rest of 2018). Following that extraordinary growth, the Premier League has seen a 118% increase, and the NFL follows with 33%. Conversely, Facebook’s engagement numbers have consistently dropped across all major leagues — with the Premier League’s 2018 forecast on pace for a 47% decrease for Facebook engagements, and an average decrease of 8% since 2015.
In addition to being considered the preeminent athletic competition for soccer players, the UCL also proves to be a leader in sponsorship opportunities for brands looking to make a digital impact. In 2018 (up to Nov 1), the UCL drove more than 147 million engagements for their top five official sponsors based on earned media — 130% more than the Premier League, and hundreds of percent higher than the NFL.
While that’s extremely desirable for the the UCL’s official sponsors, an even more compelling data point is the exposure generated for other teams’ front of jersey sponsors (that don’t directly sponsor the UCL). When brands such as Etihad Airways, Emirates Airlines, Rakuten, T-Mobile and Standard Chartered pay prestigious teams like Manchester City, Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Liverpool for sponsorship rights, they aren’t only paying for exposure from those teams, but also the different leagues that the teams compete in. If the UCL posts a close-up shot of Lionel Messi celebrating a goal, hundreds of thousands of engagements are generated for Rakuten. The UCL’s social channels are a powerful outlet to give other brands exposure. In fact, the top five front of jersey sponsors from participating teams received more than 87 million engagements.
Don’t believe us? Here’s an example.
With the rise of the UCL’s social platforms over the past four years, the ability to measure not only follower growth and engagement numbers, but also earned media for official sponsors and participating team sponsors is proving to be a key differentiator. With more than 115 million followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the UCL has a reach greater than most other teams and leagues in the world offering a unique ability to engage and grow.
From follower growth and engagements to value generated for their sponsors, the UCL’s social “game” has propelled to a tier above other leagues.