Social ‘Player Power’ of Premiership Footballers Outshines Their Clubs
The first ever comprehensive report into the social media influence of all footballers in Premier League has revealed that individual players are becoming much more powerful brands than the clubs they play for. The growth in players usage of Instagram has enabled an evolution in the way fans and players interact and build relationships, and this has been a key factor in the rise of ‘Player Power’.
Manchester United and Chelsea players dominate the follower tables across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with 60% of the top 20 most followed players belonging to one of this year’s FA Cup finalists.
Without a ball even being kicked at Wembley, key battles have already been won off the pitch. Manchester United’s David De Gea (25m followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) is more popular than his Chelsea counterpart Thibaut Courtois (11m) with more than double the number of followers, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba (32m) beats Cesc Fabregas (26m) and Juan Mata (21m) trumps Chelsea’s Pedro (15m).
Pitchside, a new sports division of Wilderness has created the most in-depth independent analysis of player social media activity ever undertaken. The Premier League ‘Social Player Index’ (SPI) provides deep analysis of player and club social media activity. It also includes the Player Power Quotient (PPQ) - a measure of how the aggregate player social media following in each club compares against the number of followers of the club’s official social media channels over the 2017/18 season.
The research found that Premier League playing squads have more power than the clubs they play for. On primary channel, Instagram, the Top 20 Premier League footballers share a combined total of around 175m followers, almost three times as many as the Top 20 clubs who only amass 62.6m.
Premier League playing squads have an average of 2.38 times more followers than their clubs. Fans are more likely to follow player content and we are seeing players creating more personable content that showcases their lifestyle. Many of the clubs are talking to a broad global audience and are doing so in a broadcast manner, engaging less directly with fans, partly due to their global reach and the commercialisation of clubs. Fans are also eager to gain an insight to the personal lives of players off the field and they are using in-the-moment content, made popular by Instagram Stories. For example Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil recently received over 800k likes on a post involving his dog, while Manchester United’s Paul Pogba gained 1.3m likes on a photo of his new blue haircut this month.
The average Premier League player has an average of 900K followers on Instagram, while Paul Pogba tops the list with around 20m followers - enough to fill Old Trafford 260 times over. Mesut Ozil is top of the Pitchside SPI most followed list with 68m fans, followed by Wayne Rooney, with 54m fans, and David Luiz, with 51m fans. Across all platforms, Instagram comes out on top, with over 360m combined followers from the 400 top Premier League players, compared to 304m on Facebook and 263.8m on Twitter.
Players are abandoning Facebook for Instagram where they can showcase their lifestyles and routines across a wider variety of content styles. Less than two thirds (59%) now have an official Facebook presence versus 91% on Instagram. Instagram accounts for over 50% of the total follower base of the younger players, compared with only 38% across all the Premier League players.
Of the research, Tom Jarvis, Founder of Pitchside said, “We are delighted to present the first edition of Premier League Social Player Index, the most in-depth independent social media analysis in football. The team at Pitchside have been working tirelessly to analyse the top 400 Premier League players and clubs’ social media activity and we’ve identified some fascinating insight.
“We are excited to be working on a new aggregated index, which we’ll be announcing in the coming months. We are also fascinated to see how the SPI data develops throughout the close season and into the 2018/19 season and we’ll have regular updated stats to share.”
Tom Howgate, Pitchside’s project lead, added “As players have become dominant brands in Premier League football in their own right, we see fans following players from club-to-club, particularly if they are the star of their national team. Social media platforms welcome a global audience; 69.2% of Premier League players come from countries outside the UK which increases their reach and the scale of their audience.”
The full report, which explores the abandonment of Facebook and insights into the commercialisation of players’ audiences in more detail, is available on the Pitchside website now.