For two years, sports fans were prevented from attending games because of the coronavirus pandemic. During that time, social distancing became the norm, which meant following a team on social media was the best way for fans to keep up to date with what was going on at their favorite team.
Social media was and remains the first port of call for many supporters to find the very latest breaking news on everything from trades to score updates. It doesn't mean that team will be among the favorites with the leading online betting sites to win a championship, but it helps to connect with their fanbase.
Teams now have extensive social media teams set up to make sure they have everything covered so their followers don’t have to get their fix elsewhere.
So, which leagues are the most popular, and which teams have the biggest social media presence?
We have checked out each team’s accounts on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook and accumulated their followers to bring you the definitive league table.
Nobody does drama better than the Lakers who have won 17 NBA championships. The Los Angeles franchise won a lot of admirers in the 1980s, when they ruled the court, and their rivalry with the Celtics raised the popularity of the sport to a new level, which hasn’t abated since.
Many of the best players to play the game have worn Lakers gold including Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
When checking out the best NBA betting sites, you'll find plenty of Lakers markets to bet on.
The recent HBO drama ‘Winning Time’ documented the rise of the Lakers in the 1980s and proved to be a popular watch as would a similar drama based on their most recent season which saw them fail to make the playoffs.
There is no denying the popularity of the Lakers who come out on top of our social media presence with 51.95 million followers across their four official social media accounts. The Lakers are the only team across the four major sports to exceed the 50 million barrier in a top 10 dominated by NBA teams.
One year ago today: Banner 17 rose into the rafters pic.twitter.com/NOk13FSObF— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 12, 2022
The Golden State Warriors are next on the list with 46.10 million people following their team on social media, while the Chicago Bulls (30.14m), Miami Heat (25.44m) and Houston Rockets (25.40m) complete the top five. Houston’s inclusion might surprise a lot of people as it has been almost 30 years since their last championship win in 1995 when they won back-to-back titles.
That was a great year for sport in the state of Texas as the Dallas Cowboys (17.80m) won their fifth and most recent Super Bowl. The Cowboys have failed to reach the NFC Championship Ggame in the years since the Vince Lombardi Trophy last called Dallas its home.
After winning six Super Bowls this century, the Patriots (16.70m) make the top 10. New England’s glory years coincided with the introduction of Twitter in 2006 and the subsequent explosion of social media. With the Celtics (19.35m) also making the top 10, Boston is the only city represented twice in the top 10.
It wouldn’t be a top 10 if there wasn’t a team from New York included. That honor goes to the Yankees (14.98m) who remain popular despite the fact their last World Series win was celebrated in 2009.
The more successful a team is, the more social media followers they tend to have. Fans of winning teams can be sure of plenty of positive posts from players, but when a team is losing game after game, interest is in danger of declining.
Bottom of the 124 professional teams in America’s top four sporting leagues, is the Florida Panthers. Since joining the NHL in 1993, Besides winning the President's Trophy this season, Panthers fans have not had much to cheer about. An appearance in the Stanley Cup final in just their third season offered hope for a bright future, but that’s as good as it has got for the long-suffering franchise who barely make it over the one million mark.
Las Vegas Golden Knights have only been in existence since 2017, and they already have a greater presence on social media than the Panthers. The Golden Knights almost pulled off a miracle maiden season when they defied the odds to reach the Stanley Cup final only to lose to the Washington Capitals.
The Seattle Kraken are the newest major sports team in America, having started their first NHL campaign in October 2021. They were unable to repeat the achievement of the Golden Knights and missed out on the playoffs after finishing bottom of the Western Pacific division.
It seems NHL and social media do not go hand in hand with the 12 lowest social media followers all coming from hockey's professional league.
In 1978, when they were celebrating their second Super Bowl title, the term America’s Team was given to the Dallas Cowboys because they appeared on TV so often.
The Cowboys won three more championships after the nickname was handed to them, but the last of those championships was celebrated in 1996. Owner Jerry Jones has done all he can to build a team capable of returning the franchise back to their glory days.
Despite almost three decades passing since their last title, the Cowboys have the biggest social media presence throughout the NFL with 17.80 million people following the club’s official accounts.
Since Dallas won their fifth Vince Lombardi trophy, they have been overtaken by the Patriots who have won six of their own championships behind the coaching of Bill Belichick and the brilliance of quarterback Tom Brady, and for many, especially those in New England, they were and still are America’s Team.
While the Pats (16.70m) have more Super Bowl titles than Dallas, they have 1.1 million fewer followers than the NFC East team. A seventh Super Bowl win could see the Patriots become the most popular team in the league on social media. While Belichick remains head coach, the Patriots will often be considered contenders with many of the best NFL betting sites to win the Super Bowl.
The Steelers (14m) are third on the NFL list. The three most popular franchises on social media own a total of 17 Vince Lombardi trophies between them.
Pittsburgh’s recently retired quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joked after winning in Dallas in 2020, that the Cowboys can call themselves ‘America’s Team’ as long as people call the Steelers the ‘World’s Team’ due to their worldwide popularity.
Pittsburgh, like many of the NFL teams, have used social media to bring humor to their annual schedule release day. The Steelers' schedule release video was one of the more popular of all the 32 teams with close to 115,000 views.
The Super Bowl trophy is named after the successful head coach of the Packers who guided Green Bay to success in Super Bowls I and II. Many of the recent followers on Packers’ social media accounts won’t have been alive to witness that, but they will have clicked the ‘follow’ button to keep track of the drama behind the scenes involving three-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and whether the quarterback would return for the following season.
Philadelphia fans pride themselves on being fanatical about their sports with the most vociferous callers phoning radio shows more than perhaps any other city in North America. So it’s no surprise to see the Eagles (10.20m) make the top five in the NFL list.
Winning Super Bowl LII in February 2018, which was the highest scoring championship game since 1995, would certainly have helped boost the Eagles’ social media presence. Although that has not necessarily been the case with the LA Rams. Despite winning Super Bowl LVI in February, their social media following of 4.81 million ranks 22nd in the league.
It’s been almost 30 years since the Jacksonville Jaguars entered the NFL, and their fanbase is still waiting for its first appearance in the Super Bowl, despite reaching three AFC Championship Games.
The Jags’ last appearance in a championship game was in 2017, and instead of kicking on from that season towards a possible Super Bowl appearance, the team has regressed to finish bottom of the AFC South in each of the last four seasons.
That particular division lacks the social media interest of perhaps the West or North divisions in the AFC, and that is highlighted by the fact the Titans (3.53m) are 31st on this list. In fact, if you combine the social media followers for all four AFC South teams from their four official accounts (16.10m), they still fall short of the Patriots and Cowboys.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray upset a lot of people when he unfollowed the team from all his social media accounts last year. Nobody was more upset than the Cardinals (4.12m) themselves as they have the third lowest total of the 32 NFL teams. All seems to be fine between Murray and the Cardinals, which should appease their followers, and a Super Bowl appearance would boost their following even more. Cardinals fans will be able to see what goes on behind the scenes during the off-season as Arizona will be the team featured on HBO's series of Hard Knocks this year.
The Los Angeles Chargers have been desperate to get back to the Super Bowl to make amends for their disappointing performance in Super Bowl XXIX in January 1995 when they conceded 49 points to the San Francisco 49ers.
The closest they came to a return was in 2007 when they reached the AFC Championship Game, but with rising quarterback Justin Herbert leading the offense, that could change. The Chargers (4.15m) have already seen a boost in social media followers, and it might be too long before they climb out of the bottom five.
The Buffalo Bills remain the only team to reach four successive Super Bowls when Jim Kelly was their quarterback back in the 1990s. Josh Allen has been hailed as the man to emulate Kelly and get Buffalo back to the Big Dance, and win the Super Bowl for the first time in the franchise's history.
Allen gets better and better with every season played, and they are one of the favorites to battle it out for this season’s Super Bowl, which would certainly boost their social media presence.
Since Joe Namath famously guaranteed victory for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III in January 1969, when he was being interviewed by reporters by the pool of a Miami hotel, the Jets team has struggled to get back to the big game. Three division titles since then for a team based in the Big Apple is a disappointing return and is reflected in their lowly following on social media.
Whether they are winning titles like they did in 2020, or missing the playoffs completely like they did last season, the Los Angeles Lakers continue to captivate the nation. Love them or loathe them, they remain one of the most talked about teams in American sport.
Sadly for the 17-time NBA champions, most of the recent talk surrounding the franchise has been negative as they suffered one of their worst seasons, winning just 33 games. LeBron James moved to second on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, but even he could not save the aging Lakers from a failed campaign.
Players and fans alike hope last season was an aberration and under newly appointed head coach Darvin Ham, the Lakers can draft well and use the free agency market better than they did last year and be among the favorites with the leading NBA betting sites to win an 18th banner.
Clubs use their social platforms to announce breaking news rather than send press releases to numerous media outlets. Therefore, it’s no surprise that almost 52 million people follow the Lakers on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.
They are the only team in America’s major four major leagues to have surpassed the 50 million mark, but it might not be too long before the Golden State Warriors reach that particular milestone themselves.
Their numbers are creeping towards 47 million and are increasing day by day as they look to win their seventh NBA title and their fourth in the last eight seasons. With a very talented roster assembled, it's no surprise so many people follow the club on their various platforms. Having Stephen Curry lead the franchise makes it easier to attract new followers for their social media team.
Had Twitter been around when Michael Jordan was in his prime, then the Chicago Bulls would be the clear leader. Imagine watching the clips of #23’s latest highlight, which would have persuaded non Bulls fans to follow the club’s social media platforms just for the X-factor Jordan possessed.
MJ retired three years before Twitter was launched in 2006, but his legacy in the sport lives on. Given all the achievements in remarkable games Jordan had, it must be easy for the Bulls’ social media team to post ‘On this day…’ tweets showcasing the brilliance of arguably the greatest player of all time.
Therefore, it’s no real surprise to see the Bulls (30.14m) third on the list on the NBA’s most followed teams despite the fact they haven’t won a championship since Jordan’s sixth with the team during his final season in Chicago in 1998.
Bucking the trend that Florida teams can't attract a big following on social media, is the Miami Heat. The three-time NBA champions are fourth on the league’s list with 25.44 million followers thanks to playoff appearances in all but four of the last 19 seasons.
Having Pat Riley as the club’s President, the Heat have a born winner inside the building who they can go to for advice, and that certainly seems to be paying dividends on the court.
For many people, the inclusion of the Houston Rockets in the NBA’s top five might be a surprise. But they have a loyal fanbase going back to the mid 1990s when they won their two and only championships in back-to-back seasons.
Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon was the star of that team in the 1990s, but he did not have the global stature of Yao Ming who wore the Rockets jersey for 10 seasons from 2002 to 2011 and was named an All-Star eight times.
He may not have been the first Chinese player to play in the NBA, that accolade goes to Dallas Mavericks’ Wang Zhizhi, but Ming’s achievements on the court meant Houston became China’s most loved NBA team.
That’s one reason why the Rockets make the NBA’s top five with over 25 million followers, 15 million more than the reigning champions Milwaukee Bucks (10.00m) who are 14th on the NBA list.
The last time the Detroit Pistons won a playoff game was back in 2008, which is too long for a franchise that made the playoffs in 21 of 26 seasons starting with the 1983/84 season when Isiah Thomas’ talent lit up the court and Bill Laimbeer pushed referees to the limit with his no-nonsense approach to the game.
The team’s struggles on the court are reflected in the number of people following the Pistons on social media. They currently have 4.40 million followers across Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, and while that is the lowest of all 30 NBA teams, it would see them fifth in the list for NHL teams.
The Pistons need to find another player like Thomas who they can build their team around for the next decade or so. Detroit will hope that this year's overall number one draft pick Cade Cunningham can be the person to change their fortunes around, and help increase their social media presence.
The Grizzlies (5.39m) are seeing the benefits of having a rising star play for them with a growing presence on their platforms. Ja Morant set the league on fire last season with a string of impressive performances and sensational dunks which always proves popular on social media. Memphis used their first draft pick in 2019 and the second overall pick on the point guard, and it is already proving to be a successful selection.
There is nothing to separate the next three teams on the NBA’s least followed teams with the Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves all with 5.5 million followers each. Denver's position in the bottom five is perhaps the biggest surprise given the fact they have Nikola Jokic on their roster.
Best Player in the World.— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) May 11, 2022
Jokic won his second successive MVP award this year, but that hasn’t helped build the team’s popularity on their various platforms.
However, the Nuggets are a team on the up and after making the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, hopes are high that Denver can make it to the NBA Finals for the first time ever sooner rather than later.
The Atlanta Hawks have won one NBA championship, but that was back in 1958 when the franchise was based in St Louis. Had it not been for Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics in the 1980s, Atlanta might have made it to the Eastern Conference finals. Those Hawks teams, led by Dominique Wilkins, were eliminated from the playoffs three times in six seasons by the Celtics.
The Timberwolves went 13 seasons without making the playoffs, but the franchise’s fortunes turned around when they drafted Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015. The center was named rookie of the year, and with two appearances in the postseason in the last five seasons, confidence is high with their fans in Minnesota that better times are ahead. More success on the court should raise their social media profile.
One of the biggest rivalries in world sport is the rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. There’s no love lost between these two teams when they go head-to-head, so it makes perfect sense for these two giants of baseball to sit top of the league’s social media standings.
Yankees supporters were used to seeing their team win championship after championship, and while they remain the most successful team with 27 World Series wins, the last of those came in 2009. Every sport has a team that is loved and loathed in equal measures and the Yankees fit that description.
They are often in the top three in terms of the biggest payroll each season, but as they have found out in the last 13 years, money can’t buy a championship. The Yankees are never out of the headlines, which is why they have almost 15 million followers on their various platforms, over 5 million more than their arch rivals Red Sox.
Since the Yankees were last crowned world champions, Boston were crowned world champions in 2013 and 2018. The two sides face each other 19 times in the regular season with further meetings possible in the playoffs if their paths fall in place. All this adds to the rivalry that has produced plenty of headlines in the past and will continue to do so in the future. A video posted by the Red Sox of pitcher Jake Diekman securing a 4-3 victory of the Yankees in the most recent meeting, has been watched over 108,000 times.
Jake Diekman, ladies and gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/F96JCgn5O5— Red Sox (@RedSox) April 11, 2022
While the Yankees and Red Sox dominate baseball’s social media on the east coast, the Dodgers are taking care of business on the west coast with 9.31 million followers. The Los Angeles team ended a 32-year drought when winning the World Series in 2020. On the back of that success, the social media accounts have seen an increase across all four platforms as the franchise looks to add another pennant to their clubhouse collection.
Like the Yankees, who have the Mets playing in the same city, the Chicago Cubs have a second team in the city - the White Sox - to contend with. Thanks to winning the 2016 World Series, the Cubs rule the Windy City in terms of a social media presence. Their 8.22 million followers is 4.9 million more than the White Sox.
The San Francisco Giants complete baseball’s top five with 6.03 million followers. It’s fair to assume that the majority of those followers jumped on board the official accounts after their three championships won in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Sitting in sixth spot, less than 200,000 followers fewer than the Giants are the reigning champions Atlanta Braves. It was the first time in 26 years, Atlanta got to celebrate a World Series win and their strong social media following will hope they can achieve a dynasty this year. According to many of the best baseball betting sites, the Braves are in the top 10 to win this year's World Series.
It seems residents of Florida are apathetic towards their favorite teams on social media. The Jacksonville Jaguars are bottom of the NFL list and the Florida Panthers are last in the NHL and the Miami Marlins are ranked last of baseball’s 30 teams.
The Marlins have struggled to fill their stadiums for games and that demand, or lack of it, is reflected in the fact that 1.68 million accounts are following the club’s tweets and posts on social media.
The same can be said for Arizona’s baseball team, the Diamondbacks, who are struggling to gain a following just like their hockey neighbors, the Coyotes. One way to lose whatever followers a team has, is to perform poorly on the diamond and having the worst record in all of baseball in 2021 might have encouraged some D-backs fans to give up on their team.
Fans of the Colorado Rockies have not had much to cheer about in recent times either with just two postseason appearances in the last 12 seasons. If they can find a way to win more games and make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, then that would help a few more people jump on their bandwagon and follow them on Twitter etc.
While the Rockies are moving in the wrong direction on the diamond, the Tampa Bay Rays are moving in the right direction. Since dropping ‘Devil’ from their name, the Rays put their first 10 years of mediocrity behind them by making the playoffs in seven of their last 14 seasons.
Reaching the World Series in 2008 and 2020 has helped raise their social media profile to two million followers and a few more successful seasons will help the Rays climb out of the MLB's bottom five.
Social media executives working at the 32 NHL teams have a lot of work to do if they are to close the gap on teams from the other three major leagues in terms of followers on social media. Hockey’s professional league ranks last with 13.4m fewer followers than baseball’s MLB.
The NHL’s official account has just over 18 million followers, while the MLB has 31.7 million followers. The NFL has close to 82 million people following their four official accounts while the NBA leads the way with 164 million followers on Twitter, Instagram, Tik-Tok and Facebook.
Clubs tap into the egos of their players to get them to record messages for their followers, and to be fair to hockey players, very few of them have egos as big as those playing in the NFL, NBA and MLB.
Hockey has a reputation of no-nonsense characters and getting them to do frivolous things in order to promote the franchise might not be as easy as you think. It might be a better strategy to post clips of fights, which always prove popular.
Chicago Blackhawks (6.75m) might think they are doing well leading the NHL with the number of followers they have, but 21 of the 30 NBA teams have a higher following. The Blackhawks have been one of the more successful teams on the ice in recent years winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Nine years ago today 🙌 pic.twitter.com/FtjafFI77X— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) May 29, 2022
However, they have missed out on the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and fans will hope to be back in the postseason next season.
Having one of the best players ever to take to the ice helps when it comes to raising a team’s profile off the ice. Many regard the face of the NHL to be Sidney Crosby who has spent his entire career playing for the Penguins who drafted him as the number one overall pick in 2005.
Pittsburgh has been home to many of hockey’s greatest players including Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, making the Penguins one of the most followed teams in the NHL. With Crosby’s skill with the puck, it’s no surprise the Penguins are closing in on six million followers.
Next on the NHL list is the Boston Bruins (5.09m) who were one of the founding members of the NHL when the league opened its doors to American teams in 1924. The Bruins are a perennial playoff team, making the postseason in all but two of the last 15 seasons, and they have won the Stanley Cup six times.
The Bruins are seven championships short of the 13 Toronto has won, but the Maple Leafs (4.76m) are below Boston in social media followers. Incredibly, the last of Toronto’s 13 titles came in 1967 and fans will say a 14th Stanley Cup is long overdue.
Completing the top five is the New York Rangers (4.12m). Their fans have not had to wait as long as the Maple Leafs supporters have, but 28 years since their last championship is a long time for their fanbase to wait for another banner to be hung at Madison Square Garden.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to become the first team to win three successive championships since the 1982 Islanders, who actually went on to win four in a row. The Bolts, who began the season as one of the favorites with many of the NHL betting sites, have just over two million followers to sit 16th on the NHL’s list.
Two of the three least followed NHL teams on social media are expansion teams introduced to the league within the last five years. The Vegas Golden Knights’ (1.1m) inaugural campaign was the 2017/18 season while the Seattle Kraken (1.0m) have just finished their first ever season. So it’s understandable that both these two teams are among the least followed in the league.
While they have an excuse for low numbers, the Florida Panthers have not. The Panthers have just reached the one million milestone recently, but they have been in existence since 1993.
Making the playoffs in each of the last three seasons shows the franchise is moving in the right direction, but it might take a return to the Stanley Cup finals for their social media numbers to boost their social media presence.
It’s easy to see why the Arizona Coyotes are lacking numbers on their official accounts. Only one playoff appearance in the last 10 seasons makes it hard to attract followers.
The same can be said for the Ottawa Senators, who failed to make the playoffs for the fifth successive season. The Senators are one of seven teams from Canada trying to get new supporters on board which is why they find themselves in the bottom five. Failing to make the playoffs in each of their last five seasons doesn’t help matters either. Until they can find a way to extend their season, the Senators will struggle for popularity against their Canadian rivals.