As we know, the leading sports celebrities are quite popular. As a result, they earn a lot from endorsements. In this post, we look at sports stars 2017 Instagram popularity.

Instagram has more than 800 million community members.

Sports Stars 2017 Instagram Popularity with 800 million community members



Earlier in 2017, we discussed the overall popularity of sports celebrities. Their following can be quite substantial: A number of athletes are celebrities and well-known around the globe. Why does this matter from a marketing perspective? Companies pay huge endorsement fees to have these athletes promote their products — from sports equipment to sports apparel to energy drinks and to a whole lot more. There are many interesting questions in terms of the top celebrity athletes, such as: Which sports do they represent? Which countries are their home bases?

According to the most recent ESPN World Fame 100 rankings:

  • Of the top 100 athletes in the world fame ratings, 38 play soccer (known as football outside the U.S.), 13 play basketball, 11 play golf, 10 play tennis, and 8 play American football. Twenty other sports are also represented; but NONE of the top 100 is a baseball player.
  • Thirty-five athletes are from the U.S., 9 from Brazil, 7 from Germany, 5 from England, 4 from India, and 4 from Spain. Thirty-six other countries are also represented in the list.
  • Among the top 100 athletes, 92 are male and 8 are female.
  • The top 5 endorsers each earned at least $36 million in the most recent year studied.


Sports Stars 2017 Instagram Popularity

Since Instagram is a fast-growing social media platform, how are sports stars doing there? What are sports stars 2017 Instagram popularity? Who are the ten most popular athletes on Instagram? What is their sport?

Statista’s Martin Armstrong reports that:

“According to analysis by InfluencerDB, when it comes to sports stars on Instagram, there are two clear winners – Cristiano Ronaldo, and soccer itself. The Real Madrid superstar has the most followers, with over 113 million. In second place is Neymar. Fresh from his ridiculously costly move to PSG in the summer, the Brazilian has 83 million followers. As our infographic shows, only one of the top ten is not connected to soccer. In sixth place is basketball legend LeBron James who has 33.5 million followers.

Sports Stars 2017 Instagram Popularity via Statista chart

Key Takeaways

These are key takeaways from this post on Instagram:

    • Sports Stars 2017 Instagram Popularity is high for the biggest stars.
    • Soccer stars are really dominant on Instagram.
    • Only basketball has one sports star in the top ten on Instagram. No other sport has a star on the top Instagram top 10.
    • The retired David Beckham continues with a big Instagram following.
    • In 2012, we posted about the most popular sports stars on social media. As of October 2017, four of these stars are among the most popular on Instagram. These are Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Mesi, David Beckham, and LeBron James.


30 Replies to “Sports Stars 2017 Instagram Popularity”

  1. It definitely makes sense that the soccer stars dominate the list, due to its global popularity. However it is something I have never thought about, nor would have guessed, since in America as a sports fan, I am constantly expose to basketball, baseball, and football. When it comes to the global marketplace, this should be a sign to companies that soccer stars are more significant than American athletes to the consumers of the world, due to that popularity.

  2. This post shows how important it is to pay attention to the global marketplace. I personally do not watch much soccer or know many famous soccer stars. It is easy to forget that different countries and cultures place an importance on soccer and other sports which is similar to how much Americans love football. Despite the fact that I do not know many soccer payers, I have always known who Cristiano Rinaldo and David Beckham. This proves how famous these two soccer players are, which makes sense why they are among the top 100 famous athletes. The asset these top 100 athletes play into the marketplace is truly astounding. Without their fame, marketers would miss out on crucial advertising opportunities.

  3. What surprises is that there is no baseball player in the top 100. I have heard from one local 2 years before that for some Americans, the top 3 sports in America are football, baseball and hockey. Basketball wasn’t even in his list. However, these years baseball has definitely becoming less popular. One of the problem is that the crazy baseball fans are getting old, and young Americans are more exposed to other sports. It is a serious problem for MBL to find a new marketing strategy to get people back to the baseball stadium.

  4. Soccer being the most popular popular sport in the world would attract a lot of fans, the popularity is the biggest reason why soccer players have more instagram followers than any other sport. Companies take use of this and market their product using sports celebrities that helps them give good business. People like to follow what celebrities do and use and that’s the way industry works.

  5. While this list is indicant of the most popular athletes on a worldwide level, it may not fully reflect the most popular athletes in the United States. For instance, Tom Brady is most likely more popular in the United States than a number of those athletes, the only difference is that his online presence is not as strong worldwide. The top-10 most followed athletes on Instagram is obviously highly influenced by Europe and South America, and if this list were to be of athletes who play in the United States, it would be almost entirely different. Since most firms do not market on an international basis, there is not much to be drawn from this data, unless they’re planning to market on Instagram specifically.

  6. The findings of this list are extremely important to marketers looking to target certain audiences with social media ads and sponsorships. It is clear that this list is heavily influenced by sports fans in Europe and South America, meaning that athletes on this list (and their respective followings) are good starting points for marketers who want to target the demographics that follow soccer stars. Because of these individuals’ global popularity, marketers have the opportunity to reach many geographic regions of their target markets at once.

  7. From the chart above, we can find 9 out of 10 biggest instgram sport stars are soccer players. It is not hard to tell that soccer has became a world most popular sports. World Cup which plays every four years had became a big deal all over the world. The soccer players has the most global fans.

  8. Being an avid instagram user I could totally understand as to why soccer players and soccer in general has the most following.Coming from a soccer family, this sport is the most played/followed sport in the world. This is due to how cheap and easy it is to play this game. All you need is a ball. So when it comes to more poorer countries soccer is the dominant sport.

  9. Living in America my whole life, people would definitely be surprised by this list because sports like basketball, baseball, and football have a bigger audience in this country than soccer. Outside of the U.S., its really soccer than basketball that is popular all over the world. I think one thing that should be considered is how long stars have had an instagram account, as very popular stars like tom brady and kevin durant made an instagram account only earlier this year. All these players in the top ten list have had instagram for several years now.

  10. Although it is very interesting to see how most of the players that made this list are soccer players, I can’t say that I am surprised. While the sport may not be dominant in the United States, it is essentially a lifestyle in other countries. Do to its ability to be played virtually anywhere, as you only need a ball, it is a fun sport that can be played on the streets. I may be biased as I have played soccer since I was a little kid, but the effect of these soccer super stars is very far reaching. For example, the “soccer haircut” based off of players like Christiano Ronaldo, Messi, James as well as the “Bale man-bun” have become iconic looks due to the easy accessibility fans have to their idols and their respective style/look on Instagram.

  11. I personally do not follow famous athletes on Instagram, so I personally don’t keep up with the advertisements on their pages. However, I am aware that many people do use Instagram as a platform to remain updated on the lives of famous people or athletes. Therefore, I understand why firms would want these people to advertise on their social media pages. I think it’s very important, especially for American firms, to be aware of the global marketplace. American sports fans probably wouldn’t have recognized that soccer players are the predominately followed athletes on Instagram, because of how embedded other sports like football are in our society. This post is also crucial for marketers, because it goes to show how important it is to recognize the trends and cultures on a global scale.

  12. I think the post is super relevant, considering the timing, but also because we are college students and it’s assumed that most of us are on a budget. Having a small budget definitely makes holiday shopping difficult, especially when the prices fluctuate so much during the holiday times. I know I am always waiting until I get the best deal. I thought the point about price match policies was a good reminder, because most sales representatives within the store don’t explain the price match policies unless you ask. So that could be super beneficial if they have a bigger sale at a later date. I also think its important to realize how early stores have sales, and also the specific store’s sale tendencies. Some stores don’t have as big black friday sales as they do at other points in the year. So it’s always good to know which stores have the best sales and when, before assuming that the best sales will always take place on black Friday.

  13. If this list were for most popular athletes in the U.S. it would probably be very different. This is sort of an eye opener for me and signifies the importance of having a broader perspective and considering the global environment as a whole. All marketers should consider this as it is applicable in many, if not all industries. Social media such as instagram is a great way to market and observing individuals with the most followers is great for planning and promoting products. Soccer is obviously the most popular sport on a global scale given that 9 of the top 10 athletes on the list are all soccer players. Marketers looking to target audiences in Europe, for example, would benefit from having some of these athletes promote their products. Baseball is popular in the U.S. however on a global scale it really isn’t important to many people which is why baseball players are not on the list.

  14. I find it interesting to read other people’s comments and how they found it shocking or surprising that soccer stars dominate Instagram. As stated before, it’s the most popular sport world wide. It is important to look not only at the perspective as Americans, but as well as international. For example, not many may know who James Rodriguez is here in America, but in Colombia he is the nation’s heartthrob. As a Colombian girl, I love him too and he is my favorite soccer star. His appeal and performance can strike him big sponsorships and deals internationally, but within America’s bubble he may not reach the same amount of success in branding.

  15. Some of the previous comments make very valid observations. I myself am not surprised to the info presented. Soccer is the most popular sport globally and its not even close. It is not surprising that the most popular athletes on Instagram are soccer players. As a result, companies looking to market outside the United States should focus its endorsements to soccer players. The opposite is true inside the USA. American Football is king in popularity, followed by basketball, and baseball. Soccer is not in the top 3. Those companies selling products or services in the USA are going to lean more toward endorsements from popular athletes in these sports.

  16. I follow a lot of sports figures on Instagram and none of them are soccer players. The graph showing how soccer stars are the most popular really puts American sports in perspective.

  17. It’s interesting to see the soccer players being the dominant force within the world of Social Media. I guess since I’m not very “in-tune” with the world of soccer, it would never come off to me as such a big thing. Of course I was stunned to see King James pretty mid-tier on the list, likewise for seeing Ronaldo at the top of the list. All interesting data you wouldn’t normally know about unless you dabbled within all areas of these sports.

  18. I don’t surprise soccer stars are popular in the global market, but I do surprise the difference between soccer players and other sports players. Like tennis and basketball also are worldwide favorite sports, but their Instagram influence is far smaller than soccer. The reason may be soccer stars are more connected with the fashion industry, and they are more likely to create a connection with followers to improve their social media influence.

  19. Due to the popularity of soccer, it is undoubtedly the most popular sports in the world. Therefore, this helps soccer stars own more instagram followers than stars in any other sports area. We cannot ignore the power of the fans and market just grab this chance to promote the sales of specific products by signing soccer celebrity as the spokesperson for brand.

  20. It is not a such surprising thing that the most valuable athlete is soccer athlete. As the data collected from all over the world, soccer is the most popular around the world, with huge number of people playing and interested in it. More people interested in that sport, more valuable the sports athletes are. Also for the brand, choosing a athlete from popular sport means more people will pay attention in it.

  21. I don’t find the popularity of sports players on Instagram surprising at all, and even less the fact that most of the most popular are attractive, international soccer players. Many of these players have gained fame worldwide and have international fans everywhere and have the similar ‘heartthrob’ tendencies of other mainstream celebrities. Each of the sports stars on this list are household names that have a cult following that even those, like myself, who don’t follow sports, would know and recognize. However, I do think that sports stars Instagrams (like Ronaldo, Neymar and Beckham) gain a following from those women who don’t necessarily follow their sport due to their model-like photos. These sports celebrities have a lot in common with celebrities like Justin Bieber and Chris Hemsworth who mostly just post professionally shot, attractive photos of themselves. Instagram is just an extension of one’s self-branding and many celebrities use it as a platform to promote themselves and gather a fanbase.

  22. Im a big fan of soccer so this didn’t surprise me all to much. Cristiano Ronaldo is the king of sports advertising overseas. Not that he would have to worry about money when his playing days are over, but he has a steady flow of income for the rest of his life on advertising alone. The top public figures on social media get paid upwards of 100k or more just for one post. Their following is so large (Cristiano has roughly 115 million on instagram alone, that one post could make their business blow up. The US one of the only countries that don’t care about soccer that much.

  23. It’s not surprising to see so many soccer stars having massive follower counts. Soccer is the most popular and accessible sport in the world; while Americans might gravitate towards other sports, I believe that the global fans of soccer are the the force pushing these soccer stars to the top of the list.

  24. It is a very interesting article, because we all use Instagram and so do my idol. I am so happy he was in the rank, Lewis Hamilton, the best Formula one racing driver in the world. He help a lot on the development of F1 on social media.

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