We rank the biggest sports brands and publishers and Facebook, from the New York Times to WWE. 

For the past few month, our rankings of the biggest sites on Facebook have featured sports publishers heavily. It’s no surprise that some of the most popular content on Facebook every month is consistently from sports publishers.
For the first time, we decided to take a closer look at the biggest sports sites on Facebook. For these rankings, we looked at the most shared sports sites in our database during September.
Here’s what we found:
– Bleacher Report is the most shared sports site on Facebook, with just under 1 million shares for the month,
– Sports brands like the NFL, NBA and MLB are often seeing more engagement on their own content than the regular sports publishers,
– Wresting, Baseball and American Football were among the most popular sports on Facebook in September.
Based on total shares of their content in September, these were the top 10 sports on Facebook. All data is via our Spike dashboard.
At the top is Bleacher Report, with almost a million shares of their stories in September. Their two most popular areas of coverage are American Football and Wrestling, with both accounting for significant numbers of engagements on content for the month.
24/7 Sports, a live sports site also does extremely well, with over 7.1 million total interactions for September.
The sports sections of many of the bigger general publishers also featured. Highest was Fox News, in second place with over 757,000 shares. The New York Times, Guardian and BBC also feature high up in the list. It’s interesting to note the overall level of engagement that sports content contributes to these big publishers’ monthly totals. For the Daily Mail, sports content contributed almost a quarter of Facebook engagements.

Sports Brands Challenge the Publishers

Another interesting development in this area is the strong performance of the sports sites themselves. MLB, Baseball’s flagship site in the US. They had over 326,000 shares on their stories in September.
Likewise, the NFL’s site performs strongly on Facebook, with over 1.6 million engagements on their September articles. Along with MLB, the NFL has become a major publisher in their own right. In August, they signed a two-year deal with Twitter to show pro football highlights in users’ timelines.
[bctt tweet=”.@NFL and @MLB were two of the most shared sports sites on Facebook in September: “]
We’ll be watching to see how these sites continue to push their own content on social. According to a Pew report from earlier this year, 55% of US Facebook users regularly see posts about sports, higher than business, science and weather content. It’s no surprise then that big sports names like NFL have some of the widest fanbases on Facebook, and makes even more sense for them to continue pushing their stories, reports, and video highlights directly to the audience.

Likes Make up the Bulk of Sporting Facebook Engagements

In the past we’ve seen that sports publishers tend to attract a higher ratio of likes than comments and shares on Facebook. Here’s a chart we made earlier this year showing what Bleacher Report’s engagement breakdown looked like compared to sites focussing on different content:
We think that’s largely down to a behavioral tic that sees readers react to a sports headline by acknowledging it through a casual like, rather than sharing the story from the site, or even commenting on it in their news feed.
In the top chart, we ranked the publishers by shares alone. But looking at the publishers when ranked by overall engagements (below), the composition of the top sites changes somewhat.
When we calculated the percentage of interactions as Likes for the top Sports sites, these five stood out:
– Goal.com: 96%
– TheScore.com: 88%
– MLB.com: 87%
– Bleacherreport.com: 86%
– Uproxx.com: 85%
Going a bit closer, it’s easy to see why.
Most of Goal.com’s most liked stories in September reference famous sports stars like Messi and Rooney by name. It’s probable that fans see the name and ‘Like’ as a casual gesture on the story, rather than engaging any further with the content.
Here’s something for social media editors at sports sites to keep in mind: How do you combine maintaining a healthy level of referrals with making sure that your social subscribers are happy with what you’re posting on Facebook?
Despite this, it’s likely that Bleacher Report won’t mind too much what form their engagement comes in on Facebook. As of February, an impressive 40% of their traffic comes directly to their homepage, indicating that the site has many loyal readers.
Finally, this data doesn’t include numbers on native content, such as videos or images.

Where Does the Data Come From? 

All the data comes from Spike, our content discovery platform. Spike tracks the stories, videos and more that matter around the world in real time – Sign up for a free trial today.
Figures for ESPN.com were unavailable due to a data collection issue. 


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