Sports fans flock to social media to enhance their experiences — which sports publishers are scoring the biggest hits? 

As we in the NewsWhip office watch this year’s Euros play out with some captivating twists, we turned to look at which sports publishers are gaining wins of their own.
We recently looked at the top political publishers and the top fashion publishers on Facebook. The last time we looked at sports publishers was last November.
This analysis focuses on content from the publishers’ websites, and the content’s distribution and engagement across Facebook and Twitter. We looked at content published from April 1st to June 28th, 2016. The data comes from Spike, our content discovery platform.

spring 2016 sports publishers

Goal steals the show with Facebook likes, while ESPN reigns supreme in Facebook shares and comments.
Over on Twitter, ESPN and Goal again triumphed. ESPN had over 4 million twitter shares to Goal’s 1.5 million and Bleacher Report’s 1.48 million.
Goal was also the producer of the most content, with 87,460 articles from their domain. This makes sense as they are a soccer/association football focused publisher, and both Copa America and the UEFA Euro Championships were the talk of June.
Let’s dive into the content trends.

Goal gets big hits from soccer superstars

As we’ve seen before with sports, and from our recent analysis of UEFA players, content that focuses on beloved athletes, gets a lot of engagement.
Goal’s recent successes have been from articles that were about soccer superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Zidane, and more.
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This article was the top content from Goal in the duration we analyzed, about Neymar meeting a wax statue of himself. The article drove over 506 shares, 49,000 likes, and 178 comments on Facebook. 
Goal’s success also comes from the sheer amount of content they produced. With nearly four times the amount of content that ESPN produced, there’s a greater opportunity for more engagement.
ESPN, which covers a wider variety of sports, also saw high engagement from the same tactics. As the publisher with the most Facebook share and comments, their most-shared and commented articles were also about sports champions.

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ESPN is victorious with video content

Video has become a winning medium for engagement. For our top sports publisher, ESPN, eight of their top ten most engaging articles were videos.
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In fact, ESPN videos had the most best performing videos on our list. Their top videos are short, action-packed (not talking heads!), and offer fans exciting glimpses into the players and sports they’re most passionate about.

top video sports publishers spring 2016

Other top videos came from DeadSpin, publishing Prince’s halftime performance at the Super Bowl, one from Sports Illustrated about Lionel Messi and Steph Curry’s bromance, and men reading terrible tweets to female sportswriters from USA Today’s For The Win.
Video is a natural fit for sports. The game easily becomes content, as well as analyses, interviews, and inside peeks.

Social issues spill over into sports

Beyond publishers’ successes, we looked at which individual stories have driven the most buzz in the sports world. These were the top ten most engaging articles across Facebook since April 1st.

top sports articles spring 2016

The biggest sports-related content from publishers since April 1st shows some interesting insights.
Social issues make the list in several places. By far, the highest engaging article was about the banning of Brock Turner from USA Swimming following his sexual assault conviction. The article saw over 130,700 likes, 13,200 shares, and 16,800 comments on Facebook. Turner again makes the list at number eight.
[fb_pe url=”https://www.facebook.com/foxsports/posts/10155003332274552″ bottom=”30″]
Other articles in the top ten were about sexist tweets to female sportswriters, the first woman to manage a men’s professional baseball team, and wage discrimination for female soccer players.
Three articles focus on celebrities who have passed away recently, Muhammed Ali and Prince. These articles success come from the nostalgia they sparked across the social web.
Fan-favorites take a bulk of the list as well. Several of the articles are about Stephen Curry, along with LeBron James, Lionel Messi, and Michael Jordan.
As one would expect, sports that gets the most engagement tends to be the sports that are in season. Take a free trial of Spike to discover the sports content getting fans buzzing right now.

Notable performances on other platforms

While the New York Times’ sports content didn’t feature into our top ten sports publishers on Facebook, they did perform the best out of our sports publishers on LinkedIn. They had 37,916 engagements to ESPN’s 30,910 and Sports Illustrated’s 9,773.
This shows that even sports content has a place on LinkedIn, the usually business-minded platform.
On Pinterest, four of the top five most-pinned sports articles were about Muhammed Ali and his legacy.
Tailoring your content for your target audience on each platform is vital, but producing consistently good content is key. To keep your fans passionate and loyal, it’s vital to stay ahead and know what stories will engage them. 

Catch the content driving engagement for sports with a free trial of Spike