What sports teams have the largest social media footprints in Australia?


Shunt’s 50Mil project has compiled social media footprint rankings for national sports organisations (NSO’s), major championships, state sporting associations (SSA’s) and more than a 100 national teams. See how the sports social media landscape is evolving and who came out on top in each list here.

Cricket takes top honours at all levels of Australian sport

At every major organisational level of Australian sport cricket ranks at or near the top when analysing combined social media footprints that include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Shunt’s 50Mil project currently tracks 111 national teams competing within Australia or at an international level. The team with the largest footprint is the Australian cricket team (men) who have 3.4 million followers achieved with a solitary Facebook account.

By adding the social media footprint of Cricket.com.au at over six million with Cricket Australia the combined tally is just short of seven million. But it doesn’t end there as Cricket again takes the number two slot courtesy of the super-successful Big Bash League. In assessing the states, another cricket property is well clear of all its rivals around the country – Cricket NSW.

Facebook driving huge follower footprint for Holden Racing

Who’s the number two team at a national level? The answer won’t surprise motorsport fans when we say Holden Racing. The bulk of its 1.3 million following is derived from Facebook with Instagram and Twitter accounts adding comparatively little to an impressive 1.2 million count. The Red Bull backed squad isn’t the only representative from the V8 Supercar series in our elite group with Nissan Motorsport also making an appearance in the top ten at number seven.

NRL’s State of Origin attracts huge digital audiences as is demonstrated by the state representative Maroons (3rdth) and Blues (9th) who between them command a social media fanbase of over 2 million including the NSWRL Instagram account (this account has been included within the SSA footprint and has a significant bearing on its ranking).

A second national side representing Australia on the international stage scores highly with the Socceroos footprint in excess of 1 million. While Victorian AFL clubs Collingwood, Essendon, Hawthorn and Carlton join a select group of national teams with a combined following in excess of 500,000.

See-sawing platform battle between the NRL and AFL

In relative terms there is isn’t an awful lot between the NRL and AFL (about 170,000 followers to be exact). However, there are distinct audience strengths and weaknesses for each code depending on the social platform. The NRL firmly has the upper-hand on Facebook with a 475,000 advantage. The tables are then turned for the remainder with Twitter (AFL up 197,000), Instagram (AFL in front by 97,000) and to a lesser degree on LinkedIn (AFL has more than 8,500 additional followers) all favouring the AFL.

The V8 Supercar series is fifth largest with over 1 million fans as the last of a select group with a seven-figure footprint. Another national championship holds sixth in the A-League, thanks to a social fanbase of just over 600,000.

Surfing Australia is one of several governing bodies monitored at a national and state level that have established satellite digital channels. There are in fact three separate entities currently meeting the needs of niche audiences within the sport. Surf Groms is aimed squarely at the next generation of surfers with a footprint of 11,000. Surfing’s high-performance centre has gathered a following of 17,000 while mySurf.TV acts as a portal for the sports huge selection of videos has attracted a sizeable audience of 133,000.

The FFA uses Twitter to great effect with 136,000 following football’s every move while also having a strong LinkedIn presence of over 11,000. During the 2016 Olympics, the Australian Paralympics Committee enjoyed a significant audience uptick across all channels while only a few thousand fans split 16th placed Cycling Australia through to Hockey Australia in 20th.

(*) Cricket Australia count combines the Cricket.com.au and Cricket Australia social media accounts

(**) Surfing Australia count includes satellite social media accounts – HP Surfing Centre, mySURF.tv and Surf Groms

How many social channels should we use? Depends on where you are…..

The number of channels used is typically a reflection of (potential) audience size, available resources and the overall sophistication of a sports digital strategy. These factors vary considerably across the country which explains stark differences in social media channel adoption rates.

It’s not surprising that News South Wales and Victoria, the two states with the largest population centres also have the highest number of sports using all four channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) at 23%. Bucking the trend of more population = more social channels at number three and incidentally with the highest percentage of sports using three channels is Western Australia. This could be due to a higher level of sophistication within the local industry or a more aggressive approach to engaging audiences via social channels as can be seen in the state’s performance in the top 50 SSA’s (see below).

At the other end of the spectrum is a state you might not expect – Queensland. Only 9% of its state sporting organisations use all four channels with 45% only accessing one. This could be due to a prevailing trend within the state sports industry where one account (typically Facebook) is seen as being more than enough to meet audience engagement demands.

Analysing how the territories apply the various platforms on offer it’s easy to see the impact of a small population catchment and limited resources. The ACT actually does better than South Australia and Tasmania for four-channel adoption rates at 7% while also having close to half of its sports with no social networks at all. Equally, the Northern Territory has 30% of its sport sector using one channel and nearly 60% with no online social presence.

Which state has the best performing sports on social media?

Rather a loaded question and it depends on how you look at it. If it’s the number of entries in 50Mils list of the top 50 then Victoria takes the honours with 15 sports making the cut followed by New South Wales (12), Queensland (10) and Western Australia (8).

Fifty could be viewed as a fairly long list (50Mil actually tracks 450 socially active SSA’s in total) so what if it was narrowed down to just the top ten? In that case, Western Australia comes out on top with three entries – the WACA (3rd), Surfing WA (4th) and Surf Life Saving WA (9th). Followed by New South Wales (two entries – one of which is NSWRL who are closely aligned to the Blues State of Origin team), Queensland (two) then Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania (one each).

Another approach is to take the cumulative ranking score for each state and divide it by the number of entries. In this case it’s a photo-finish. The ‘lowest average’ score is from New South Wales (24.25), then WA (25.25), South Australia (27.00), Queensland (29.20) and Victoria (34.27). Single entries from Tasmania and Northern Territory have not been included.

In assessing overall performance including channel adoption rates we reckon Western Australia has the edge particularly when you consider its smaller population and potential audience when compared to New South Wales (2nd) and Victoria (3rd).

What’s your thoughts?

Want to see how your favourite sportsperson ranks on Instagram?

Athletes – Men Click here

Athletes – Women Click here


  • Survey period for NSO’s and national teams – June 2017
  • Survey period for SSA’s – April to June 2017
  • National championships; A-League, ABL, BBL, NBL, Super Netball, V8 Supercars, W-BBL, W-NBL and Women’s A-League
  • National Teams; AOC, Australian Cricket Team, Australian Kangaroos, Diamonds, Hockeyroos, Kookaburras, Matildas, Socceroos and Southern Stars



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