The Biggest Instagram Sports Stars And Stories Of 2016 – Forbes
Critics howled when Facebook paid $1 billion for Instagram and its 13 employees in 2012, but the photo-sharing site has been on fire since it was launched in October 2010. This year was no different with the brand expected to generate more than $3 billion in ad revenue for Facebook, according to analysts at Credit Swiss Group. Instagram has more than 500 million monthly active users (300 million daily) who share 95 million photos and videos per day.
Musicians are the biggest stars on the platform with Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande all boasting more than 90 million followers. But professional athletes have also flocked to Instagram to share images of their own rich and fabulous lives.
Athletes with large social media followings offer a huge benefit for their endorsement partners. Cristiano Ronaldo generated $176 million for his sponsors in the 12-months ending in June for the mentions and hashtags in his social media posts, according to data from Hookit, which tracks sponsorship value in social and digital media. The hefty tally doesn’t include logo image recognition in Ronaldo’s posts.
Here is a sampling of the biggest sports stars and stories on Instagram in 2016.
The Most-Followed Current Athletes on Instagram
Global soccer stars are the biggest athletes on Instagram with only one of the top 12 most-followed athletes (LeBron James) not playing the Beautiful Game. Floyd Mayweather showed his fans that “Money” isn’t just a nickname this week when he posted a photo on Instagram of the $100 million purse check he received for his May 2015 fight with Manny Pacquiao (his total earnings for the fight topped $240 million).
- Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) – 82.9 million followers
- Neymar (@neymarjr) – 62.6 million
- Lionel Messi (@leomessi) – 60.1 million
- James Rodriguez (@jamesrodriguez10) – 27.2 million
- LeBron James (@kingjames) – 26.4 million
- Gareth Bale (@garethbale11) – 24.6 million
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic (@iamzlatanibrahimovic) – 21.3 million
- Ronaldinho Gaúcho (@ronaldinhooficial) – 18.3 million
- Luis Suarez (@luissuarez9) – 18.1 million
- Karim Benzema (@karimbenzema) – 16.1 million
- David Luiz (@davidluiz_4) – 15.1 million
- Andres Iniesta (@andresiniesta8) – 14.9 million
- Marcelo Vieira (@marcelotwelve) – 14.3 million
- Stephen Curry (@stephencurry30) – 13.9 million
- Floyd Mayweather (@floydmayweather) – 13.8 million
Athletes Who Added The Most Followers In 2016
Ronaldo and Curry both had historic years in their respective sports with Ronaldo leading Real Madrid to the Champions League crown and Curry captaining the Golden State Warriors to the best regular season record in NBA history while winning the MVP trophy. Fans flocked to their Instagram accounts, as both more than doubled their previous follower counts during the year.
- Ronaldo +42 million followers
- Messi +29 million
- Neymar +26 million
- Bale + 13 million
- Rodriguez +11 million
- James + 11 million
- Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) +10 million
- Ibrahimovic +10 million
- Suarez +8 million
- Curry +8 million.
Athletes Joining Instagram in 2016
Several iconic athletes joined Instagram in 2016 with Paul Pogba capturing the most attention with his 10 million followers. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski signed on with his first post featuring a video of his off-season antics, including the “Gronk Party Cruise.” He was the first athlete to use the video-sharing site’s 60-second video option introduced in March for verified accounts. Here are how some other notable athletes introduced themselves to their new Instagram family in 2016.
- Pogba posted a video of himself on a hoverboard
- Pele posted a selfie in New York
- Bo Jackson posted a photo with Lance Armstrong
- Robbie Keane posted a photo of himself on the pitch with “It’s official, I’m on Instagram”
The Most-Liked 2016 Photo From Instagram’s Top 5 Athletes
Elite athletes hoisting championship trophies ranked among the most popular sports photos of 2016. Ronaldo’s image of him kissing the trophy after Portugal won the Euro 2016 crown garnered 3.6 million likes and was the sixth most liked post on all of Instagram this year. Messi had the top video among athletes with a clip of his youngest son walking toward him. The endearing video was liked by 12 million fans and was the third most liked video across Instagram in 2016.
- Ronaldo kissing the trophy after Portugal’s win
- Messi with his enormous dog
- Neymar following Brazil’s Gold Medal in the Olympics
- Rodriguez holding the 2016 UEFA Champions League trophy in the locker room
- LeBron holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy with his Kermit the frog cap
Top #Hashtags for Sports Events, Leagues & Teams
Events That Garnered The Most Mentions On Instagram
- Copa America
- Super Bowl 50
- NBA Finals
Most Instagrammed Global Sports Venues
Madison Square Garden in New York City is the spot where fans geotagged the most photos and videos in 2016 thanks to the heavy rotation of sporting events and concerts at the World’s Most Famous Arena. Wrigley Field got a bump with the Chicago Cubs ending their 107-year World Series drought.
- Madison Square Garden
- Wrigley Field
- Dodger Stadium
- Fenway Park
- Parque Olímpico Rio 2016
- Олимпийский Парк (Sochi Olympic Park)
- Staples Center
- AT&T Park
- Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
- Air Canada Centre
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