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England, Spain Lead the Way on Football Instagram

England, Spain Lead the Way on Football Instagram

With similar numbers, the predominance of certain brands in the world of football is becoming increasingly evident

The Premier League, in England, and La Liga, in Spain, are the two national competitions that generate the most fan interest and, consequently, have the highest audience levels. In addition to the values that clubs and federations from these two countries have obtained over the last few years, their digital performance is yet further clear evidence that these two countries are increasingly becoming hegemonic within the world football scene.

Samba Digital, a sports marketing agency specializing in the internationalization of brands, has analyzed the 50 clubs with the best performances on Instagram. Together, they totaled 15.81 billion interactions in 2022.

The performance of these more than 50 clubs represents, in all, about 29% of the total interactions of the more than 350 teams we monitor across the planet.

Instagram, by the way, is the social media platform with the best digital performance, comprising almost 80% of total club interactions in Brazil and 90% in Chile.

For this survey, we took into account the total number of interactions, engagement rates, new followers and, finally, the total number of followers clubs had on January 1, 2023.

A duel between England and Spain

English and Spanish clubs have combined for more than half of all interactions obtained by the 50 clubs that lead the category on Instagram in 2022. Overall, 13 clubs – nine English and four Spanish – hold 50.6% of the total. Eight billion of the 15.8 billion interactions are from these clubs.

Despite the English clubs’ dominance, the total number of interactions obtained by the duo of Real Madrid and Barcelona is far superior to the others. In relation to Manchester United, who rank third in terms of interactions, Barcelona, in second place, have 20% more.

In this scenario, English and Spanish clubs almost equal in their being represented in the digital sphere.

The popularity of Real Madrid and Barcelona is nothing new, of course. Since the 1990s, when they started bringing in the biggest stars in  football; players like Romário, Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Raul, Figo, Rivaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Xavi, among others, the Spanish duo has expanded borders.

With the development of broadcasting and the acceleration that the Internet has brought to the world in terms of globalization, the two Spanish teams’ popularity has expanded beyond their regions, and their digital performances are proof of this.

According to data from Eurostat, in 2018, Madrid had 3.22 million inhabitants. If the club were limited only to its region, it would be necessary for every citizen of the city to interact 646 times a year with the club’s Instagram.

José Colagrossi, marketing director for Corinthians – the Brazilian team that ranked 11th in the 2022 Interactions Ranking – highlights a factor that adds a lot to the Spaniards’ performance: Latin America’s passion for football and the fact that their main language is Spanish.

“The data does not come as a surprise. In addition to the size of the two clubs, which have long been in the spotlight, there is the Latin American factor in the analysis. Spanish-speaking Latin America – which is everything but Brazil – has been closely linked to Spanish football for cultural and linguistic reasons. The weight of Latin America makes a difference, as they follow, comment and engage with Spanish football, which helps in this expansion.”

“In addition to the cultural and linguistic components, another factor that we need to consider is that most of the American continent has football as its main sport,” Colagrossi added.

“Football is big in China, Korea and throughout Southeast Asia. But it reaches another level of interest in Latin America. With the exception, perhaps, of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, where there is also attention paid to baseball, Spanish football still reigns”.

If nothing changes, dominance will continue

A change in this scenario is unlikely to happen in the near future. One of the ways in which we can analyze the continuity of this predominance is through the numbers of followers gained in 2022.

In this regard, the numbers that show the predominance of English and Spanish sides suggests that “football colonization” is only increasing

The two countries held 57.8% of the total number of new followers that the clubs surveyed obtained over the past year:

Added to this, the clubs on the list jump from 13 (with the most interactions) to 16 if we rank the clubs in terms of followers gained:

Newcastle, who rank 41st in followers gained on Instagram in 2022 – totaled 338,000 followers in 2022. For comparison, before being acquired by the Saudis, the club had an average of 8,000 new followers per month.

This scenario is further explained by Wagner Leitzke, Social Media Manager at Samba Digital. He understands that the two countries already have the attention of the football world and that, despite there being room for new fans the medium-sized clubs in these countries benefit from the attention already given to the big ones. With that, they gain awareness not only for participating in a major league, but also for their originality in the digital world.

“It is no mystery or surprise that English and Spanish clubs have always had great power on social media, given the primary interest of the international football community towards these clubs. This is a culture that is difficult to reverse in the short term, for as much as other clubs and leagues seek to move into this space, smaller clubs in Spain and England also can work within this awareness and sometimes even achieve more impact than the biggest clubs in their countries, due to an editorial approach that allows more creative freedom,” said Leitzke.

Proof of this is Brighton, currently sixth in the Premier League. The club, which hails from an English seaside resort town south of London, had four posts with the highest engagement rates for the month of January 2023.

In addition to Brighton, Aston Villa are also among the 15+ teams that had posts with the most engagement from their followers, further proof of the opportunities present for clubs operating outside of the highest echelons of the game in England.