TikTok is growing faster than any other marketing platform online right now. Sports teams are flocking to TikTok to engage with their loyal fans and gain new ones with trendy, engaging content. But what teams stand out for their innovative approach to TikTok? In Conviva’s TikTok Benchmark Report, we dove into the top teams and leagues across the world to see who is making the biggest impact on social’s most trendy platform.
Record Growth Across Teams and Leagues
2021 was a landmark year for TikTok across industries, but especially for sports. It seems like every sports team flocked to TikTok last year and some were able to expand their audience massively despite the flood of sports content on the platform. Tottenham Hotspurs, Champions League, and Manchester United were all able to increase their following by more than 10 million followers in 2021 as measured by our 2022 TikTok Benchmark and Strategy Guide.
And that astounding growth was true across the world of soccer. Of the 9 sports leagues we analyzed, the Premier League (3.2 million), Ligue 1 (2.1 million), and La Liga (1.7 million) all had the highest average followers of any league. With TikTok’s hyper personalized For You page, teams must experiment with a variety of themes and content styles to land on someone’s For You page and experience that level of audience growth.
US teams also experienced some strong audience growth in 2021. The Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Kansas City Chiefs, and Dallas Cowboys were all listed in the top 25 followed sports teams in 2021. While European soccer teams seem to have a winning strategy for TikTok growth, US sports teams haven’t been able to reach that same level of audience growth and engagement.
Leagues Are Winning
One crucial finding was that Sports Leagues actually grew significantly more than their respective teams. Sports leagues, on average, increased by nearly 1 million followers over 2021 compared to around 600k for sports team.
So how did they do it? The answer might come from TikTok’s algorithm. Teams act like a feeder system to their League accounts. If you follow or support a team, it’s likely you’re going to get served content from the respective league on your For You page. In that way, any growth that a team experiences in their TikTok audience will likely mean growth for that league account.
Moving forward, we can see that same feeder model begin to be adopted between teams and their respective players. Players will begin to have a larger presence on TikTok and we can expect their respective teams to reap the benefits of that extra exposure from their players’ TikTok content. Expect teams, leagues, and players to begin to collaborate on and coordinate their TikTok content to optimize the exposure their accounts receive and grow their audiences through association.
European Football Reigns Supreme
Across the board, European football teams saw the most success with their TikTok strategies in 2021. European Football leagues have been much more successful in building audiences on TikTok than any American league. The Average European football team has nearly 4x more followers than any American sports team.
What strategies are driving that growth? Focusing on players and community building seem to be the keys to success. European football stars help to strengthen the position of their respective teams. PSG is the most followed team in all of sports, with 25 million followers on TikTok, and much of that can be attributed to highlighting their top players like Lionel Messi whose star power helps PSG grow their own influence.
Fans want to see another side of their favorite players. Offering a look into the personalities and lives of their top players lets fans feel like they’re getting exclusive, behind the scenes access to their favorite players and helps teams grow their engagement with their loyal fanbase with new, exciting content campaigns.
Comments are Key
Overall, community building seems to be a key strategy for growth on the platform. Engaging in the comments section is one way to encourage community conversation and build an active fanbase on TikTok. Commenting and conversing with fans in comments is a great strategy to add to a team’s brand authenticity and make fans feel like they have exclusive access to their favorite teams. While other platforms are much more formal and curated in their content, TikTok is the place to engage casually with fans and create a community around your team.
Tom Weingarten, Head of Social Media at Overtime says commenting is a crucial part of their TikTok strategy:
“We’ve aimed to do a really good job of always communicating with our followers, making sure they know there are people behind the account and it’s not just some company. We want to grow that community as big as possible, which is why we spend a lot of time in the comments section across all of our social platforms responding to our followers. We love that there is a certain expectation that when people comment, there is a good chance this verified account will reply.”
TikTok’s pledge to sports leagues has always been a promise to deliver sports content to a new generation of fans. The price of admission was they would have to change the way they produced content. Highlights, beautifully edited pictures, and shout outs from the stars no longer cut it. Content on TikTok has to be designed from the ground up to entertain and amuse in a mobile first environment. Now, with many teams having several years on the platform, those who have made TikTok content a priority are becoming the sport’s brands of the future.
For more TikTok sports insights read our 2022 TikTok Benchmark and Strategy Guide for Brands available here.