Celebrities, including sports superstars, have made Twitter a cheap and effective public relations tool. For this reason, it isn't very surprising that most of the top sports organizations have set up their own Twitter accounts to make the most out of the Internet's most widely-used social network.
Sports fans, in turn, were quick to follow the Twitter accounts of their favorite sports organizations both to show their support and to receive the latest sports-related updates. This has transformed Twitter into a free and quick channel for sports information, attracting even more users and allowing the microblogging giant to shore up an even bigger share of the social networking market. In fact, Facebook has recently made an attempt to encroach on Twitter's territory by buying a sports data streaming startup company.
Whether or not Facebook will be successful in their new sports information endeavor remains to be seen. But with millions of followers already glued to the Twitter feeds of their favorite sports organizations, it's going to be difficult to direct sports fans in another social network's direction.
Here are ten of the richest sports organizations that have racked up the greatest number of Twitter followers:
10 LA Lakers - Net Worth: $1 Billion
Because the Los Angeles Lakers have appeared in the most NBA finals (31), it's not surprising that the team has the highest number of Twitter followers among all NBA teams. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the franchise has in its fold one of the most popular basketball players of all time, Kobe Bryant.
In fact, all of the top three most favourited tweets from the LA Lakers account have been about Bryant:
With Bryant recently committing to be a Laker until the 2015-2016 season, it's likely that the NBA team currently leading the Twitter followers race will continue to remain the leader for at least a few more years.
9 Premier League - Net Worth: $1.3 Billion
In 1992, when clubs in the Football League First Division decided to break away from The Football League to take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal, many fans were displeased. However, now that that broadcasting deal is worth more than $1.3 billion as of the 2013-2014 season, no one would dare call the move made 21 years ago a bad one. In fact, the Premier League is today the most-watched football league in the world, broadcast in 643 million homes. With such a huge viewership, it's only fitting that the Premier League Twitter account is among the most followed sports accounts in the world.
Judging from the Premier League's most-favourited tweet, it appears that fans follow the account not only for results updates but also to relive some of the league's most memorable moments. Here's the account's most favorited tweet:
8 World Wrestling Entertainment - Net Worth: $2.2 Billion
Many haters of the WWE, who love to point out that the wrestling featured on its shows is scripted, don't get the point. The WWE has not managed to remain popular for over 60 years because fans believe professional wrestling is real. Fans have continued to support the WWE because they are entertained by it, and these fans have certainly shown their love by following the organization's Twitter account in droves.
Unfortunately, some of its most popular tweets are also the saddest ones:
Although the WWE is usually less somber than its most popular tweets, the outpouring of emotions for its superstars that have passed away prove just how beloved the company is to its fans.
7 FC Barcelona - Net Worth: $2.6 Billion
With its 10.7 million Twitter followers, FC Barcelona is Twitterdom's 63rd most-followed account and the most-followed sports organization account in the world. In fact, aside from this English version account of the club, there's a Spanish version with 5.8 million followers and a Catalan version with 4 million followers. Without a doubt, the fact that Barca is the most successful club in Spain (83 titles won overall) and is the #1 team in the UEFA club rankings encourages users to follow it on Twitter. With over 48 million fans on Facebook and 6 million on Google+, FC Barcelona is considered to have the largest fanbase among all sports teams across all social networks.
As of this moment, the most retweeted and favorited post on the account marks the decision of a football superstar to join the club in May of 2013:
That superstar is of course none other than Neymar.
Perhaps, fans appreciate the FC Barcelona Twitter account because it echoes their emotions while watching games. Here's an example:
For as long as FC Barcelona's account can continue to reflect the sentiments of the team's fans, it's easy to imagine that it will attract more and more followers.
6 Real Madrid C.F. - Net Worth: $3.3 Billion
With its annual turnover of $701.5 million, Real Madrid is the world's richest football club in terms of earnings. Fortunately, it has a record that matches its financial wealth, the club winning a record 32 La Liga titles, 18 Copas del Rey, 9 Supercopas de España, 1 Copa Eva Duarte, and 1 Copa de la Liga. Furthermore, in international competition, Real Madid has won a record 9 European Cup/UEFA Champions League titles and 3 Intercontinental Cups, along with 2 UEFA Cups and 1 UEFA Super Cup.
Of course, sports fans love winners, and football aficionados have certainly shown their love for Real Madrid by following its Twitter account in huge numbers. In fact, aside from the more than 9.7 million followers the club's main Twitter account has, it also has another English account with more than 2.9 million followers.
So far, the most favorited and retweeted post of Real Madrid's main account is:
The signing of superstar Gareth Bale was long-awaited by Real Madrid fans and has reportedly broken the record for transfer price, the cost of the transaction reportedly being €100 million ($136.7 million).
5 NBA - Net Worth: $4 Billion
The National Basketball Association is widely considered to be the world's premier men's professional basketball league. In fact, based on the league's average annual salary per player, NBA athletes are the world's best-paid sportsmen. Despite this fact, however, its players have had several disagreements with the league's management, resuling in entire seasons nearly being cancelled.
July 1, 2011 was the fourth and most recent instance. The owners began the work stoppage due to disagreements regarding the division of the league's revenue and the structure of the salary cap and luxury tax. As more and more games were cancelled due to the inability to reach a compromise, fans feared that the whole season would be lost. However, both sides started to find common talking points, and fans were relieved when the NBA's Twitter account posted an important update about the progress that had been made, resulting in one of the most retweeted and favourited tweets from the account:
The 2011 season eventually began on Christmas day.
4 MLB - Net Worth: $6.3 Billion
In 2013, the MLB inked two new eight-year national TV contracts. One of them was with Turner Sports for $2.8 billion and the other was with Fox for $4 billion. While those amounts may seem unrecoverable, Turner Sports and Fox will still probably turn a profit from selling advertisements for their broadcasts since the MLB has the highest season attendance of any sports league in the world. In fact, MLB fans have made the league's Twitter account one of the most-followed among sports organizations.
One of the ways that the MLB has kept its Twitter followers entertained has been allowing certain guest moderators to manage the league's account. In May of 2013, it was the turn of famous Twitter comedian Rob Delaney to take control, and the result was some of the account's most retweeted and favorited tweets. Here are some of them:
3 Sports Center - Net Worth: $15 Billion
When Lee Leonard co-anchored the first episode of ESPN's SportsCenter in September of 1979, he started the show by saying "If you're a fan, what you will see in the next minutes, hours, and days to follow may convince you that you've gone to sports heaven." That opening line proved auspicious. Although SportsCenter was originally conceptualized to air once every day as a summary of each sporting day's scores and highlights, because of its popularity, it is now shown up to twelve times every 24 hours.
With such wide exposure as a show with the goal of keeping sports fans up to date, Sports Center has been able to lure 6.4 million Twitter users to follow its account that tweets updates on the progress and results of sporting events all over the world. Surprisingly, however, the account's most popular tweets aren't straight-up sports updates, but rather meaningful statements and observations about sports and sports-related events. Here are some of them:
2 2. NFL - Net Worth: $35 Billion
Has the NFL taken over baseball as America's new national pastime? If the most recent numbers from Nielsen Media Research are to be believed, it has. In 2013, the NFL has accounted for 30 of the 31 most-watched shows since Labor Day, and for 15 straight weeks, one NFL game or another has been the most viewed program on national television. In fact, 20 NFL games this season have been watched by at least 25 million viewers.
It seems fitting, therefore, that the NFL is the richest sports league in the world with its net worth of $35 billion. Also not surprisingly, it's mostly memorable moments from games that the NFL's Twitter followers have retweeted the most. Here's an example:
And it's another Tweet from the NFL's Twitter account that best captures why sports fans would consider a flipping touchdown such a big deal:
1 ESPN - Net Worth: $40 Billion
The 80% Walt Disney Company-owned Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) has repeatedly been criticized for being biased in its sports coverage. In particular, the station has been called-out for its supposed "love affair" with superstar teams like the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, and with superstar players like Brett Favre, Lebron James, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and (for a short period of time) Tim Tebow. However, ESPN has addressed such accusations by explaining that the industry is ratings-driven, making heavy coverage of superstar teams and athletes a natural strategy for such a business.
Browsing through the posts from ESPN's Twitter account, a fan will notice that many of its tweets are indeed about superstar teams and athletes:
However, other tweets show why it would also seem quite unfair for the relationship to be labelled a "love affair". Here's one example:
In any case, ESPN's claim of programming its coverage based on ratings might not be working. Reports show that ESPN's ratings are considerably down in 2013. But with such a dominant position in the sports broadcasting world, ESPN is likely to stay #1 for many more years to come.