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Which Instagram Tactics Do the Most-Followed Sports Teams Use?

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are two of the top three most valuable sports teams in the world. The rivalry between the two is arguably the greatest in sports history, since both clubs have always competed head-to-head. The clubs have a global fan base and are the world’s two most-followed sports teams on social media, led by two of the most popular athletes on social media, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

Across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, these clubs combined have over 287.4M followers.

Here is a breakdown by channel:FC Barca_Real Mad TotalFans-01

While both clubs have a strong presence across all their active social platforms, we’re going to dive deep on Instagram. According to Brandon Gayle, Instagram’s head of global sports partnerships,

Of Instagram’s more than 500 million users, more than 165 million are seen as sports fans, and those fans follow on average eight different sports-related accounts on the platform.

That means that one in three users on Instagram is a sports fan — and an avid fan, at that.

In this data period, on average in a day, FC Barcelona received over 2.2M engagements and Real Madrid received over 1.2M engagements.

Instagram in Numbers

Source: Simply Measured
Source: Simply Measured

With the number of Instagram users growing every day, it is more important than ever for FC Barcelona and Real Madrid to have engaged audiences to expand their brands. Let’s look at how FC Barcelona and Real Madrid perform on Instagram and which tactics work for them.FC Barca_Real Mad Engagement-REV-01

During the data period examined, FC Barcelona generated 1.8X more engagement than Real Madrid. That’s because FC Barcelona posted 2.4X more content for their fans as compared to Real Madrid.Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 11.20.11 AM

However, Real Madrid scored the goal for the most engaging post during this period. Their post about Cristiano Ronaldo winning the award for UEFA Best Player in Europe 2015/16 generated over 1.1M in engagement.

Real Madrid also scored over FC Barcelona on Engagement per Post: 567,549 for Real Madrid VS. 416,590 for FC Barcelona.

Segmenting the data by post type to analyze what content worked for the clubs, we see that for both clubs, photos generate more engagement than videos. As mentioned before, Real Madrid has a much higher per-post engagement for both types of content.FC Barca_Real Mad-Chart-01

Tactics That Are Driving Engagement 

Both these clubs have used influential athletes from their teams on Instagram in their posts, and shared images/videos of the athletes’ training & fitness regimen.

🆙💪🆙 #RMCity 🇵🇹 @Cristiano #HalaMadrid

A post shared by #CHAMP13NS 🏆 (@realmadrid) on

Such videos resonate with fans, as they provide a glimpse of their favorite sports stars’ lifestyle, making them feel close and at the same time offering serious workout motivation.

FC Barcelona has been creative at driving engagement using a wide range of content, including the following:

  1. Quizzes: For example, sharing a photo of a tattooed hand and asking users to identify the person. It is a very engaging tactic, as real football fans would take pride in being able to identify the sportsman.

  1. Encouraging fans to wish a Happy Birthday to athletes.

  1. Updating fans about the new faces on the team.

  1. Using comparative content: Sharing photos of athletes’ numbered shirts and asking which one is their favorite.

Posts that have quizzes or wish Happy Birthday or are asking for an opinion convey a sense of urgency to the audience. If you see a quiz, you want to reply to it; if you see that it’s your favorite athlete’s birthday, you want to wish them Happy Birthday and get involved that moment to be a part of the conversation. All of these spark engagement.

5. Cross-Channel Promotion on Instagram

FC Barcelona uses hashtags in their Instagram profile, and this channel for them seems to be totally dedicated to driving engagement with the audience. For the same reason, they also have provided the link to their Facebook page in their Instagram profile.

Also, 9 out of their top 10 posts from the data period mention Lionel Messi, who is one of the most successful football players of all time and who therefore drives a lot of engagement for the club.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, is more focussed on using Instagram to drive traffic to their web store via the link in their Instagram profile, and they also mention the new arrivals in the profile.

They mainly connect with the fans around match score updates:

Real Madrid 2-1 Celta ⚽️ 60' @alvaromorata #RMLiga #HalaMadrid

A post shared by #CHAMP13NS 🏆 (@realmadrid) on

They also post training images/videos of their players:

🌱👌⚽️ #RMCity 🇫🇷 @karimbenzema #HalaMadrid

A post shared by #CHAMP13NS 🏆 (@realmadrid) on

Real Madrid has also re-grammed content from fans as part of their user-generated content strategy. Re-gramming user-generated content gives brands fresh material to share with their audience. This also encourages audience engagement by motivating followers to post content worthy of being re-shared.

Just as these two teams strategize differently for their games, they have adopted very different strategies to reach out to their fans and to engage with them on Instagram. Which strategies will you incorporate in your own brand’s plan? Let us know in the comments below.

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Tripti Shrivastava

I'm a Social Media Analyst at Simply Measured. I love food, music, movies, and long walks. Let's talk about social media data!

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