Sport tech company Horizm has released its latest report uncovering the latest trends in digital sports fan engagement.

The ‘2024 Digital Value of Fans’ report explores how top leagues, teams, athletes and sports brands successfully connected with their target audiences in the past year, highlighting the diverse communication channels used to achieve this. 

To gather the information used in the report, Horizm has tracked 12,000 rights holders and brands, more than 11 million social media posts and 1 trillion impressions, utilising Intelligenz to compare performances over 12 months.

Most notably, the report highlights the rapid growth of the Saudi Pro League and in particular, the football club Al Nassr. The league is currently the 13th biggest league and Al Nassr has placed as the 18th biggest team in the world in terms of social media followers.

This places the Saudi league ahead of the likes of the NFL, the Championship (England’s second-tier), the MLS and Liga MX, the Mexican league, in terms of audience. The league also trumps the MLS, Liga MX and Championship in total value generated from social media posts.

Furthermore, Saudi football club Al Nassr has also shot up the rankings, taking 18th place in total audience, overtaking German-giant Borussia Dortmund and Turkish football team, Galatasaray, which both have renowned home followings.

According to Transfermarkt, the Saudi team averages 19,609 spectators a match, which compared to Dortmund’s average attendance of  81,287 leaves a lot of questions to be asked.

However, these questions can all be answered with the name, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese star made the move to Al Nassr in December 2022, since then he has acted as the main catalyst for the league’s growth.

This comes as no surprise, as according to Horizm, Ronaldo tops its audience ranking, its total value generated ranking and value per fan ranking, proving the Saudi’s ‘buy the best’ approach a successful one.

Horizm’s report also shares some predictable findings, such as the Premier League generating the largest audience ( 952 million) as well its value generated table with €541m, followed by the NFL with €530m.

Three major American sports (NFL, NHL and MLB) were able to generate more value from their fans on social media, mainly driven by the geographic focus of their followers in the US (where CPMs are higher), compared to any other leagues in the world. 

In terms of teams, Real Madrid remained top of the total audience table, following on from last year, dominating social media figures with 357 million. Manchester United placed third with a total of 216 million social media followers, reinforcing their position behind Barcelona for another year. 

Galatasaray, a team that has less followers than Al Nassr as previously mentioned, generates the most value per fan than any other team in sport, with €1.30 per fan. Mercedes places second with €1.07 per fan. The Saudi club makes another surprise addition, however, placing ahead of Manchester United.

Delving into the most activated posts on social media in the sporting landscape, Benfica holds top spot with its giveaway post in partnership with Sagres, a Portuguese beer. The post achieved over two million impressions and was valued at €692,912.

The ICC featured twice in the top five most activated posts, firstly in the number two spot in partnership with Aramco, which it signed a deal with in 2022. The post achieved 78 million impressions and a total value of  €610,066, mainly due to a lack of engagement with the post which drives the value.

Due to this, Horizm has declared that giveaway posts are the most valuable, explaining that there are several such examples in the top 20 activated posts.

Looking forward, the report suggests that major teams and leagues continue to grow significantly year on-year, many times at double digits rate, which supports Two Circles prediction that sports industry revenues will reach $260bn by 2033.

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