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Trends & Insights | Blog

The Lionesses and social media: what does the future hold for the brightest sports stars of the moment?

August 4, 2022


The Lionesses are on the social media march. It’s been a month of inspiration and awe for the England women’s national football team – both

Drew Benvie

CEO & Founder

The Lionesses are on the social media march. It’s been a month of inspiration and awe for the England women’s national football team – both on the pitch and off it. As the knockout stages of the European Championship got under way, we took the opportunity to analyse the data around the meteoric rise of the Lionesses and what it might mean for their futures online.

What we found was fascinating - growth is coming from unexpected places - and while some Lionesses have made it overnight, many are yet to make their move. Taking our data analysis which focused on the period between 20th July, just before the Spain quarter final, and the day after the final win against Germany, 23 of the Lionesses actively use Instagram, with 22 of them on Twitter, and 17 on TikTok. During these knockout stages of the Women’s Euros there were a total of 1.6 million new followers for the Lionesses across the three social media platforms.

The biggest name on social media as of August 1st 2022 is the team captain, Leah Williamson, who became the first of the Lionesses to reach 500,000 Instagram followers after England’s final win. This is the biggest fan base for any of them on any social network, followed by Lucy Bronze with 380,000 followers on Instagram, and Mary Earps with 355,000 on TikTok.

Goalkeeper Mary Earps is the undisputed star of TikTok, with 355,000 followers (+143% increase), more than double the fan base of the next biggest name on the social network, which is Beth Mead with 144,000 followers on TikTok. Forward Chloe Kelly’s winning goal propelled her to the fastest-growing profile on both Instagram (99%) and on Twitter (125%). While Instagram has given Kelly the username @chloekelly, Twitter’s @chloekelly profile is a dormant account that has never posted, and the England match-winner is making do with the @chloe_kelly98 moniker while the social network joins the dots.

Across the period of our research, the number of followers of the Lionesses’ personal social media profiles and those of the official @lionesses profile combined grew by 2.3 million in total, with 1.3 million new followers coming on Instagram, 575,000 on TikTok and 318,000 on Twitter.

The Lionesses: drivers of profile growth

Whilst Instagram has the greatest penetration with players, with all of the Lionesses active on the social network, TikTok showed the most promise, delivering the greatest growth numbers in audience size for players, and the largest following for the team itself. This can be largely attributed to TikTok’s algorithm, which focuses more on entertainment content over and above the friend graph. This means that if a TikTok post is deemed entertaining, it reaches a potentially huge audience, whereas other social networks rely on advertising boosts or friend connections in order to reach audiences.

TikTok however has the fewest players from the Lionesses actively using the social network, even though it has the most followers of the @Lionesses team profile. Where 100% of the Lionesses use Instagram personally, only 74% use TikTok, and a further 30% of the team have under 10,000 followers. TikTok therefore poses arguably the greatest opportunity for almost half of the England squad.

Brand collaborations

Battenhall’s Nicole Mezzasalma, who worked on the data analysis that we carried out, believes that the success of the Lionesses will see brands looking to use this rise in social capital to support these stars and collaborate with them in future.

“As the women’s game grows there’s no doubt that these stars will continue to gain success on and off the pitch,” she said.

“It’s no surprise there has been a huge increase in support and social following of the main stars from the Lionesses. Since the Women’s Euros 2022 began on July 6, overall social mentions of the Lionesses and key players have gone up by more than 1,000% on Twitter alone, peaking at nearly 900,000 mentions on the day of the final. Unsurprisingly, sentiment has been overwhelmingly positive and most messages have been supportive.”

“As the women’s game isn’t as commercially advanced as the men’s, women footballers are much more likely to manage their own social media channels, which ensures a more authentic relationship with their followers compared to the England men’s team. With the huge increase in popularity for the women’s game, it’s likely brands will look to work with the Lionesses from now on, as they attract new and more diverse audiences.”

Battenhall captured and analysed data on social media profiles and volumes of discussion of the Lioness team and players between July 20 and August 1, 2022. For further details contact football@battenhall.com.