After an abbreviated season in 2020, Major League Baseball’s Opening Day returns to its traditional early-April slot this year. Although attendance is limited in most venues, teams and players have continued to use social media to effectively engage their fanbase. SBJ Atlas’ Will Cavanaugh found MLB’s top performers on social over the past year.
Most Followed Players: Twitter – Yu Darvish (2.5M), Instagram – Mike Trout (1.9M)
Newly acquired San Diego Padres pitcher Yu Darvish leads all MLB players on Twitter with 2.5M followers – narrowly edging out Mike Trout by less than 1K followers. Darvish posts exclusively in his native Japanese and uses his social media account to cultivate a strong connection with his home country. According to Zoomph, 76% of Darvish’s followers are based in Japan. On Instagram, Mike Trout has more than 130K more followers than the next closest player, Bryce Harper. Despite the large following, Trout has only posted 28 times over the past year, which ranks 142nd across all MLB players. While Trout primarily uses his platform to highlight his family, he has also endorsed Nike and Body Armor.
Top Follower Growth (Players): Twitter – Fernando Tatis Jr. (+281%), Instagram – Trevor Bauer (+178%)
Top Follower Growth (Team): San Diego Padres (Twitter: +11%, Instagram: +35%)
No player burst onto the scene in 2020 quite like Fernando Tatis Jr., which was reflected in his social media following. After ranking outside of the top 200 at the beginning of last season with 23K followers, Tatis Jr. has added 66K followers and now ranks 96th, a ranking that is sure to continue improving in 2021. NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer paced the league in follower growth on Instagram. A combination of Bauer’s success, activity, personality, and widely publicized offseason move to the Los Angeles Dodgers all contributed to the ace’s growth on social.
If Tatis Jr. were a team this year, he would be the San Diego Padres (yes, we know he plays for the Padres, just roll with it). Similar to the star shortstop, the Padres were arguably the most captivating story in baseball as the highly touted prospect reached the majors and led the team to its first postseason berth in 14 years. Heading into the 2021 season, the team still has plenty of room to grow on social, ranking 29th and 20th across the league in followers on Twitter and Instagram, respectively.
Most Active Players: Twitter – Ian Happ (461 Posts), Instagram – Wilson Ramos (237)
Chicago Cubs OF Ian Happ led all players on Twitter over the past year with one or more posts a day. While most of his posts center around his podcast, “The Compound,” Happ also regularly engages his followers and quotes tweets from the Cubs and other players. On Instagram, Wilson Ramos posted noticeably more than any other player. Posting both in English and Spanish, Ramos usually tags Nike and tends to focus on his love for the game with on-field images and captions.
Most Engaged with Players: Twitter – Kenta Maeda (1.9M Interactions), Instagram – Bryce Harper (6.1M)
Highest Average Engagement: Twitter – Gerrit Cole (22K Interactions/Post), Instagram – Cody Bellinger (118K Interactions/Post)
Similar to Yu Darvish, a majority of Kenta Maeda’s Twitter followers are based in Japan and regularly engage with their hometown superstar. Maeda led the league in interactions due to a strong combination of post volume (5th) and follower count (49th). Bryce Harper led the league in Instagram engagements on the back of his second-highest follower count. Harper posted 81 times in 2020, ranking 24th and giving his followers plenty of content to react to.
Two superstars in large markets led the league in average engagements despite posting relatively infrequently compared to their peers. Only posting twice all year, Gerrit Cole’s league-leading average engagement on Twitter came almost exclusively on the back of his post showing his first-time drive into Yankee Stadium. Bellinger’s 33 posts delivered strong engagement; his five Instagram posts in October and November following the Dodgers’ World Series victory outperformed the rest of the league.
Team of the Year: Los Angeles Dodgers
While awarding “Team of the Year” to the large-market team who had the most regular season and postseason success may seem too easy, the award is backed by data. According to Zoomph, the Dodgers led MLB in two correlated metrics – engagements and social value – across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Dodgers’ posts also garnered more impressions than any other team in baseball across Twitter and Instagram, and it wasn’t particularly close.
While other large-market teams experiencing the same level of success may have replaced the Dodgers in the standings, the Dodgers truly impressed in a metric that is not skewed by follower size – engagement rate. Zoomph’s rate is calculated by taking the average engagements a team receives divided by the team’s average impressions, showing what percentage of followers that saw the post also engaged with it. The World Series champions ranked 1st in engagement rate on both Facebook and Instagram and finished in the top five on Twitter. This is a testament to the Dodgers’ social team who effectively piggy-backed on the team’s success to generate season-long buzz resulting in value for partners.
Most Valuable Brands
Most Valuable Brands
Bank of America
According to Zoomph’s social media valuation, Budweiser earned twice as much value on social media across 2020 than the next closest MLB sponsor (GEICO) and over four times the value of all other brands. SBJ Atlas found that Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, activated with 16 teams and 18 players on social across the season, which helped drive the $1.89M in social value for the brand. Budweiser’s most notable campaign was #HitTheBuds throughout the postseason.
GEICO also performed strongly with $947K in social value across 12 teams. While GEICO earned roughly half of the value Budweiser did on social, no brand delivered a higher engagement rate than GEICO (1.3%). Rounding out the top five brands in 2020 were Bank of America, T-Mobile, and Google Cloud.
Most Partner Mentions
Most Partner Mentions
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Yankees
Mexico Tourism Board
SBJ Atlas tracked mentions of more than 300 brands on Twitter and Instagram by MLB teams and players across the 2020 season. Of all teams and brands, no partnership was mentioned more than Anheuser-Busch’s with the Houston Astros. Budweiser sponsored a “Player of the Game” campaign, which allowed for consistent content throughout the year.
Similar to the Astros and Anheuser-Busch, PNC Financial leveraged a content series endemic to the sport – starting lineup announcements – to gain consistent social exposure with the Cincinnati Reds. Given the length of the MLB season and similarities from game to game, partners hoping to appear on this list would be wise to follow Anheuser-Busch and PNC Financial’s lead and adopt a content series that fans expect to see daily.
To find out how other teams and players fared, just download the data.