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Social Media and Sport - Thematic Research

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  • 46 Pages
  • October 2021
  • Region: Global
  • GlobalData
  • ID: 5471093
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An analysis of the current state of play with social media platforms, and how sport has interwoven its way into some of the world's biggest platforms.

Social media has connected the world in a variety of unique ways, and has helped make much of global society connected. Athletes and sports teams have recognised this, and began using social media as a way to promote their brands/teams around the world, which in turn can increase marketing opportunities and financial revenue.

Social media companies will look to increasingly diversify away from their ad-funded business model, which regulators have attacked. Companies like Facebook and Google stand accused of using ad-targeting techniques that prioritize profit over respect for user’s privacy and content quality. They are also accused of acting as gatekeepers around access to personal data to the detriment of smaller players in the online advertising sector.

Social media companies will increasingly position themselves as the gateway through which users can access multiple services, blending social networking, ecommerce, and entertainment. The super-app model, pioneered by Tencent in China, is now being copied across the world, with Facebook leading the pack.

Social media has become a great way for sports teams and athletes to forge direct connections with their fanbase, and many have used their accounts to build their own personal brand or promote causes that are important to them However, there have been downsides, with discussions sparked about the involvement of athletes in politics, as well as social media abuse from anonymous accounts.

In pursuing their super-app aspirations, social media companies could end up attracting even more regulatory scrutiny. They are viewed as data monopolies in whichever sector they move into, increasingly at odds with antitrust and data privacy regulations.

Key Highlights

  • Big Tech companies dominate the social media space. Facebook has around 2.9 billion monthly users, accounting for 61% of the global online population, while YouTube has more than 2 billion monthly users. In most segments, big platforms benefit from network effects, and, thanks to their larger number of users, they are the most attractive to both consumers and advertisers. Few players offer a comparable portfolio of services to Facebook, preferring instead to offer more specialized services. For example, LinkedIn positions itself as a social media platform for consumers’ professional networks.
  • According to the Global Digital Report 2021 - published by online reference library DataReportal in partnership with We Are Social and Hootsuite - approximately 4.7 billion people worldwide use the internet, and 4.2 billion people use social media. This means social media platforms are used by more than half of the world’s population and around 90% of all internet users. The number of worldwide social media users is expected to grow to approximately 4.4 billion by 2025.
  • Companies such as Facebook and YouTube have attempted to tackle the problem of online abuse using AI to moderate content on their platforms. Facebook has used automated moderation to remove nudity from the website to great success, but AI has proved less successful in removing hate speech and slurs. During a three-month period in 2020, over three million videos were removed via the platform’s AI filters, many of which were incorrectly classified. YouTube were forced to bring back their human moderators in response, who had been sent home earlier in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While AI has plenty of room to develop and grow in the coming years, it might be impossible for AI to ever reach a human standard of being able to identify and then remove hateful content.
  • Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey posted a pro Hong Kong tweet, which criticized China’s imposing a law on the region that would ensure the extradition of criminal suspects to China, where the vast majority of trials end in a conviction. The introduction of the law sparked major anti-government protests in the region, some of which resulted in casualties. Morey’s expression of support for the protests were quickly responded to by Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who immediately distanced the organization from Morey’s comments, while star player James Harden also apologized to China. Morey later issued an apology, but not before Houston Rockets games were removed from NBA broadcasts in China. ESPN analyst Kevin Arnovitz estimated that the NBA’s total losses stemming from the incident during the following season were around $200m, highlighting the sizable impact that the country’s market has had on the growth of the NBA.
  • Social media has played a vital role during the pandemic, allowing people to stay connected with friends and family and providing entertainment. According to the Digital 2021: Global Overview Report published by DataReportal, social media user numbers increased by more than 13% in 2020, equivalent to nearly half a billion new users. The pandemic also brought with it a flood of misinformation, ranging from conspiracy theories attributing the virus to 5G radiation to miracle cures such as drinking or injecting bleach. COVID-19 is likely to be a point of no return for big social media companies on misinformation. During the pandemic, these companies have actively tackled the dissemination of fake news. This shift to a more proactive stance on misinformation will likely be permanent, as, after the pandemic, they will be expected to keep policing harmful content.


  • This report provides an overview of social media and its uses, as well as how sports has begun to delve into the world in the last decade.
  • The current trends dominating social media, as well as the trendsetters leading the industry, and identifying those attempting to catch up.
  • The report provides a detailed analysis of the potential future development of the social media world, and what challenges face it in its immediate future.
  • An in-depth look at the value chain for social media, and what generates revenue for the biggest platforms in the sector.

Reasons to Buy

  • For those wanting an in-depth analysis the current landscape of social media, and how the sports world has begun to utilise social media in the modern era.
  • For those wanting a sense of the current performance of many of the dominant social media platforms, and the difficulties and controversies they are currently facing to crack down on abuse on their respective platforms.
  • The Publisher’s thematic research ecosystem is a single, integrated global research platform that provides an easy-to-use framework for tracking all themes across all companies in all sectors. It has a proven track record of identifying the important themes early, enabling companies to make the right investments ahead of the competition, and secure that all-important competitive advantage.

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Players

3. Thematic briefing

4. Trends

5. Mergers and acquisitions

6. Timeline

7. Value chain

8. Companies

9. Glossary

10. Further reading

11. About the Publisher

12. Contact the Publisher

Companies Mentioned

A selection of companies mentioned in this report includes:

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • WhatApp
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
  • Snapchat
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • Premier League
  • NBA
  • Nike