England’s players fall well behind World Cup rivals on social media

With the World Cup in full flow, England will finally make an appearance tonight as they take on Tunisia in their opening game of the tournament.

The Three Lions are not one of the top tier of favourites for ultimate victory in mid-July, but beneath the four teams most expect to be battling for the title, England are towards the top of the list. The expectation falls on Germany, France, Spain and Brazil, and then come England, Portugal, Belgium and Argentina. Gareth Southgate’s side are tipped for big things given the excitement around the young and stylish squad, but they are not expected to bring home the trophy.

That’s reflected in the squad. This England side is the first one for years that can claim to be more of a systematic machine than a team chock-full of global superstars. The process and the teamwork matter more than the raw talent.

It’s also reflected in some of the data this tournament is the catalyst for, too.

Sportstar Influencer is a tool designed to help digital marketers get the most out of their partnerships with sportspeople they may wish to use as influencers, or brand ambassadors. Stars – in this case footballers – are listed and ranked on their social media prowess. That is, not just on their following, but on the engagement they generate per social media post and whether the real-time sentiment in their mentions is mostly positive or negative.

The top players are the ones you’d expect. Cristiano Ronaldo leads the way, followed by Neymar and then Lionel Messi. Although the order may be surprising, the top three certainly isn’t. What is, perhaps, a little surprising is the absence of any England player.

On the list, you have to go way down to 65th place in order to find a man in Gareth Southgate’s squad: Harry Kane is the top Englishman and Raheem Sterling follows not too far behind in 71st. Compared with Ronaldo, Messi or Neymar, the pair’s social media following of ‘only’ 7-8m each is a fairly meagre return and perhaps shows why this England side isn’t thought of as one of the real favourites for the tournament.

In these days of social media league tables comparing the best performing teams, leagues and players, it matters commercially how many followers a player has. It helps to get endorsements and it helps get a brand’s name linked with a player who can put it out to millions of followers.

Clearly, though, it doesn’t matter on the pitch. What matters there is how well the players perform. And the FA’s social media strategy over the last few weeks has really helped this team to own the media coverage around them and create optimism and positivity ahead of the big kick-off.

Going into this tournament away from the glare of being one of the big favourites, or having their players at the top of the social media tables might well help England. But off the pitch, it looks like the Three Lions players will have quite a bit of work to do if they’re to match up to the best players in the world.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 751 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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