- Major League Soccer (MLS) has seen a surge in its social media following over the past year as its teams share more content with fans. Followers of its social channels have surged nearly tenfold (963%) since 2013, the highest growth rate among professional sports leagues in the U.S., according to league data cited by Adweek.
- The number of followers of MLS and its clubs rose 10% so far this year, mainly on Instagram, amid growing fan interest in content posted by individual teams. The clubs and MLS have posted more than 20,000 video clips this year, helping to drive a 75% gain in viewership to 613 million views across all platforms, Adweek reported.
- MLS, which last week kicked off its playoff tournament, livestreamed 22 matches this year on Twitter, drawing more than 13.9 million viewers and doubling its audience from livestreams on Facebook Live a year earlier. MLS's social channels this year have racked up 325 million video views and 1.8 billion impressions among Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, per the data cited by Adweek.
MLS has been very active about posting video highlights from games on social media, with technology partner WSC Sports using artificial intelligence (AI) to identify key moments from games and post them online, often in under a minute from occurring, Adweek reported. That kind of proactive content generation in nearly real time helps to engage audiences with the excitement of ongoing games and aims to reach part of the online video market that's forecast to exceed 200 million this year, according to Forrester.
The league this year added its MLS Fantasy League to its mobile app after developing a desktop version that lets fans create their own dream teams to manage throughout the season. Other sports leagues and teams have added mobile apps to their marketing arsenals to deepen connections with tech-savvy fans both at stadiums and at home. Major League Baseball this year introduced a mobile version of its MLB Home Run Derby app that challenged fans to hit as many home runs as they can in a certain time limit. The league also experimented with innovative technology and created a virtual reality version for the Sony PlayStation VR and HTC Vive platforms.
The heightened social following for MLS could partially be attributed to more awareness around soccer overall, with 2018 being a World Cup year. Viewership of the quadrennial event suffered from the absence of the U.S. team in the global tournament, which has meant that some U.S. fans have turned to MLS to get their soccer fix. MLS has seen some of its highest ratings in the past 10 years amid the pervasive publicity for the World Cup, according to Sports Media Watch. MLS is especially popular among adults ages 18 to 49, who also are more likely than older generations to watch sports on a mobile device and tune in to extra content on social media.