LAUSANNE, February 13, 2020 – The Sports Practice of leading global communications agency BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe) today released its 2019 International Sports Federation Social Media Ranking, which aims to capture the social media footprint of the 41 international Olympic sports federations (IFs).

For the 2019 ranking, BCW adopted a three-level analysis for measuring all the various digital interactions between an IF and its followers. Results from 2019 show that as social media has matured, engagement and interactions with fans have become the most accurate measures for social media success. It is clear that the IFs that made improvements and topped the rankings were those that best engaged and interacted with their followers.

Notable key findings this year include:

  • Instagram took the lead in interactions and reach with younger audiences, including athletes, volunteers and fans. On average, IFs grew their Instagram accounts by 41%, with the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) growing by the largest margin by an increase of 71%. While the most popular Instagram account for the year belongs to World Rugby, which grew its followers to 1’277’697, interestingly it was the Badminton World Federation (BWF) which topped the newest ranking – True Reach (a metric that identifies real users as opposed to bots and sporadic users). The Instagram post with the most engagement came from the International Athletics Federation (IAAF) with a total of 215’577 interactions.
  • Facebook is the primary focus of most sports organisations’ social media efforts. In 2019, the 56 IF accounts added 3’349’566 new users compared to last year and had an average growth rate of 11%. FIVB once again took the lead and grew its followers by 63% from last year. And the most popular account remains with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) with 6’644’128 page likes. FIBA also had the post with the most engagement of the year, with a total of 19’193 interactions.
  • Twitter is mostly used as a tool for sharing important news rather than engaging with followers. The 79 IF Twitter accounts had an average increase in followers by 17%, with remarkable growth coming from BWF and FIVB which each had a 56% and 32% follower growth, respectively. The dominant force this year for total followers was the International Football Federation (FIFA) with a total following of 13‘188‘132. Meanwhile, sports news outlets and Around the Rings held onto their first and second positions as the media most followed by IFs, as SportBusiness broke through to the top 10 this year.

Lars Haue-Pedersen, Burson Cohn & Wolfe Sports Practice Managing Director, said: “Social media has become a fundamental part of any communications plan and it continues to be a strong driver in how sports organisations interact with fans and new audiences. This year’s ranking highlights the importance of how social media is not only a platform for showcasing sport, but also the place where the true relationship with fans begins. It is the starting point where a community can be cultivated – and where users can contribute to a unique experience around sport. It will be interesting to see how online sport communities evolve and how IFs take the lead in this development.

Download the 2019 Olympic Sports Social Media Ranking

About the Study

The International Sports Federation Social Media Ranking is Burson Cohn & Wolfe’s latest research into how the international Olympic Sports Federations communicate via social media. It is an annual assessment now in its third year. In total, 97 institutional Twitter accounts, 60 Facebook pages, 56 Instagram accounts and 51 YouTube channels, as well as 32 personal Twitter accounts of the heads of international sports federations have been included and analysed in this ranking. The research builds on BCW’s highly acclaimed annual Twiplomacy study. For more information, visit

About Burson Cohn & Wolfe

BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), one of the world’s largest full-service global communications agencies, is in the business of moving people on behalf of clients. Founded by the merger of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe, BCW delivers digitally and data-driven creative content and integrated communications programs grounded in earned media and scaled across all channels for clients in the B2B, consumer, corporate, crisis management, CSR, healthcare, sport, public affairs and technology sectors. BCW is a part of WPP (NYSE: WPP), a creative transformation company. For more information, visit

Tanya Heimlich-Ng Yuen

Director, Burson Cohn & Wolfe – Sports Practice
Tel. +41 21 313 23 00