Instagrammers love soccer.
That might be because soccer players love Instagram. Or because soccer is a global sport. Or because soccer is played year-round.
But whatever the reason, soccer is the most popular sport on Instagram by a wide margin, according to Brandon Gayle, Instagram’s head of sports partnerships. Gayle says that 146 million of Instagram’s 700 million-plus users are “world football fans,” more than three times the number of basketball fans on Instagram.
Here’s a look at the five most popular sports on the service.
Instagram, owned by Facebook, defines “fan” rather loosely. If you follow an account from a team or player or news outlet that Instagram considers to be soccer-specific, you are then a fan.
But knowing which sports are most popular on Instagram might actually be useful for those following Facebook’s business. That’s because the most popular sports on Instagram are likely some of the most popular sports on Facebook, too.
And Facebook is trying to get into live sports streaming, an industry that has been a major part of the traditional TV business and is just starting to move into the digital realm thanks to interest from other tech companies like Twitter and Amazon.
Facebook has streamed a handful of live sports in the past — including Major League Baseball games and one-off NBA matchups in international markets — but none of those streams have made significant waves. Facebook’s most recent streaming deal, though, might make mores sense: A deal with Fox to stream more than a dozen Champions League soccer matches.
Instagram won’t stream these matches, and Gayle says Instagram has “no plans” to get into live sports streaming itself. But Facebook will eventually need to prove to advertisers that it can deliver live sports just like TV.
Perhaps soccer can help.