Leeds Rhinos outperform Premier League giants on social media

New research from search marketing agency, Red Hot Penny, reveals the most engaged and highest performing football clubs on social media.

  • Leeds Rhinos were the highest scoring Super League club
  • Man United, Wigan Warriors and Harlequins were all beaten by Leeds Rhinos who had an overall score of 68.25
  • 17 points separated 1st and 5th place within Super League
  • Only Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors appeared in the overall top 20 sports clubs
  • The South of England had the highest-ranking sports clubs, with Wales having the lowest

Across the UK, 80 professional sports teams spanning football, rugby, cricket, basketball, and ice hockey had their social media channels analysed to find out how they’re using the platform as a marketing tool.

Red Hot Penny published this information in a report titled “Social Scorecard: Sport”, which breaks down social media channels across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and gives the clubs an overall score based on the number of followers, average post engagement, and overall engagement rate.

Super League Rugby bats away big-name clubs

The highest overall score went to Leeds Rhinos, with a score of 68.25 out of a possible 100; largely due to their consistent scores across Instagram and Facebook which allowed them the edge on Wigan and Warrington in second and third place, with scores of 65.75 and 63.5, respectively.

The strong scores from Leeds, Wigan, and Warrington meant that big-name clubs such as Manchester United, Newcastle United, and Saracens were all outperformed by Super League Rugby.

Phil Daly, Head of Media & PR at Leeds Rhinos said: “These results are a great boost to the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to capitalise on our significant social media presence. The average post engagements figures are particularly pleasing as they show the content we are producing is being enjoyed by our followers. All our content is produced by the club’s media and PR team with a focus on quality output.

“We have a fantastic fanbase at the Rhinos who seem to appreciate the tone we have struck on social media which has been borne out by the figures in the report. We are always looking to improve what we do and look forward to building on these results next year.”

Sports teams could be missing out on retail opportunities

Findings showed that sports clubs have a lack of retail and commercial focus on social media that means they could be missing out on huge retail events such as Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Of 80 professional sports clubs, only 10 of those posted about shopping and retail offers on social media.

David Schulhof, CEO of Red Hot Penny said: “This study has unveiled some huge opportunities for the nation’s top sports clubs, showing the massive potential they have to grow and develop. Sports clubs are a hub of opportunity, filled with influencers, exciting events, and news. We want to see these opportunities seized, and hope that our research has highlighted ways for clubs across the nation to improve their social media strategies.”

Big-budget teams didn’t fare well

Lower scoring clubs included big-budget names such as Man United, Newcastle United and Burnley, all with total scores of 62.125 and less. This was mostly down to weaker performing Facebook statistics for average post engagement and engagement rate.

The full report is available to download here.

Please see below for league tables.

Red Hot Penny are a search marketing agency who have been working in ecommerce for years. Putting experience to use by producing search marketing solutions that also deliver growth and results has earnt Red Hot Penny a glowing reputation from logistics providers to ecommerce platforms including Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento.

Creating award-winning campaigns and being a Google Premier Partner are just the start of what Red Hot Penny are capable of, whilst fuelling their vision to be the leading search marketing agency.


Only clubs in the top division for their respective sports were considered as a part of this report.

Top 10 clubs for each league were determined by the final league standings for the most recent full season completed. For instance, the 10 Premier League Football clubs assessed were the clubs that finished 1st – 10th in the 2017/2018 premier league season.  

There are two exceptions to this:

  • Pro14 rugby where the 10 UK/Irish clubs that compete were selected regardless of finishing position in more recent completed season.
  • County Cricket which only has 8 clubs so the two clubs that were promoted from the 2nd tier were also included

The clubs were assessed on the following ten points: total followers across all platforms, followers per stadium seat, total average post engagements, total engagement rate plus average post engagement and engagement rate across each of their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram activity. Each metric was scored out of ten and there was a maximum score of 100.  

Master score

Total followers, follower numbers per seat, total APE and total ER along with three overall performance scores for each channel (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) were combined to create a master score with the best possible score obtainable being 100 – achievable if a club had been ranked perfectly across all three channels.  

Average Post Engagement

To calculate average post engagement (APE) on each channel the total number of engagements was added up across the 25 most recent posts on each profile and then divided this by 25.   

The engagements were as follows:  

  • Facebook – video views, reactions, shares and comments only
  • Instagram – video views, post likes and comments
  • Twitter – video views, likes, comments and retweets. Tweets that had been retweeted from another profile were not considered

Each engagement type was equally weighted.  

Engagement Rate

To calculate the engagement rate we took the total follower number for the profile (or likes number on Facebook) and divided this by the APE score.