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TikTok & The Sports Industry: The Perfect Pairing

The Sports Industry is dominating TikTok in both likes and onboarding the next generation of fans
Ariella Torv

When you first download and open the popular app TikTok, you’ll instantly notice the young audience of users, followed by an overwhelming amount of hilarious looping videos, unique music montages and the oh-so famous TikTok dances. People are referring to TikTok as the new Vine, the lopping video platform, that was (sadly) killed by Instagram a few years beforehand.  

When you continue to explore through the app, it can feel like you are witnessing utter chaos, but chaos that makes you want to keep scrolling and watch more and more content. The feed of videos each user sees has no rhyme or reason to it, but it’s enough to keep its users entertained and scrolling for more as the app boasts 500 million active users worldwide and had 1.5 billion downloads in its first year.

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It didn’t take long for brands, sports teams, and publishers alike to become interested in TikTok because of it’s astounding user growth. This funny platform was starting to be taken seriously and as a real-player in terms of marketing and advertising. What makes TikTok unique to advertisers and marketers everywhere, is its video-focused layout that opens brands to a variety of unique marketing and brand awareness opportunities. And let’s not forget the creativity that the app allows with its many filters, music library and challenges. TikTok can, in a way, allow brands to be more creative and follow the rules less, while still remaining true to their core values and messaging. 

We noticed during our in depth research of TikTok, how the sports industry has truly taken on the app head-on and is killing it in terms of likes and follower counts. For instance, nearly 13 teams across the NFL have over 100k followers on their accounts. The NBA has 6.5 million followers on the app and over 100+ million likes across all of their posts. “I think what makes TikTok so exciting is that literally one of our biggest goals in the entire company is cultivating the next generation of fans,” says Bob Carney, Vice President of Social and Digital Content for the NBA. “It gets really, really exciting for everybody when you can reach a completely new audience”. TikTok can and should be utilized to help onboard the next generation of fans as 60% of TikTok’s global users are under the age of 30, and 40% of that user base are under 20. And just to top it off, a massive 65% of millennials are already watching sports games on their smartphones. As marketers, we have to adapt to changes in viewing habits and we have to do it quickly. We raise our hats to the teams successfully utilizing this app to not only grow their fan base, but to increase their fan engagement whenever and wherever possible.


In November 2018, the NBA signed a deal with the league(?) that brings custom highlights to the app, with local language clips posted in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The app allows the NBA and its teams to connect with a global audience while growing its global fan base at the same time. Similarly, the NFL signed a 2 year partnership with TikTok in an attempt to better reach younger audiences, such as Generation Z, and create unique and engaging fan experiences through hashtag challenges and highlight reels.

What especially tends to draw the audience of TikTokers are the hashtag challenges. For example, the NBA created the #NBAHandshake challenge to commemorate the start of their season. They asked fans to show off their coolest handshakes and upload their videos with #NBAHandshake in the caption, and told users that the top responses would be rebroadcast by the league account (with over 1MM followers). Entries flooded in from around the world, and were viewed up to 11 million times. In the end, a clip from two German twins earned the top achievement and challenge.

These types of challenges, that actively invite fans to participate in something with their favorite teams, immediately enhances the overall fan experience. It establishes a community of fans, it promotes creativity and lastly, but most importantly from a marketing perspective, it grows brand awareness in an organic way and keeps the fans involved and part of it.

That being said, we’ve compiled the top five sports teams and leagues that are killing it on TikTok in terms of content and likes. It was tough to narrow down but here are our top five contenders: 


Real Madrid:
Follower Count: 1.4 Million
Likes: 10.2 Million
Most Liked Video: 465k Likes


🇧🇷🔥 Marcelo is an absolute baller! #tiktokdeportes #soccer #skills #tiktok1año #brasil #wow #laliga #football

♬ Baila Conmigo (feat. Kelly Ruiz) - Dayvi, Víctor Cárdenas feat. Kelly Ruiz

National Football League (NFL):
Follower Count: 2.2 Million
Likes: 53.2 Million
Most Liked Video: 947k Likes


These flops deserve Oscars 😂😂 #nfl #football #sports #flop #fall #falling #acting

♬ Say It feat. Tove Lo - Flume

Kansas City Chiefs
Follower Count: 476.6k (let’s see if that changes after the Superbowl)
Likes: 6.1 Million
Most Liked Video: 745.9k Likes


Tanoh has been blocking everything lately ✋ #fyp #foru #chiefskingdom #nfl #denied #blocked

♬ Money - Cardi B

Golden State Warriors
Follower Count: 1.5 Million
(They were the first US Sports Team to reach 1MM followers)
Likes: 18.2 Million
Most Liked Video: 3.9 Million Likes


ENERGY. Shoutout Zaza for holding it down 🔊

♬ What I Do? - Zaza

Liverpool FC
Follower Count: 1.5 Million
Likes: 11 Million
Most Liked Video: 632k Likes


Bobby x Sadio x Mo ⚡️🤩 #LFC #Liverpool #fyp #Salah #Sport #trending

♬ Remember the Name - Fort Minor

Liverpool Chief Executive, Peter Moore, hit the nail on the head when he warned that the sports industry and their teams must embrace different technologies to avoid losing fans to modernistic forms of entertainment. “We are an industry that needs to harness technology to make sure we don’t miss an entire generation of young people growing up that don’t have that love for football,” Moore went on to explain. “We need to package content in bites of 60 to 90 seconds to keep their engagement.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. The sports industry has an exciting and interesting opportunity to better onboard the next generation of fans through the use of TikTok and of course, other social media platforms. While TikTok might seem like a crazy mess, it shouldn’t go unnoticed or unused as its numbers are backing it up more than we can.

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