Irish Sport on Social Media – May 2020

With no live sport to enjoy for the third month in a row, the sporting conversation on social media has been dominated by the discussions on protocols and how sports will have to adapt both on and off the field in the immediate post Covid-19 era.

With the return of a limited number of sporting activities in the Phase 1 reopening of the country, we have seen best practice from rights holders and organisations in Ireland, such as the Golfing Union of Ireland, keeping fans abreast of the latest developments, updates and what this means for their sport and/or club in the short, medium and long-term.

With the sporting seasons for Rugby and football traditionally ending in May, and without the usual action on the GAA pitches across the country, rights holders and organisations have become increasingly creative in how to keep the content across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram relevant and insightful for their followers.

With fans desperate for the return of live sport we have seen an increased focus on organisations working with rights holders and broadcasters to provide audiences with archive footage, streaming full games and highlights from memorable matches to fill the void.

Look back on the highlights of the #SportForBusinessSocialMedia webinar

In May 2020, the 29 organisations analysed as part of the monthly Sport for Business / Olytico analysis, all members of Sport for Business, published over 5,800 social media posts across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, a decrease of 3% on April.

However, these 5,848 posts analysed generated over 1.3 million engagements in the form of likes, shares, comments, and retweets, an increase of 29% on April, highlighting how engaged followers are with the content being provided.

Instagram continues to be the main driver of engagement in 2020 with over 975,000 likes and comments generated, representing 73% of the total engagement across all three platforms, and an increase of 4% on April’s engagement levels. Twitter’s share of engagement fell 4 points to 9%.

Big Jack Charlton’s 85th birthday and a celebration of Wes Hoolohan’s goal against Sweden in Euro 2016 proved to be the top content from an engagement standpoint in May, providing another clean sweep for the FAI.

In the infographics below, we have ranked each of the organisations across a range of metrics on each network, including the most active, the most engaged, and the most engaging content.

It is important to note that this analysis is based on publicly available data. It does not include any analysis or insight on paid or promoted content.

May 2020 Highlights on Twitter

There was no change at the top of the Most Active rankings on Twitter in April, with the GAA leading the way for the third month in a row, holding off Ulster Rugby and the IRFU for the top spot. May was the second month in a row Ulster Rugby featured in the top three for Twitter activity.

Golf was one of the first sports to be reintroduced during this restricted period, and so it is little surprise that the Golf Union Of Ireland activity increased by over 600% from April, with over 90 tweets providing updates and guidance to its members on the return to play protocols, and celebrating the return of action to the courses.

The FAI once again claimed top spot in the engagement rankings with Munster Rugby and Leinster Rugby close behind. The FAI’s average engagement per post throughout May fell from 266 in April to 187 (a decrease of 30%). Their tweet wishing Wes Hoolohan a Happy Birthday including his goal against Sweden in Euro 2106 was the single most engaged with piece of content analysed in May, generating over 3,100 public engagements.

For context, although the volume of overall Tweets was down 8% month on month (3,020 in total), there were a number of member organisations including the FAI, IRFU and Swim Ireland that increased their output. Pentathlon Ireland saw a significant increase in their engagement rankings mainly thanks to the announcement of the engagement of Olympians Natalya Coyle and Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe.


May 2020 Highlights on Facebook


For the second month in a row the GAA and Ladies Gaelic Football accounts were the most active Irish sporting organisations on Facebook, joined by Ulster Rugby in the top three for the first time. Whilst the GAA’s output fell in May (down 19% vs April) they were still able to maintain top spot despite LGFA and Ulster Rugby increasing their postings by 27% to 221 posts and 34% to 158 posts, respectively.

Swim Ireland’s daily ‘May Challenges’ increased their activity of Facebook by 34% compared to April, generating over 4,000 public engagements in the process.

The FAI with an average of 633 engagements per post were joined in the top three by Leinster Rugby (329) and Golfing Union of Ireland (280). Leinster’s recent domestic and European successes proved to be a key driver for engagements, with fans enjoying full match streams and highlights of recent finals. Tadhg Furlong’s ‘lockdown’ vlog in partnership with Adidas Rugby and Life Style Sports proved to be the biggest Leinster hit in May with 2,700+ engagements.

Mirroring their success on Twitter, the Golfing Union of Ireland’s Facebook stats and rankings in May illustrates the importance and benefit of clear communication from governing bodies during the Covid-19 restrictions. The GUI’s post on the 13th May explaining the new measures in place for Golf’s return was their most engaged with content, with over 1,400 engagements.

For the second month in a row, the FAI had the single most engaged with piece of content, their post celebrating fan favourite Jack Charlton’s 85th birthday had over 6,800 likes, 547 comments and was shared over 1,900 times – a 57% increase on April’s most engaged with post (Stephen Kenny announcement) which generated just under 6,000 public engagements.


May 2020 Highlights on Instagram

The number of posts on Instagram rose 12% in May (from 655 to 734) resulting in a 39% increase in engagements, to almost 1 million. Across the Sport For Business members this represents an average of 1,300+ engagements per post, highlighting the value of the channel.

Leinster Rugby were the most active organisation on the platform in May, displacing Athletics Ireland (who fell to 3rd). Leinster’s 99 posts represented a 57% increase on their Instagram activity in April; their post recounting the famous 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final v Munster at Croke Park was their most engaged with Instagram content, with over 5,200 interactions.

Leinster generated the highest number of engagements out of all the Sport For Business members analysed, an eye-watering 223,000+ engagements, at an average of 2,250+ per post.

Special mention to Triathlon Ireland who came second in the Instagram activity stakes increasing their output by 128% in May compared to April (75 posts). Their ‘Stay Indoors Keep Pedalling’ campaign tapped into the latest advances in ‘at home’ training technology; in conjunction with BMW, workouts and sessions via Zoom and Zwift were key for their content planning and engagement levels for May.

Swim Ireland entered the top 5 for the first time, their ‘May Challenge’ content echoing their success on Facebook and increasing their activity from 21 to 57 posts (a growth of 171% on April)

It was a record-breaking month for Rowing Ireland on Instagram as they saw their engagement levels rise over 110% from an average of 247 engagements per post to 523 engagements per post, thanks to a number of World Records being set for Half Marathons on the Concept 2 machines.

For the second month in a row it was a clean sweep for the FAI as Wes Hoolohan’s goal against Sweden claimed the title for most interactions on Instagram, with over 16,000 interactions and 52,000 views to date. It illustrates the increasing importance of access to archive footage for rights holders’ social media strategies.  

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