New research by global influencer agency, Billion Dollar Boy, reveals a collective increase of 15.6m social media followers across the 736 players competing in the Women’s World Cup 2023. The increase was driven predominantly by Instagram, which accounted for 12.5m of the new followers.
The research, powered by Companion, Billion Dollar Boy’s proprietary influencer marketing platform, tracked 1,282 player social media accounts across Instagram, TikTok, X and YouTube to assess follower growth and engagement during the tournament, which took place from 20 July - 20 August , which influence athlete earnings potential from brand partnerships.
The results reveal the players with the largest growth in followers during the tournament. Swiss forward, Alisha Lehmann leads the way as the most followed female football player on Instagram, with a total of 14.91m followers. She also tops the chart for the number of new followers gained during the tournament, adding 1,141,203 followers on the platform during the Women’s World Cup. Australia’s Sam Kerr finished second, with 431,167 new followers, followed by Ary Borges (354,921), Marta (293,262) and Olga Carmona (256,348). On average, for every 1,000 followers a player had on Instagram at the start of the tournament, they would gain 60 new followers.
Minutes played also has an influence on follower growth, equivalent to an average of 85 new Instagram followers per minute played. The data also suggest a correlation between goal scoring and follower growth, with each goal scored preceding an average increase of 20,000 new Instagram followers. For example, Brazil’s hat-trick hero during the first round of group stage fixtures, Ary Borges, gained 300,000 followers.
Combined across each of the four social media platforms the England team collectively saw the greatest increase in follower growth, gaining more than 2m followers during the course of the tournament as they reached the final, followed by Brazil (1.98m) and hosts Australia (1.83m).
The number of social media followers – among other variables – is an important contributing factor towards determining a player’s potential earnings from brand collaborations on social media. Based on the mean Instagram following, in the UK market, the average player at the Women’s World Cup could command a fee of £1,225 per Instagram post. This figure rises to in excess of £121,000 for Alisha Lehmann.
Other players with unique profiles may be able to earn more per post, such as Nouhaila Benzina, who became first player to wear a hijab at the World Cup and gained 36k followers on Instagram during the tournament, rising to 84k followers in total; and Nieria’s Michelle Alozie whose audience doubled in the days following Lauren James’s stamp on her.
“This data documents the players' journey to solidify their status within football communities, while harnessing their independent social media accounts to command lucrative brand partnerships,” said Becky Owen, Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer at Billion Dollar Boy. “The remarkable aspect lies in how social media can fuel the career advancement of these exceptional athletes. In an arena where gender pay equality remains a documented challenge, the surge in match viewership and substantial social media expansion opens doors for these athletes to bridge the gap.
“Brands that seize the momentum of the Women's World Cup and its growing popularity are poised to reap the greatest rewards. If they can get the partnerships right, there is an opportunity to reach new audiences that are engaging with the sport for the first time whilst aligning themselves with sports influencers to develop a highly symbiotic relationship.”