THE WORLD’S TOP 10 SPORTING ATHLETES ON INSTAGRAM IN 2024

Find below the world’s top 10 sports athletes on Instagram in 2024 list.

The latest ranking list of the world’s top 10 most famous and popular sports people, players, celebrities and influencers on Instagram with the most followers.

By Mau, a Senior Instagram and Sports Marketing Specialist at eDigital.

THE TOP 10 MOST POPULAR SPORTS ATHLETES ON INSTAGRAM IN 2024

Before you start your sports influencer outreach program on Instagram, let me tell you something you have probably been turning a blind eye to…

Instagram may not be helping you reach your marketing goals

  • Your Instagram content may be reaching only 5% of your followers (If you are lucky!) This is a massive issue affecting thousands of marketers in different industries. 
  • You keep trying hard to build an audience on Instagram that you do not own.
  • You cannot transfer your hard-earned Instagram followers to your best CRM software.
  • Your customer acquisition costs from Instagram ads are through the roof.

The solution

I can offer you the best digital marketing strategy workshop that will help you:

THE TOP 10 MOST-FOLLOWED SPORTS ATHLETES ON INSTAGRAM IN 2024 – RANKING LIST

Last century’s iconic sports athletes such as Mané Garrincha,  Alfredo Di Stéfano and even Australian boxer Lionel Rose (who still has the largest “welcome home to date” gathering record in Australian sports – 250,000 people in the streets of Melbourne celebrating his success in 1968) would have hit any social media popularity charts maybe for longer than Ronaldo.

Time has moved on and top marketers with multi-million dollar budgets are looking at this exclusive list to find sponsorship opportunities and endorsement deals. Related: The best event sponsorship proposal template

Marketers with small budgets who cannot make deals with the popular sporting stars on Instagram do not need to worry. There are other sports entertainment influencers and creators you can partner with.

Check below the 2024 ranking list of sporting athletes with the most followers on Instagram.

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10. Ronaldinho (Ronaldo de Assis Moreira)

Ronaldinho is one of the world’s most-followed sports athletes on Instagram with 76+ million followers. 

Ronaldinho is a retired Brazilian professional football player who became popular for his fancy way of acrobatic football playing especially when he played for Barcelona FC and Milan FC

Considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, Ronaldinho is still one of the world’s most-followed footballers on Instagram and one of the world’s top 10 most popular footballers on TikTok.

Ronaldinho has been featured as a model and ambassador by top brands including Nike, Lenovo, Hyundai, Pepsi, Protobar (energy snack bar), Mybet88 Asia, Freestyle Football Federation, Teqball Football Federation, Barcelona FC, Paralympics Games, Nutrilite (Vitamins and supplements), Danet (yogurt) and others.

ronaldinho caricature

ronaldinho caricature

Some of the top 10 most-followed Brazilian women on YouTube follow Ronaldinho. 

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9. Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema is one of the world’s most popular sports athletes on Instagram with 76+ million followers. 

Karim Benzema is a French professional football striker who was in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo for many years but since Ronaldo left Real Madrid FC, Karim Benzema became the biggest star for the Spanish team and is considered one of the best strikers in the last decade. 

Benzema secured his Ballon d’Or in October 2022.

Karim currently plays as a striker for Saudi Pro League club Al-Ittihad.

Some of the brands that the striker endorses include Adidas, Hyundai, EA Sports, Bwin and French companies like LCL (Le Crédit Lyonnais) and SFR (Société française du radiotéléphone).

Karim Benzema cartoon thug gangster glasses

Karim Benzema cartoon thug gangster glasses

✔︎ Editor’s pick > Learn how to brief a Sports Athlete influencer like a pro!

Tip: Elite sporting athletes are just one section of the sporting industry and you could partner with other popular members of the sports industry:

  1. Top sports manager/coaches. Their interviews get tons of views, especially on YouTube.
  2. Top sports presenters. These are the faces covering sporting news on TV.
  3. Top sports commentators. A sports commentator (also known as a sports announcer, sportscaster, or play-by-play announcer) gives a real-time commentary of a game or event, usually during a live broadcast. They can also be invited to a sports show to offer commentary after a popular game.
  4. Top sports entertainers. Sports entertainers are content creators who love making funny videos about popular live broadcasted sporting games and/or matches. You can find them on YouTube, TikTok, etc.
  5. Top rules analysts. In the last decade, live sports broadcasters began to increasingly employ rules analysts to explain penalties and controversial calls and analyse instant replay reviews to predict whether a call/fault will or will not be overturned. These rules analysts are typically former referees.

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8. David Beckham

David Beckham is one of the world’s most popular sports athletes on Instagram with 87+ million followers. 

David Beckham is one of the most followed British people on Instagram and one of the most-followers  footballers on Instagram.

Beckham’s goals while playing for Manchester United FC will always be watched and remembered.

Football fans enjoy following his Inter Miami managing activities and his shirt off” workout videos on Instagram.

Beckham has collaborated on many advertising and marketing campaigns for brands including Sky Sports, H&M, Visit California, Burger King, Pepsi, Jaguar, Adidas, EA Sports, Sharpie (markers), Motorola, Vodafone, ESPN, Homme (Perfume), Coty, Sainsbury’s, Samsung and his newest partner, Breitling.

David Beckham creative portrait pencil drawing

David Beckham’s creative portrait pencil drawing

7. Kylian Mbappé

Kylian Mbappé is one of the world’s most-followed sports athletes on Instagram with 117+ million followers. 

The wonder French kid, Kylian Mbappé won the Golden Boot award at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and won the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia with the French national team.

Kylian Mbappé is considered one of the best and most talented football strikers in the world (along with Norwegian: Erling Haaland).

Mbappé became well-known for his amazing goals at Monaco FC. Currently, Kylian plays as a striker for Paris Saint Germain FC (PSG).

One of the world’s fastest and most astute goal scorers, Kylian is also one of the most followed footballers on Instagram.

Kylian has already been featured in marketing and advertising campaigns with top brands including FIFA (football), EA Sports (sports gaming), Good Goût (French organic baby and children foods’ brand), Sony Playstation, Nike Football & Jordan brands, Hublot watches, Bulk Homme (Japanese skincare brand), Electronic Arts (video gaming) and others.

kylian mbappe caricature funny

Kylian Mbappe caricature funny – Popular football player on Instagram

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6. LeBron James (@kingjames)

LeBron James is one of the world’s most popular sports athletes on Instagram with 159+ million followers. 

Did you ever imagine someone was ever going to be at the level of Michael Jordan?

LeBron surely has impressed the whole basketball world.

LeBron James’ face has been used by top brands around the world including Nike, TNT, Samsung, Powerade, GMC Hummer (SUV car), Ladder (Health & Wellness company).

However, it is embarrassing he has helped promote unhealthy brands such as Sprite and McDonald’s. LeBron James co-owns Blaze Pizza franchises across the U.S.A.

lebron james caricature cleveland

LeBron James caricature  – Cleveland basketball team

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sports gender inequality media attention coverage disparity

sports gender inequality media attention coverage disparity

5. Neymar jr (@neymarjr)

Neymar Jr is one of the world’s most-followed sports athletes on Instagram with 221+ million followers. 

Is Neymar Jr a model of some of the  world’s top 25 luxury high fashion brands? a rapper celebrity, a singer or an elite football player?

A bit of everything, the media has catapulted Neymar as the “always cryingdiva but surely Neymar has shown the world he is a talented footballer. The MSN (Messi-Suarez-Neymar) at Barcelona FC, will always be remembered as one of the most dangerous forward threesomes in football history.

After four seasons at Barcelona FC and six seasons at PSG, Neymar Jr is currently playing as a striker for Saudi Pro League club Al Hilal.

Neymar’s fans love to watch his football skills, tricks, fashion style, football goals and fun moments. He has played for the Brazilian football team, Barcelona FC and Paris Saint Germain FC 

Neymar is one of the world’s most-followed footballers on Instagram and one of the world’s top 10 most-followed footballers on TikTok.

Neymar has collaborated with top brands around the world. Some of the most popular sponsorship deals and endorsements Neymar has worked with include Nike, Puma and Epic Games (the developer of the popular online game: Fortnite).

Neymar jr caricature footballer brazil

Neymar jr caricature footballer brazil

“Neymar is undoubtedly the best player in Brazil. He deserves to play in the best team in the world; next to the best player in the world, Messi. He is a very good player with great quality and a great future. I have no doubt. For me, Neymar is a genius”

Pelé

Before endorsing any of these top talented sporting celebrities, you may want to check whether their personality and values match your brand. For example:

  • Cristiano Ronaldo = Hard work
  • Neymar Jr = Rebelious
  • Messi = Pure talent, a genius!
  • Zlatan = Rebel, directness, honesty
  • Ronaldinho = Fun!

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4. Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli is one of the world’s most popular sports athletes on Instagram with 269+ million followers. 

The Indian god of cricket, Virat Kohli is adored by billions of people around the world. Virat has collaborated with brands for tv ads and advertising campaigns including Puma, Pepsi, OPPO (mobile phones), Colgate, Blue Star (Air conditioners), Too Yumm, Xiomi India, Samsonite’s American Tourister India, Shyam Steel, Great Learning, Iqoo Smartphones, Lafarge, Max Life Insurance, Vizecare, Google, Hero, Vicks and others.

Virat Kohli caricature

Virat Kohli caricature

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3. Dwayne Douglas Johnson (The Rock)

Dwayne Douglas Johnson (The Rock) is one of the world’s most-followed sports athletes on Instagram with 397+ million followers. 

Samoan descent, Dwayne Douglas Johnson (The Rock) is a Californian superstar who has achieved it all.

Every industry The Rock touches is a win: American football, wrestling, acting and movie production. etc.

Dwayne Johnson is a great and fun character to follow on his Instagram account.

The Rock has featured in global marketing campaigns for brands such as Under Armour and others.

Dwayne Johnson caricature The rock

Dwayne Johnson’s caricature – The Rock

Some of the brands that this famous American sports personality endorses include Seven Bucks Productions, Under Armour, Zoa Energy, Salt & Straw and Teremana Tequila.

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2. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is one of the world’s most popular sports athletes on Instagram with 503+ million followers. 

Messi is commonly called “la pulga” meaning the “little flea”. 

A graduate of La Masia (Barcelona’s youth academy), Leo Messi plays for Inter Miami football club.

Leo Messi‘s unique ball dribbling inventions and game-awareness skills have made him win many trophies such as the latest 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the 2021 Copa America in Brazil and his 8th Ballon d’Or in 2023.

His golden years in Barcelona FC – under the management of Pep Guardiola epitomised him as the GOAT (Greatest of all time).

On his first day at PSG in 2021, Messi’s t-shirt hit sales records for his new club, confirming his power as a brand.

The late controversial and iconic Argentinian footballer Diego Armando Maradona once said:

The ball stays glued to his foot; I’ve seen great players in my career, but I’ve never seen anyone with Messi’s ball control

The GOAT debate (Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo) has ended after his successful 2022 World Cup that crowned him as the winner. Sadly the GOAT debate will no longer fill social media platforms with millions of comments from raving fans.

Cristiano Ronaldo still possesses a record many professional football analysts believe may take him above Leo Messi: Cristiano has scored far more decisive goals (goals that win titles).

One of the most followed footballers on Instagram, Leo Messi sadly collaborates with unhealthy brands such as Pepsi, Gatorade (sugary drinks), Lays (chips), Budweiser (Alcoholic beverage) and video gaming companies that make kids addicted to consoles (PUBG, Call of Duty Warzone2 ModernWarfare 2, Sorare).

Shameful for a guy of this calibre.

Other “brand ambassador deals” include Adidas, Cirque du Soleil, Hard Rock Cafe, Apple TV, Saudi Tourism Authority (visitsaudi),  Louis Vuitton, Socios.com, Bitget (A crypto exchange platform)

Lionel Messi caricature mate

Lionel Messi caricature mate

“Lionel Messi is a wonderful player. Very skilful. Highly intelligent. He is not good in the air”

Pelé

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Messi and Ronaldo’s new football club announcements on Instagram and Twitter saw massive engagement from the sports community and football fans around the world. What was clear was that Ronaldo’s move back to Manchester United was more popular in terms of Instagram/Twitter likes than Messi’s move to PSG.

messi ronaldo announcements social media photo vs video instagram twitter

Messi’s PSG and Ronaldo’s Manchester United new club announcements August 2021 social media photo vs video Instagram Twitter

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1. Cristiano Ronaldo 

Cristiano Ronaldo is the world’s most-followed sporting athlete on Instagram with 631+ million followers.

Cristiano Ronaldo caricature abs shirt off

Cristiano Ronaldo caricature abs shirt off

Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese elite football sticker who was born on Madera Island. 

Cristiano Ronaldo has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or a record eighteen times and is a five-time winner.

On the 31st December 2022, Cristiano Ronaldo signed a new contract with Al Nassr FC a Saudi Arabian football club based in Riyadh, right after a controversial exit (second spell) from Manchester United and an extraordinary time at Real Madrid FC and Juventus FC.

Cristiano Ronaldo knows the power of celebrity branding and has successfully launched different businesses including hotels (Pestana CR7), CR7 Fragrances, Health & fitness app (7egent), Gym (CR7 Crunch fitness), eyewear, underwear, shoes (footwear) and fashion. Related: the top 10 most popular top fitness apps

Cristiano has collaborated with and been the model for global marketing campaigns and brands including Binance, Nike, Insparya (haircare), Kickoff by Zuju, Herbalife Nutrition, Dazn (sports app), Clear (haircare), SixPad (fitness gear), Free Fire (Gaming app), LiveScore, Talabat (Food and grocery delivery app) and Samsonite’s brand: American Tourister.

Cristiano Ronaldo is also known for creating controversy, especially when telling the media he was betrayed by Manchester United or saying he is a better player than Lionel Messi.

CR7 is one of the most followed footballers on Instagram and the most popular sports athlete on Instagram.

Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal footballer sports athlete most popular Instagram

Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal footballer sports athlete most popular Instagram

Cristiano Ronaldo has received some of the scariest tackles in football history. A compilation of those nasty tackles could become one of the best Netflix horror movies.

CRISTIANO RONALDO COCA-COLA BOTTLE REMOVAL

In June 2021, during a football post-match interview, Cristiano Ronaldo (One of the most followed footballer on Instagram), surprisingly removed Coca-Cola bottles in a stunt to promote his water brand. This action produced a single-day drop of USD$3 billion in Coke’s market capitalisation.

coca-cola market cap drop graph after cristiano ronaldo bottles removal

Coca-Cola market cap drop graph after Cristiano Ronaldo’s bottle removal

Would you like to increase Instagram followers fast and free?

START YOUR GLOBAL SPORTS INFLUENCER OUTREACH CAMPAIGN TODAY!

Top marketers working for global sports brands are doing Influencer Marketing outreach with this exclusive “The world’s top 200 sports athletes on Instagram list ready on Google Sheets.

Each entry includes:

  • Full name
  • Link to the Instagram account
  • Instagram followers count (as of January)
  • Main sport category
  • Gender (Female, male, lgbtqia+)

Get immediate access to this premium list!

This premium list is being used by top professionals working for some of the top global sports brands. A great list for:

  • Global Brand Strategists
  • Global Marketing Directors
  • Sports Account Directors
  • Digital Marketers
  • Influencer Marketing Strategists
  • Social Media Managers for sports brands

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CONCLUSION

Some of these top 10 most popular sports athletes on Instagram have a large and dedicated fan base as fans often have a strong emotional connection with them.

Partnering with them can significantly increase your brand’s exposure as their followers are likely to pay attention to their endorsements and collaborations and they may be more inclined to make a purchase.

These sports stars are seen as role models and admired for their sports achievements and skills.

By selecting the right sports celebrity that aligns with your target audience, you can effectively reach and connect with your desired customer base.

When working with some of these top 10 sports athletes on Instagram, you should leverage their personal experiences, achievements, and values to tell a captivating narrative that resonates with your target audience.

Authenticity and relevance are vital for a successful collaboration with a sports athlete on Instagram.

You may want to consider the long-term impact of the partnership, as the association with one of the top 10 sports celebrities on Instagram can have lasting effects on your positive brand’s reputation and perception.

eDigital can help you conceptualise, plan, develop, run and optimise successful Instagram advertising campaigns that generate leads and sales for your brand.

Our digital marketing services include:

  • Strategic planning for social media and other digital marketing channels.
  • Online advertising management and optimisation (Search, Display, social media ads and re-marketing).
  • Marketing training: social media training and digital marketing training. 
  • SEO strategy and execution. Including content development (articles, stories, eye-catching and SEO-optimised visuals).
  • Celebrity and influencer marketing campaign strategy. 
  • Brand development. Logo creation, brand personality development and design of marketing materials.
  • Consumer contests/competitions/giveaways.
  • Email marketing. Dip sequence design and deployment. 
  • Conversion rate optimisation. It is also called “path to purchase” optimisation. 

Next > The top 20 most popular sports athletes on Instagram

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THE WORLD’S TOP 10 MOST-FOLLOWED SPORTS ATHLETES ON INSTAGRAM

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