The League Index 2021: How the Sports Industry is Emerging From the Pandemic

August 2021

The League Index was developed as a means to benchmark top flight domestic leagues across key metrics, ensuring that stakeholders can contextualize performance and opportunity across the sports industry.

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Key Findings

US major leagues and European football reign supreme but face headwinds


NFL remains the number one league globally offering its sponsors a strong cross-generational base of fans, longevity, well-balanced competitiveness and strong economic background. Premier League improves its rank representing its growing commercial power for investors despite the pandemic. MLB falls out of top three with the pandemic cancelling its global games and shortening its 2020 season.


13 of top 20 leagues are football competitions


Football’s dominance continues to expand. Nine football competitions are from Europe with the majority of their 2019-2020 seasons unaffected by the pandemic, thus ensuring uninterrupted exposure to sports fans. Top European football leagues are also joined by football leagues from the US, Argentina, Mexico, and new entrant to this year’s top 20 - Japan.


Majority of top 10 leagues were able to play over 70% of their games, with live audiences at some capacity


Exposure to live audiences remains an important feature for a league’s commercial potential. With varying season schedules and pandemic situations across the world, some league exposure to live audiences and viewers at home was affected more than the others determining different reach for sponsors. Despite the pandemic, the majority of top leagues across different continents were able to play in front of some fans, albeit often in accordance with capacity restrictions.


Nearly 80% of all social media followers across 65 leagues are concentrated within top 10 leagues


As attention shifts online and traditional revenue streams are threatened, a comprehensive digital presence is essential to ensure a sports property’s reach to sports fans and growing value proposition for sponsors. Leagues that have vast social media following, such as La Liga, Premier League and NBA, rank high in the index.

Introduction

Scope
Introduction to Euromonitor International’s League Index
How a data-driven approach can navigate uncertainty for sponsors
Understanding league performance during the pandemic
Key findings: The League Index 2021

League Index: Top 20 Results

Top 10 leagues according to The League Index 2021
Top 11-20 leagues according to The League Index 2021
NFL is the number one sports league in the world
Premier League is the number one sports league in Europe
NBA is among the top three most followed leagues globally
NHL is the number three sports league in the US
MLB is one of the top five sports leagues globally
Bundesliga is the number two league in Europe
La Liga is one of the top three football leagues globally
Serie A is among top five most followed leagues globally
MLS is one of the top ten leagues globally
Ligue 1 is one of the top five leagues in Europe
Despite disruption, American and European Leagues reign supreme
Premier League climbs, MLB falls
Notable leagues outside the top 10

League Exposure During COVID-19

League Index 2021: what it takes to come out on top
Exposure impacts sports property’s index position
NBA, NFL and NHL achieve high exposure for their sponsors
UK’s football leagues remain leaders in exposure
IPL’s vast digital following compensates for loss of live spectators
Top 10 leagues in social media following by region
TikTok is the fastest growing platform across the top 10 leagues
Premier League overtakes La Liga as most followed league online
TikTok has lower saturation across leagues outside top 10
IPL is among the top 10 most followed leagues globally
Digital engagement is paramount to league success

Conclusion

What to expect in the year ahead

Full League Ranking Results

The League Index 2021 (1)
The League Index 2021 (2)
The League Index 2021 (3)
The League Index 2021 (4)
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The League Index 2021 (7)

Methodology

Value behind different metrics groups
Overview of metrics for The League Index
Methodology
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