What is the most popular sport in the world?
The exhilaration, excitement, thrill, and suspense, sports brings is a testament of its wondrous effects on humans. For centuries, humans have basked in the delight of fanciful entertainment, thanks to the unifying and enjoyable bond of emotional connection it has created in our hearts and minds. An instrument of socio-economic change, sports has done more than entertain us; it has helped build one of the most vibrant economic systems the world has seen.
In times where the world has seen violence, sports has brought smiles to the sad faces of the affected parties. An example is the 1914 Christmas day truce, where both warring parties left all differences aside to enjoy a beautiful game of world football. That was a kind and charitable gesture amid so much violence.
In some of the world’s most prosperous economies, revenue generated from entertaining sports activities has helped increase the countries economic growth. A testament to this fact is the effect sport has had on the Gross Domestic Revenue (GDP) of the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, revenue generated from professional sports accounts for approximately 1% of its GDP, thus, shaping the face of the 21st-century economy.
There exist various forms of sports, and we have presented conclusively, the top-10 most popular sports in the world, as of 2020.
Our ranking is based on the estimated number of fans, including global audience reach (TV views), online popularity (social media and search results), gender equality, endorsement deals, and athletes’ salaries.
The Most Popular Sports In The World
=9. American Football
Estimated Fans: 400 Million
American football, also known as gridiron, or just football in the United States, is one of the most popular sports in the world. Most of the fans heavily situate in the United States. The Super Bowl helps in improving the popularity of this sport. According to the Los Angeles Times in 2020, the Super Bowl LIV scored 99.9 million views in the United States alone.
The games enjoy a good following on social media. It also receives tremendous support from top brands such as Verizon, Gatorade, and Bud Light, in sponsorship deals. As of 2020, the highest-paid player in the National Football League (NFL) receive as much as $78 million per annum in salaries and endorsements.
Estimated Fans: 400 Million
As an all-gender inclusive sport, rugby is a sport that attracts as much as 10 million players worldwide. The just-concluded Rugby world cup in Japan gathered a lot of attention online as various countries make history and record surprising upsets.
The most prestigious tournament in rugby attracts the best names in the world of rugby, as well as top brands that commit significant funds in sponsorship. Brands such as MasterCard, Heineken, Emirates, DHL, and Toshiba, who sponsored the 2019 Rugby World Cup, help in building the popularity base of the game. Rugby players also earn a considerable sum of cash, with the highest-paid player receiving as much as $1.4 million in annual income.
Estimated Fans: 500 Million
Baseball, particularly the Major League Baseball (MLB), the pinnacle of baseball leagues in the world, has about 500 million fans globally. In a test of gender equality, male players grossly dominate the sport. Baseball attracts sponsorships by top brands such as Mastercard, Chevrolet, and Papa John’s. The highest-paid baseball player receives as much as $38 million yearly.
ALSO READ: Top-20 Richest Baseball Players In The World
7. Table Tennis
Estimated Fans: 850 Million
Since 2003, table tennis fans has increased to as much as 850 million. Though table tennis events are not as publicized as other prominent sports tournaments, it enjoys a moderate number of following on social media. Brands like Autohome and Sports Master sponsor table tennis tournaments. Though earnings of table tennis players are not widely reported, players certainly earn lucrative sums.
Estimated Fans: 900 Million
A sport that attracts as much as 900 million fans, volleyball receives a great deal of attention on social media. However, it is less televised compared to other top-rated sports. Volleyball’s popularity among both genders is on the rise, making it one of the fastest emerging sports in the modern age. Brands such as Mikasa, Dick’s Sporting Goods support Volleyball events. Top volleyball players receive as much as $1 million every season.
Estimated Fans: 1.2 Billion
A very strenuous and physically intensive sport, tennis is a sport where surprising upsets are not uncommon. The emergence of new talents in recent years has helped heightened the thrill in the competition to the delight of the 1.2 billion tennis fans.
Both tennis played by male and female recently attracts excellent media attention, which has caught the eye of brands such as Audemars Piguet, Rolex, and TAG Heuer. These brands pay tennis stars large sums of money in endorsement and sponsorship deals. Tennis players receive as much as $93 million in salary yearly.
Estimated Fans: 2 Billion
Both Ice and field hockey are among the most famous sports in the world. In the US and Canada, ice hockey receives a great deal of attention, which is no different from other regions. Globally, about 2 billion people follow hockey, especially the National Hockey League (NHL).
The male and female hockey league also receives considerable attention from brands such as Gatorade, Reebok, and others, who are willing to sign sponsorship deals with these teams. The highest-paid hockey player receives about $16 million in salary annually.
ALSO READ: List Of NHL Teams & NHL Hockey Facts
Estimated Fans: 2.2 Billion
A trendy sport in America, Basketball is one of the most talked-about sports in the world currently. That is as a result of the fact that specific high profile figures in the most prestigious basketball league in the world, the National Basketball Association (NBA), have aired their opinion in support of protesters in Hong Kong. It has resulted in a loss of billions of dollars as a result of various Chinese brands canceling deals with the NBA. This scandal, which has shaken the world of sports, shows how popular basketball is in every part of the world
Basketball is a game that is widely followed by about 2.2 billion fans globally. The sport also has its various female leagues worldwide, which also attracts media attention. Basketball fans can attest to the fact that brands are willing to spend millions of dollars in endorsement deals with top basketball players. These deals sometimes have continued even after the player’s retirement, as seen in the LeBron James and Michael Jordan’s shoe deal with Nike. The highest-paid basketball player receives as much as $92 million yearly.
ALSO READ: Top-20 Richest NBA Players Of All-Time
Estimated Fans: 2.5 Billion
Another popular sport with vast global reach, cricket, is a fantastic sport followed by about 2.5 billion fans, majorly from countries such as Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, and India. The most followed competition in cricket, the Cricket World Cup, last played in 2019 was watched by about 2.6 billion people.
Though the male-dominated cricket receives more attention, the women dominated cricket has been on the rise in popularity in recent years. Cricket also enjoys a good number of endorsement deals from various brands, especially bat making brands. Cricketers also enjoy huge paycheques, with the highest-paid cricketers receiving over 20 million dollars annually.
1. World/Association Football (Soccer)
Estimated Fans: 3.5 Billion
Played by more than 270 million people in the world, soccer, also known as association football, is widely followed and celebrated mainly in Europe. The most prestigious tournament in football, the FIFA World Cup was watched by a record number of 3.5 billion fans in 2018. Aside from that, every major football tournament, from the UEFA Champions League to the English Premier League or La Liga, is widely followed on various social media platforms.
While male football receives a lot of media attention, female football is not left out. The sport never fails to get extensive media attention. Top brands like Coca Cola, Qatar Airways, Pepsi, Nike, Puma, and Adidas have signed multi-million-dollar deals with football governing bodies such as FIFA and UEFA and top football clubs and national teams.
Soccer players are also not left out in the ranking of the highest-paid athletes in the world, with the highest-earning player making about $127 million annually.
A quick recap of the world’s most famous sports
|Rank||Sport||Estimated Fans||Popularity by Regions|
|1.||Association Football (Soccer)||3.5 Billion||Africa, America, Asia, Europe.|
|2.||Cricket||2.5 Billion||Asia, Australia, Europe|
|3||Basketball||2.2 Billion||Africa, America, Australia, Japan.|
|4.||Hockey||2 Billion||America, Asia, Australia, Europe.|
|5.||Tennis||1.2 Billion||America, Asia, Europe.|
|6.||Volleyball||900 Million||America, Asia, Australia, Europe.|
|7.||Table Tennis||850 Million||Africa, America, Asia, Europe.|
|8.||Baseball||500 Million||America, Japan.|
|=9||Rugby||400 Million||Africa, America, Asia, Australia, Europe|
|=9||American Football||400 Million||America|
No doubt, sports have enjoyed the right amount of attention from all generations. Association football or soccer is the most popular team sport in the world, with about 3.5 billion fans scattered across the globe. With an estimated 250 million players, soccer is a team sport with the highest number of participants in the world.
Please feel free to share your views about this ranking of the world’s most popular sports, in our comments section below.