What is the most popular sport in the world?
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 some of the world’s most prosperous economies, revenue generated from entertaining sports activities has helped increase 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 21st-century economy’s face.
There exist various forms of sports, and we have presented conclusively, the top-10 most popular sports in the world, as of 2021.
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, sponsorship/endorsement deals, and the primary population region.
The Most Popular Sports In The World
10. Golf – 450 Million Fans
Golf has an estimated fan base of about 450 million people worldwide.
It is most prevalent in North America, Western Europe, and East Asia regions.
In golf, players try to put the ball into a hole with the fewest possible strokes.
According to GOLF.com, about 441 million golf rounds were played in the United States in 2019 alone.
The sport receives worldwide sponsorships from top brands such as BMW, Cadillac, Rolex, Adidas, Nike, and several others.
Rugby – 475 Million Fans
As an all-gender inclusive sport, rugby is a sport that attracts as many as 10 million players worldwide.
Rugby is a contact sports quite similar to American football.
However, while rugby players were little protective equipment, American football players were a lot, such as helmets and pads.
The sport is trendy in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and other commonwealth nations.
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.
8. Baseball – 500 Million Fans
Not only is baseball a pastime sport in America, but it is also most popular in the Caribbean and East Asia.
The Major League Baseball (MLB), the pinnacle of baseball leagues globally, 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.
7. Basketball – 825 Million Fans
A trendy sport, which American-Canadian teacher James Naismith invented, basketball is now played globally with an estimated 825 million fans.
Basketball is a fast-paced sports, played by two teams
There’s no denying the fact that basketball is one of the most talked-about sports in the world currently.
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.
6. Table Tennis – 875 Million Fans
Also known as ping pong, since 2003, the table tennis fan base has increased to as much as 875 million.
The sport originated from England in the early 20th century.
Though table tennis events are not as publicized as other prominent sports tournaments, it enjoys a moderate number of social media followers and fans worldwide.
Table tennis is particularly popular in Asia, Europe, Americas and Africa.
Brands like Autohome and Sports Master sponsor table tennis tournaments.
5. Volleyball – 900 Million Fans
A sport that attracts as much as 900 million fans, volleyball receives a great deal of attention globally, particularly in North and South America, Western Europe, Australia, and Asia.
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.
4. Tennis – 1 Billion Fans
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 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.
3. Hockey – 2 Billion Fans
Both Ice and field hockey are among the most favourite sports in the world.
In the US, Canada, and Northern Europe, 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.
2. Cricket – 2.5 Billion Fans
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.
1. Association Football (Soccer) – 4 Billion Fans
With an estimated 4 billion fans, association football, or soccer as it is known in the US and Canada, is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the world.
Soccer is played by two teams in a rectangular field with a goal at both ends.
Each team attempts to dribble the ball and score into the opposing goal.
The sport is played by more than 270 million people globally (especially in Europe, South and Central America, and Africa), and it tops the list of the world’s most-watched sports.
The most prestigious football tournament, 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.
Football (soccer) is also among the highest-paid sports in the world.
Association football (soccer) is the most popular team sport globally, with about 4 billion fans scattered across the globe.
With an estimated 270 million players, soccer is a team sport with the highest number of participants in the world.
|Rank||Sport||Estimated Global Fan Base||Popularity by Regions|
|1||Association football (Soccer)||4 billion||Worldwide|
|2||Cricket||2.5 billion||UK, Africa, Asia, America, Europe, Australia|
|3||Hockey||2 billion||Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia|
|6||Table tennis||875 million||Worldwide|
|8||Baseball||500 million||America, Caribbean, East Asia|
|9||Rugby||475 million||UK, Africa, Asia, America, Europe, Australia|
|10||Golf||450 million||Western Europe, East Asia, North America|
The exhilaration, excitement, thrill, and suspense, sports brings is a testament to their 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.
In times where the world has seen violence, sports has brought smiles to the affected parties’ sad faces.
An example is the 1914 Christmas day truce, where both warring parties left all differences aside to enjoy a beautiful game of soccer.
That was a kind and charitable gesture amid so much violence.
No doubt, sports have enjoyed the right amount of attention from all generations.
Please feel free to share your views about this ranking of the most popular sports in the world, in our comments section below.
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