The Top 22 Sports Influencers & Why Gen Z Loves Them

Sports influencers come in many forms - and Gen Z loves all of them. But why? And how can your brand work with them? Here’s all you need to know.
Fanbytes | Sports influencers

In 30 seconds:

  • Sports influencers are as diverse in type as the sports they’re involved with – so whether you’re looking for football fans or bodybuilding stars, there’s someone for you.
  • If you’re looking to run healthy lifestyle campaigns, or just want people to share relatable sports content, sports influencers could be the perfect partnership.
  • And, like most social media influencers, they have huge audiences of Gen Z followers – all following along for the podium highs, and the DNF lows.

The top sports influencers provide more than just interesting watching for their online followings: they’re also role models. 

The sporting talent, passion and perseverance shown by these athletes is enough to inspire any casual viewer – and on social media, anyone can get a clear glimpse into what life as a sportsperson entails. 

Social media audiences can encounter a huge range of sports influencer types; from world-famous football stars to gymnastic coaches, paralympic medalists to sports photographers – meaning there are many routes into engaging with sports fans on social media

For sports brands, there’s a lot to consider. Whether you have the budget to aim for a big celebrity, or you’re more likely to pick one of many sports micro influencers, it pays to get a sports influencer on board with your sports campaign. 

We’ve found the top 22 sports industry and social names you should know, across a range of disciplines, and we’re talking you through why Gen Z loves them. 

A gold medal-worthy campaign, coming right up…

Why Gen Z loves sports influencers

They’re fans, sportspeople themselves, and they make up a significant chunk of sports influencers’ followings: we’re talking, of course, about Gen Z. 

For the sports industry, Generation Z has proven a bit of a puzzle. Only 23% said they were ‘passionate’ sports fans, and although more than half do identify as sports fans, they’re only half as likely as Millennials to regularly watch it live.

One place where Gen Z are consistently engaging with sports, though? Online. 

Whether it’s following professional athletes on Instagram or stitching their TikToks with other sports fans, Gen Z’s approach to sports engagement is totally different to their predecessors. 

In fact, according to video management platform Imagen, four times as many young viewers watch ‘non-game’ sports content than those in the Baby Boomer generation. That means they’re watching content like behind-the-scenes clips, interviews, and reaction videos – and following sports influencers for all of it. 

Gen Zers’ status as digital natives has meant that influencer marketing collaborations often provide brands the most direct link to audiences of young people. Given that 76% of Gen Z reportedly follow at least one influencer (and almost half of them follow more than 10), it’s no surprise that sports influencers are rising in popularity, even if fewer than one quarter of Gen Z actually tune into sports events in real time. 

Here’s our list of who Gen Zers are following, and why you should want to include them in your marketing strategy to engage Gen Z: 

Household names

Even world-famous sports people who have become household names have time to snap a great picture for Instagram every now and again, and you can bet you’ll find Gen Z fans amongst their millions of likes:

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano)

It has been reported that Ronaldo has made up to £1.7M per post, placing him out of most brands’ price brackets – but with an Instagram account of over 400 million followers, you can see why some would be willing to pay the premium. 

2. LeBron James (@kingjames)

Another sports star with a huge online following, NBA star LeBron James mostly posts to Instagram, where he has 130 million followers. Along with posts from the basketball court, the world-famous basketball player also uploads images of his daily life, family, as well as plenty more insights into his lifestyle. 

3. Serena Williams (@serena)

One of the biggest tennis stars in the world, Serena Williams has expanded her social media presence to encompass not only Instagram, but also TikTok. She uploads BTS footage of glamorous magazine shoots alongside glimpses into family life – highlighting to her Gen Z followers the kind of work-life balance they’re such champions of. 

4. Lewis Hamilton (@lewishamilton)

Stylish, authentic and often vulnerable, Lewis Hamilton is unafraid to share a whole range of content on his social media profile. Some of his most popular posts are unrelated to Formula 1 completely, instead relating to mental health, burnout, or other relatable challenges. 

Of course, given his legion of young fans, even without his own account there you’ll find plenty of content about Hamilton on platforms like TikTok – where the hashtag #LewisHamilton has over 4.2B views. 

@formulacam 𝗟𝗲𝘄𝗶𝘀 𝗛𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗹𝘁𝗼𝗻 𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗱𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝗰𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗯𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝘁 𝟮 🥶 #f1 #lewishamilton #fyp #fypシ #viral #blowup #foryoupage #trending #formula1 #blowthisup #goat #formula1edit #hamilton #bestever #mercedesf1 #FilmTeyvatIslands ♬ Show Me Your Back - FindMyName

5. Roger Federer (@rogerfederer)

World-famous tennis player Roger Federer has 9.7 million followers on his instagram account, but his brand endorsements famously go far beyond the reach of social media. His brand partnerships have included the likes of Rolex (in a $15 million deal), Uniqlo (in a reported $300 million deal), Mercedes-Benz, Gillete, Barilla, Moet & Chandon, Credit Suisse and Lindt, as well as Nike and tennis equipment manufacturer Wilson.

Why work with them:

If your brand happens to have the means to work with a huge celebrity name like those mentioned on this list, you can guarantee a viral moment. These partnerships ensure next-level brand awareness by placing your name alongside these stars, who are basically brands in their own right. 

It’s important to note that many of these sports stars are heavily involved in their own charity work, as they’re motivated to put their visibility behind worthy causes. This means there’s an opportunity to align with them around a charitable or social cause – something Gen Zers always appreciate in the brands they choose to support. 

Top-tier sports professionals

Are athletes influencers? Just ask some of the names on this list, who are proving that athleticism and social media savvy can go hand-in-hand…

6. Virat Kohli (@virat.kohli)

Indian cricketer and former captain of the India national cricket team, Virat Kohli is beloved amongst millions of cricket fans worldwide. Known as the ‘king of cricket’, he also happens to be India’s highest-earning influencer on Instagram. 

7. Katie Ormerod (@katieormerod)

Olympic snowboarder for team GB and 11x World Cup medalist, Katie’s posts can take you on a snow-covered adventure – or just show you what all the cool snowboarding kids are wearing these days. 

@katieormerod Last day of the season 🌴 #fyp #foryou ♬ The Good Part - AJR

8. Keahi de Aboitiz (@keahideaboitiz)

From one board to another: Keahi de Aboitiz is a 4x Kitesurfing World Champion, which means his social media accounts are stuffed full of beautiful ocean pictures, as well as clips of impressive wind-powered surfing stunts. 

9. Eddie Hall (@eddiehallwsm)

Eddie Hall (aka The Beast), is a former World’s Strongest Man. He’s since appeared in a few TV shows and documentaries showing how he’s developed into such a powerhouse – but it’s on TikTok that Gen Z really interacts with him. 

From participating in challenges to posting funny skits – and, of course, some impressive lifts – Eddie’s account is authentic and unpolished, just how Gen Z likes it. 

10. Beth Mead (@bethmead_)

Lioness and now Euro champion, football player Beth Mead has skyrocketed to fame after the winning final against Germany – but her TikTok followers have known about her long before she took to the pitch in that record-breaking match. 

Not afraid to have a little fun with it, Beth’s account shares kit reveals, pitchside interviews, and also funny dance trends, TikTok challenges, and posts experimenting with viral filters. All the good stuff. 

@bethmead_ Still working on the dance moves 💃🏼 @milliebright04 @rachdaly3 #fypシ #foryoupage ♬ DJ Rony Remix - Rony

Why work with them:

Gen Zers follow these sports influencers for their specific niches – so if you’re looking to market to a particular target audience, they’re a great way to get involved with a personality who will strongly resonate with their audience. 

Plus, working with an influencer like these will lend credibility to your campaign, and show fans that you’re appreciative of the sport. Add to that the possibility to create reactive content on the back of these stars’ ongoing careers, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a highly engaging campaign. 

That’s exactly what happened with the Lionesses recent 2022 Euros win.

Working with Fanbytes by Brainlabs, Adidas created the following TikTok video, featuring England footballer Alessia Russo reacting to a viral moment in the match, where she was caught taking a cheeky look at Germany’s team instructions. It soon became their top-performing video on their channel. 

It’s proof that Gen Zers are keeping an eye on the major events, and tailoring your content to respond speedily to major sporting events is one way to show that your brand is relevant – as well as letting you capitalise on a viral moment. 

As our co-founder and CEO Timothy Armoo said in a LinkedIn post on the subject; “now that’s how you do reactive content.”

Sports coaches

Getting involved with sport doesn’t always mean joining a team – sometimes it’s just about the personal wellness journey. That’s where these social media sports coaches come in: teaching Gen Z how to emulate them. We’ve pulled out a couple here, but why not check out this article for a full list of the top fitness influencers to follow

11. Elliot Burton (

When Gen Zers have been inspired to pursue their own fitness goals, Elliot Burton has them covered. Sharing workout tips, motivational advice, and doing his best to make protein powders look appetising – Elliot’s popular TikTok and Instagram accounts are great starting points for users who want to level-up their training regimes. Some advice my younger self #elliotbfit #fitness ♬ 9 am - vinix

12. Josie Hamming (@josiehamming)

It’s not just men leading the social media fitness scene. Influencers like Josie Hamming are showing that women are also out there crushing their fitness goals – whether that’s to powerlift, run, or just prove a point by crushing an apple between two hands… 


Give ppl something to talk about

♬ original sound - Josie Hamming

Why work with them:

Gen Z loves to see ‘behind the curtain’, get glimpses into others’ routines, see how results are obtained. They want authenticity from their social media influencers, and it’s this trustworthiness and relatability that these sports influencers have in spades. 

Not only that, but by their very nature, they’re educational. And educational content is another thing which piques Gen Z’s interest. Check out our article on TikTok, Education and Gen Z to learn more.  

Working with these sports influencers is a great route for brands looking to promote a healthy lifestyle, or just to use their campaign to inspire. 

Social media influencers in sport

Broaden your understanding of both ‘sport’ and ‘athlete’, and you might just end up finding the perfect sports influencer to head up your campaign amongst this group of content creators. Whether they’re powerlifting or mountain biking – these names are a big deal to their audiences:

13. Cass Martin (@thecass)

A certified personal trainer, Cass Martin shares workout routines with the active communities on #gymtok and #fittok. She also regularly posts relatable content poking lighthearted fun at gym experiences, and showing her audience that they’re all ‘in it together’. 

14. Charlie Desilets (@charliedesilets)

With a bio that states you’ll find ‘mountains, snowboard and stuffs’ on her page, you know that Charlie’s account is going to be full of fun. Users flock to her for inspiring posts about mountain sports, outdoor adventuring, and the occasional cute dog pic, too. 

15. Brooklyn Bell (@badgal_brooky)

Otherwise known as ‘badgal brooky’, Brooklyn Bell is a skier, mountain biker and artist. She uses her Instagram account to share pictures of the murals she paints – most often of the mountains she bikes in – as well as shots of her riding, candid photos of her life, and landscape pics worthy of any gallery wall. 

She’s also recently joined TikTok – so you can also find her there. 

16. Malou Peterson (@maloupeterson)

A skier from northern Sweden, Malou has racked up an impressive list of supporters, including brands like GoPro and Atheltic Brewing. On her account, you’ll find highly-polished pictures with captions that share her thoughts, feelings, and often tell a story or two about where she is and how she got there. It’s perfect for inspiring her audience – or just making everyone just that little bit jealous. 

Why work with them:

TikTok and Instagram influencers are experts in creating large and engaged audiences of fans – no matter their niche. 

When it comes to attracting audiences of sports fans, it’s by collaborations with these sports influencers that sports brands have the best chance of successfully inspiring a specific action within their target audience.

That’s because Gen Zers like social media influencers because of their relatability. They can envisage themselves being part of their social bubble, whilst wanting to emulate them. They’re more likely to follow tutorials from the right influencer, or apply their tips to their own lives – which explains their hugely high engagement rate.

Whether you’re a major brand or a niche sports label, letting these influencers use their expertise and love of the sport guide your campaign puts you at the heart of your target niche. 

Inclusive sports influencers

Sport is for everyone, and no one is showing that important message better than these inclusive spots influencers:

17. Kanoa Greene (@kanoagreene)

A plus-sized fitness influencer, Kanoa Greene’s ‘sweat with me’ series on YouTube is a joyful fitness programme specifically designed for people in larger bodies, who often don’t feel included by more ‘mainstream’ fitness content. 

Her Instagram account is life-affirmingly inclusive – and she champions healthy lifestyles and happiness, without guilt – reminding her followers that they don’t need to look a certain way to enjoy exercising, or just life in general. 

Another recent TikTok joiner, she’s just begun sharing fitness content on the video-sharing platform, too, where we’re sure she’ll soon grow. 

18. Jesi Stracham (@jesistracham)

‘Wheel with me fitness’ is Jesi Stracham’s answer to a fitness community that often neglects to include disabled people. She posts about her personal fitness journey, shares her achievements, and sends the message to other disabled sports enthusiasts that they belong in the fitness community too.

@jesistracham I am beyond stoked to play for 12 hours over night in Philly this weekend. I can’t help but think about how soul-filling each @toughmudder event is for my team and I. #1stPhorm #1stPhormAthleteSearch #Iam1stphorm #legionofboom #bethe1 #wedothework #duespaid #wheelwithme #toughertogether #toughmudder #wheelwithmefitness ♬ The Thrill - Wiz Khalifa

Why work with them:

Diversity and inclusion are super important to Gen Z – and they’re also vital in sport. 

It goes without saying that brands should be looking to include representation from a diverse range of backgrounds in their advertising campaigns – especially when you consider that Gen Z, who are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in history, look to support brands who take a stand on these important issues. 

By engaging with a sports influencer who campaigns for equality on their own channels, you can ensure your brands’ message is even more far-reaching. 

Sports photographers / videographers

Without sports photographers and videographers working hard to share imagery from live sport, no sport would be able to have fans watching it at all. Why not add these two to your social feeds:

19. Chris Rogers (@chrisrogerss)

If you like your sports content served with a side of travel-envy, Chris’ account is for you. Sharing stunning images of deep-sea dives, high-energy surfing shots and dynamic snowboarding clips – these posts are sure to get anyone hyped about the sport. 

@chrisrogerss Watching Cory Teunissen with cheat codes on! How did he do this 🤯😂 #gopro #florida #wakeboarding ♬ Originalton - POV’s

20. Travis Burke (@travisburkephotography)

With over 760k Instagram followers, it’s clear that Travis’ images are reaching a wide range of engaged followers on social media. His bio describes himself as a ‘photographer, athlete, and dream chaser’ – and the stunning photos he posts show all three in equal measure. New followers should expect to feel inspired to try moving onto the open road and living a life of cliff-jumping and skateboarding. 

Why work with them:

Gen Z wants to fill their social feeds with attractive content, and no one knows better how to capture the impressive beauty of sport than sports photographers and videographers. 

Getting one of these visual experts on hand will ensure that your campaign is off to the best start, with a look and feel that’s sure to impress even the most diehard sports fan. And it helps that these photographers also have hugely engaged sports communities of their own! 

Sports fans

Speaking of diehard sports fans – there are plenty of those on social media. And their enthusiasm is catching. Whereas Millennial sports fans may listen to fan podcasts while on the go, Gen Zers are more likely to consume fan-created content in the form of video. Here are a couple of great examples: 

21. Jake (@jakedoesfootball)

One of many sports micro influencers, Jake Does Football’s account is fairly self-explanatory. The TikTokker posts match reviews, where he’ll go into detail about the most recent football matches, discuss lineups, and make predictions based on player ratings and past performances. 

It’s a little nerdy – but it’s a lot of fun for fellow football fanatics, who love engaging with their own thoughts and opinions in the comments. 

22. Messi.Magic (@arturvinaas_)

There are also lots of fan pages dedicated to specific sportspeople across every social media platform. They’re gateways into specific sports communities of fans, and they’re often hugely popular. Even though the athlete themselves is almost never involved, these accounts can rack up views in the 10s of millions. 

This example, dedicated to famous football star Lionel Messi, has over 1.4 million followers and 32.3 million views, with some reaching as many as 54.6 million on a single post. That’s a lot of viewing power; a sign of strong sporting communities online, and a great potential route for brands to target an individual niche. 

Why work with them:

Gen Z loves to get involved with things. In fact, a study about their attitudes towards the sports industry showed that young fans want ‘sports media experiences that foster sharing, connection, and interaction.’ 

In our live event, we spoke with BT Sport’s Head of Social, James McManus, who revealed that a great way of building community with fans on their Youtube channel was to engage deeply with the biggest voices there, as these individuals can become influencers in their own right, well known amongst their core community. This marketing strategy fosters deeper engagement and brand love. You can read the takeouts from the talk here.

By engaging with the fans who are supporting the sport, you establish your brand as one that really understands the importance of community. This is something Gen Zers turn to social media for in the first place – which will help ensure the success of your influencer marketing campaign.

(Plus, there are no better avenues to pursue reactive content than sports fans, too, since they’ll already be creating posts around their favourite events.) 

Top sports influencers - the route to Gen Z

Whatever your brand’s campaign aim, there’s a subset of sports influencers who are the perfect fit. 

From global superstars to fellow fans, the world of sports influencers encompasses a range of experiences, all with one thing in common: they engage with Gen Z. For sports brands, that means that they’re the best tool for maximising your campaign reach, improving brand sentiment, and positioning your brand as a leader within the sports industry

By tailoring your campaign not only by platform, but also by influencer type, you can ensure a more effective marketing campaign – and a better response from your Gen Z target audience, too. 

If you want to learn more about influencer marketing, you can find an endless supply of insights on our blog, including:

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