Sport has long gone beyond mere physical activity and has become an enormous industry, creating one of the planet’s most influential and dynamic economies. The income generated by sports and the related market plays a vital role in the economy of entire continents. An example is North America, where Statista estimates it will be $83.1 billion in 2023.
Preferences for particular sports vary from region to region and country to country. For example, in India, the most searched query is “betstarexch app download” because of the popularity of cricket in the country, and Canada is crazy about hockey! Nevertheless, general patterns, of course, exist. In this article, we have compiled a ranking of the most popular sports in the world based on several criteria, including:
- TV and social media coverage;
- search results;
- sponsorship contracts, and the number of people actively involved in a particular sport.
Basketball (830 million)
One of the most media sports that gave the world was Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James – absolute stars that almost everyone has heard of, regardless of whether they are into basketball.
This sport is widespread on all continents, among the most evenly distributed. Nevertheless, the United States remains the central mecca of basketball, where more than half of the population is fond of it.
Unlike baseball, the women’s segment is actively developing in basketball, which is already one of the growth drivers of this sport and creates a good reserve for the future.
Volleyball (about 900 million)
Like basketball, volleyball is widespread worldwide but especially popular in South and North America, Europe, and Asia.
Regarding media coverage, it is significantly inferior to almost all competitors. However, it takes its toll, which is a considerable merit of its beach variety.
Table tennis (over 1 billion)
Even though table tennis is significantly inferior in terms of global media, even to rugby, not to mention baseball and basketball, it is ahead of them in terms of mass. It is primarily due to its wild popularity in Asia (especially in China) and Europe, although it also has a large following in North America and Africa.
According to the latest ITTF report, the three main events of the past season, which took place from September 30 to October 30, 2022, were viewed by 935 million people.
Of course, there are no official statistics regarding the number of practicing players; however, according to various sources, their number varies from 350 to 380 million people. And these are only those who are actively involved.
Tennis (over 1.2 billion)
Tennis will never become the most popular sport globally because it is cumbersome, expensive, and demanding equipment/inventory. Nevertheless, it is consistently in the top 5 most popular sports due to the enormous fan audience worldwide. The only continent where tennis is on the margins is, for obvious reasons, Africa, but even there, the picture is gradually changing.
The popularity of tennis contributes to its full development in the men’s and women’s segments. If the absolute basketball superstars are exclusively men, then in tennis, there has been a certain parity for many years: relatively speaking, Roger Federer has Serena Williams, and Andre Agassi has Steffi Graf.
Ice hockey (1.9 billion)
Let’s make a reservation immediately: we have combined ice hockey and field hockey into one entity. Consider it is cheating, but both games’ roots are still the same.
Ice hockey is traditionally revered in North America (in particular, in Canada, it is the number one sport), the countries of Northern and, partially, Eastern Europe. Its “grassy” counterpart is much more widely “smeared” around the planet, but in no other country does it enjoy the same popularity as ice hockey in Canada. Nevertheless, in absolute terms, he boasts a good audience in Western Europe, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Cricket (over 2.5 billion)
This is a unique case when a sport of little interest in Europe and North America has been firmly holding the second position in the global top for many years. It’s all about his wild popularity in South Asia – only India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have about 1.5 billion fans. There is a decent audience in Australia, South Africa, and at home – in England.
Let’s take an example to understand the scope. Virat Kohli, the captain of the Indian national team, has 236 million followers on Instagram. It is the third result among all athletes globally; only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have more.
Despite the vast majority of fans following men’s cricket, the women’s segment is gradually developing and finding more and more fans, which contributes to the further growth of the sport’s popularity.
Football (4.5 billion)
The uncontested leader of world sports, with a margin of first place in popularity in Europe, South America, and several Asian countries. In the United States, football has been the most dynamically developing sport over the past 20 years and has already almost caught up with basketball and baseball in popularity – albeit not yet in terms of active activities, but as a viewed form, even in the early 2000s, this was unimaginable. In China, the number of enthusiastic football fans is about 200 million people; in Australia, football is in the top 5 most visited sports. Even in India, despite the lack of any apparent international success and the country’s craze for cricket, football consistently ranks among the top three most popular sports in terms of fan interest and directly active activities.
The FIFA World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world. For example, the 2022 World Cup matches were watched by more than 4 billion people, which is twice the number of the 2022 Olympic Games. However, the World Cup is held every four years, and the English Premier League every year, and its annual audience is 4.7 billion people. Add to this the views of the rest of the international and domestic championships and Cups, and you will get figures that are impossible to comprehend.