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The AFCON 2019 stars with the highest social media marketability

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Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah (C) drives the ball during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Egypt and Zimbabwe at Cairo International Stadium on June 21, 2019. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

As the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt enters its second week, lots of buzz is being generated on social media platforms by the tournament.

Fans cannot get enough of the action and are turning to their second screens to share the excitement and the controversies with their networks. Sponsors are also plugging in to generate important mileage through their affiliation with the championship. Title sponsors, Total have been working to ensure that the official hashtag bearing their name is promoted across different channels.

The competition between #TotalAFCON2019 and #Afcon2019 is a potent one on social media. Other partners like OPPO and Orange have all been plugging into the social media space to ensure their brand affiliation with the tournament gains top-of-mind—awareness.

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This year’s AFCON is being hosted in the middle of the year with 24 teams for the first time in its history.

The growth of African football has thrown up global superstars that are drawing attention to the competition. Alongside their fame, they bring in their social media clout to shape the narratives during the championship, something that is important for their partner brands. US-based sponsorship analytics company, Hookit, has made available its list of the most marketable African footballers on social media to CampsBay Media.

The list is topped by none other than the Egyptian forward, Mohamed Salah, who has enjoyed enormous growth over the last year and capped it with a UEFA Champions League winner’s medal with Liverpool on June 1st.

Salah is the most followed African footballer on social media with a total of 48million followers. He grew his following by 16.5m from June 2018 till date.

The striker has more followers than the next seven African players on the top 10 combined. Despite Salah’s high following, he managed to generate a 1.13% engagement rate from his 517 posts on social media between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019. He also pulled in 283m interactions (likes, comments and shares) within that period, eight times more than his closest competition.

The other players in the top 10 with the highest interactions are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) – 33m interactions; Sadio Mane (Senegal) – 18m interactions; Riyad Mahrez (Algeria) – 15m interactions, Mehdi Benatia (Morocco) – 14m interactions; Alex Iwobi (Nigeria) 10m; Mohamed ElNeny (Egypt) – 9.4m; Ramadan Sobhi (Egypt) – 9.3m interactions; Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal) – 9.1m; Mahmoud Trezeguet (Egypt) – 8.2m and Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast).

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Aubameyang is the only player not present at AFCON 2019 following the failure of the Panthers to qualify.
These individual players represent some of the leading brands at the Nations Cup.

Salah is an ambassador for brands such as DHL, Pepsi Cola, Vodafone, Exxon Mobil and Adidas. What his social media posts do is to bring attention to those brands whenever he plugs them in. Salah’s image rights are closely guarded. It led to some controversy with the Egyptian Football Association ahead of the World Cup in 2018 when he frowned at the use of his photo by a national team sponsor while he is signed to a rival telecoms company. Salah also uses his social media for good causes, an example being a recent anti-smoking campaign. In 2018, The Guardian (UK) named Salah as the unifier of Egypt following the Pharaohs’ qualification for the World Cup in Russia after 28 years after many years of political turmoil.

On the home front, Arsenal forward Iwobi has been using his social media clout to push some of the brands that have partnered with him. They include LG, Pepsi and DStv.

The midfielder added 672, 262 followers across all his channels between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019, according to the Hookit analytics. His engagement rate was 1.58%. Iwobi has posted sparingly over the last year but he has been able to generate enough interactions from his 2.2m followers to put him in the top 10.

Outside of the top 10, Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast) seems like the next big riser. With a potential move to Arsenal, Zaha’s current following of 1.6m will double in the next few months.

At the moment he has a Promotional Effectiveness score of 88, the highest of any African player. This means that brands that partner with him will enjoy great promotion among his followers. While Kevin Prince Boateng is not with Ghana at the AFCON 2019, he lost 1.6m followers during the past year despite making a big move to Barcelona. He still retains over 4m followers.


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