The Weight of Deception: Phony Following of Pro Athlete Instagram Influencers

The Truth Behind Influencer Followings: Exposing Fake Instagram Followers

In today’s social media-driven world, it seems like everyone wants to be an influencer. However, the authenticity of an influencer’s following has become a major concern. While the number of followers someone has may have once been seen as a measure of their impact, the prevalence of fake followers has begun to change the game.

The Rise of Fake Followers

In an effort to boost their online presence, some individuals resort to buying followers. These followers are often bots, which not only inflate the follower count but also pose a threat to privacy and security. However, for high-profile individuals, the allure of a larger online fanbase outweighs the risks associated with fake followers.

To shed light on this issue, we turned to, the latest influencer analysis tool. In this article, we will dive into the top 10 followed sports stars from the NBA, NFL, EPL, NHL, and MLB to uncover the extent of fake followers on their Instagram accounts.

NBA Fake Follower Analysis: Unmasking Instagram’s Synthetic Stardom

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a global phenomenon, and its players command immense followings on Instagram. However, when it comes to fake followers, even the biggest stars are not immune.

Lebron James: The King of Basketball and Fake Followers

Lebron James, widely known in and out of basketball circles, dominates the NBA both on and off the court. However, our analysis reveals that a staggering 15.2 million of his total 61.6 million followers are fake, accounting for 25% of his supposed fanbase.

While James may have a significant number of fake followers, this trend extends to other NBA players in the top 10 list. However, Kevin Durant stands out with just 19.5% (2.2 million) of his followers being fake, attesting to the authenticity of his reach.

Despite the presence of fake followers, these players still manage to reach a substantial number of genuine fans. Even the athlete occupying the 10th position on the list boasts 7.1 million followers, a considerable audience even if a quarter of them are fake.

The NFL’s Instagram Influence: Fact or Fiction?

While the National Football League (NFL) boasts a massive following, our analysis suggests that the NFL players’ Instagram appeal is somewhat lower in comparison to other sports.

Odell Beckham Jr: Not Immune to Fake Followers

Odell Beckham Jr, one of the NFL’s most recognizable figures, has a following of 14.1 million followers. However, a substantial 2.7 million of these followers are fake, comprising almost 20% of his fanbase.

Overall, NFL players have a lower percentage of fake followers compared to their NBA counterparts. Antonio Brown leads the pack with only 19.95% (3.8 million) of his followers being fake, indicating a more genuine following. Patrick Mahomes shines with an impressive record of just 12.51% (3.3 million) fake followers among his 3.3 million followers.

EPL: The Premier League’s Fake Follower Fiasco

Within the Premier League (EPL), we discovered that even the most popular players are not immune to fake followers on Instagram.

William Borges Da Silva’s Bot Brigade

William Borges Da Silva, ranking 9th in terms of Instagram followers, has the highest proportion of fake followers in the EPL. A staggering 24.5% (2.2 million) of his 9 million followers are fake, casting doubt on the authenticity of his online engagement.

However, compared to the likes of Paul Pogba, whose 20.38% (8.1 million) of fake followers nearly match Da Silva’s total following, Gabriel Jesus stands out for having the most genuine support. Only 12.2% (1.7 million) of his 14.4 million followers are fake, positioning him favorably as the 5th most-followed player in the Premier League.

Dissecting the NHL’s Social Media Influence

Ice hockey, while not as globally recognized as other sports, still maintains a solid following. However, our analysis reveals a lower online presence and influence among NHL players.

Real Following: Alex Ovechkin’s Authentic Fanbase

Alex Ovechkin, a prominent figure in the sport, boasts 1.5 million Instagram followers. Surprisingly, only 15.07% (225.5 thousand) of these followers are fake, indicating a relatively low prevalence of synthetic followers compared to other sports.

The player with the highest proportion of fake followers in the NHL is Tyler Seguin. With just over 500 thousand followers, 112.4 thousand of them (18.28%) are fake, slightly tainting his online fanbase. Auston Matthews, on the other hand, maintains an impressively low number of fake followers. With only 71.9 thousand bots, they account for just 11.18% of his 644 thousand followers.

MLB: Baseball’s Online Influence

Major League Baseball (MLB) players captivate fans on the baseball diamond, but their influence on social media may not be as profound. Nevertheless, a handful of players in the top 10 manage to maintain a following with a relatively low percentage of fake followers.

Giancarlo Stanton and the Threshold of Fake Followers

In the MLB, Giancarlo Stanton breaks the mold with 21.4% (256.8 thousand) of his 1.2 million followers being fake, surpassing the 20% mark. Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera holds one of the highest percentages of fake followers at 19% but fails to break the top five with his overall count of 929 thousand followers.

Fake Followers: A Widespread Issue

After analyzing the followings of prominent sports stars across various leagues, it becomes evident that the problem of fake followers is pervasive. The motivations behind these synthetic followings vary from buying them to artificially inflate one’s status to randomly acquiring them.

Celebrities like Lebron James are unlikely to have purchased their followers, as their fame speaks for itself. However, reality show stars often resort to this practice in an attempt to enhance their marketability. Nevertheless, companies are becoming more sophisticated in identifying fake followers and assessing an influencer’s true reach.


In conclusion, the allure of a large following has created a market for fake Instagram followers. As we’ve seen from our analysis of top sports stars, the authenticity of followings can vary significantly. While some players have managed to maintain a high proportion of genuine followers, others have fallen victim to synthetic engagement.


1. How can you identify fake followers on Instagram?

Identifying fake followers on Instagram can be challenging, but there are several indicators to look out for. These include suspicious follower-to-engagement ratios, generic or spammy comments, and sudden spikes in followers. Additionally, utilizing reliable influencer analysis tools can provide valuable insights.

2. Are fake followers a significant concern for influencers?

Fake followers pose a significant concern for influencers since they undermine their credibility and authenticity. Building a genuine and engaged following is crucial for establishing trust with both followers and potential brand partnerships.

3. Can fake followers affect an influencer’s earnings?

While a high follower count may initially attract brands, the presence of fake followers can hinder an influencer’s earnings. Companies are increasingly vigilant and utilize tools to evaluate an influencer’s following for authenticity. Thus, influencers with a higher proportion of fake followers may face difficulties securing lucrative brand collaborations.

4. Are there legal consequences for buying fake followers?

While buying fake followers on social media platforms like Instagram may not have legal consequences, it is against the terms of service of these platforms. Consequently, purchasing fake followers can result in account suspension or termination, negatively impacting an individual’s online presence and reputation.

5. How can influencers grow a genuine following?

Building a genuine following requires consistent and engaging content, active community interaction, and leveraging organic growth strategies. This includes using relevant hashtags, collaborating with other influencers, and engaging with followers authentically. By focusing on providing value to their audience, influencers can attract and retain a loyal and genuine following.

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Doug I. Jones

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