Paul O'Neil, Head of Communications at International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), explains their incredible Instagram growth, with engagements rising from 1.5 million in 2022 to 6 million in 2023 in the SportOnSocial League Table 2024.

A massive congrats on your Instagram success this year. What are the main reasons for this success? ​ 

We started the year with an excellent snapshot of our entire digital audience thanks to the comprehensive report we received in December 2022. This highlighted our strengths and weaknesses and where there was room for improvement. I think one of the reasons for our Instagram success was that we developed content that fans wanted to see more of, such as behind the scenes at events. The fact that we could use near-live clippings from our big events for the first time undoubtedly helped with the growth as well. ​

Furthermore, we had the FIG World Gymnaestrada 2023 in Amsterdam, a non-competitive event that brought together almost 20,000 gymnasts from all over the world and offered great opportunities for user-generated content. We also introduced an entirely new event – the Brick Parkour Asian Tour – which helped introduce the sport in five countries across the region and opened our channels up to new audiences. ​

SportOnSocial League Table 2024

Do you have a specific Instagram strategy? If yes, how does it differ from your other channels?  ​ 

We don’t have a specific Instagram strategy, but the platform offers us most flexibility in pushing out content, especially from events. In addition to the mix of different formats, we have great collaborative relationships on Instagram with our athletes. ​

How is your internal team structured to effectively manage Instagram at the same time as your other digital/social media channels? ​ 

We work with external partners to help produce and disseminate our content, with the FIG in-house communications team guiding overall strategy. We decide which platforms any content is best suited to and keep an overall plan across all our social channels based on objectives and content available. ​

Do you have any learnings on how best to engage with fans on Instagram?

We experimented with our first AR filter on Instagram for the World Gymnaestrada 2023, where the user could see our different disciplines spinning around: when they pressed the button to take a selfie, a randomly chosen discipline was displayed above their head.

It was perfect for the event and the results were good. We also held competitions offering goodies from each of our world championships and these have worked very well. Keeping up a regular dialogue with some of our most influential gymnasts is a cornerstone of our strategy. ​

SportOnSocial League Table 2024

What trends – macro or micro – do you think will have the biggest impact on Instagram in the lead-up to Paris 2024? ​ 

On a micro level, I believe the new social media guidelines issued by IOC for Gangwon 2024 give the athletes a bit more freedom in terms of what they can do on social media. This will no doubt have an impact on Instagram, but how much International Federations might benefit remains to be seen. On the macro level, we are still following Threads with interest. At the moment it seems to work better for personal accounts, but things move quickly in social media. ​

What is one bit of advice you’d give IFs looking to improve their performance on Instagram? ​ 

Know your audience! Know who they are, where they are, and what they want. ​

Hear from other International Federations and discover more insights in the SportOnSocial League Table 2024.