The 2023 Women’s World Cup gets underway in Australia and New Zealand this month off the back of increased attention for the game that has turned its brightest stars into household names.
For many established players, the spotlight has become a part of their day-to-day lives, having grown vast social media followings in recent years.
For the younger generation, who are entering the changed landscape, it offers a window into the exposure now possible.
Data analysts Nielsen Sports have put together a list of the top 10 Instagram influencers among the breakthrough talent taking to the field at this summer’s tournament, and found that Lionesses’ rising star Lauren James comes out on top.
Having taken into account the number of followers, rate at which followings have grown, engagement with posts, and the value of each branded post on Instagram with their InfluenceScope tool, Nielsen concluded that the Chelsea forward delivers the greatest value on social media to sponsors.
James has almost half a million followers on Instagram, making £14,000 on average per post
Julia Grosso (left) and Lauren Hemp (right) are among the most marketable young stars headed to the World Cup
Women’s Champions League runners-up Wolfsburg have two players who feature on the list
The 21-year-old came out five spots higher than her England team-mate Lauren Hemp in a list that evaluates players born after 2000. The English pair were joined by two players from each of the other big nations in the women’s game: Germany, Spain and USA.
The data also shows that the most influential team was Germany, who edged out European champions England and hosts of the previous World Cup France.
Here, Mail Sport takes you through the top 10 most influential breakout stars at the upcoming Women’s World Cup.
1. Lauren James – England/Chelsea
446K followers; 96 percent follower growth rate; 13 percent engagement rate; £14,045 average media post value
No rising star of the upcoming tournament can match James’ follower count of almost half a million. That added to a solid engagement rate makes her a bankable star on the platform who will only continue to rise.
The younger sister of Chelsea men’s right back Reece James, Lauren made her mark on Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses’ squad last year, coming on as a 79th minute substitute against Austria.
Her first goal came earlier this year ahead of her selection for the World Cup following an impressive season for WSL champions Chelsea.
James’ average earning of £14,045 is pretty similar to a few of the more established stars such as Brazilian Marta and Megan Rapinoe of the USA.
Should her follower count grow in line with some of the other names on this list, she’ll quickly become one of the most recognisable faces in women’s football.
Lauren James left Chelsea as a youngster before returning to the club under Hayes in 2021
The 21-year-old has earned 11 caps for Sarina Weigman’s team since making her debut in 2022
2. Julia Grosso – Canada/Juventus
304K followers; 157 percent follower growth rate; 12 percent engagement rate; £8,223 average media post value
Juventus forward Julia Grosso shot to fame during the 2020 Summer Olympic games when her successful penalty handed Canada its first gold medal in the event.
Since then the 22-year-old has ridden that success to widespread acclaim at home and further afield, racking up an impressive 304,000 followers thanks to massive growth in the size of her audience.
The Juventus midfielder has seen a 157 percent increase in her number of Instagram followers and will be one Canada’s brightest stars in Australia and New Zealand.
Julia Grosso has over 300,000 followers on Instagram thanks, in part, to her match winning penalty at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan
3. Jule Brand – Germany/Wolfsburg
198K followers; 517 percent follower growth rate; 30 percent engagement rate; £11,410 average media post value
No player has increased their following on Instagram by more than Jule Brand’s staggering 517 percent, bringing her tally up to some 198,000.
That following is also consistently active in interacting with posts, with 30 per cent actively doing so – also the highest on the list, although that is perhaps to be expected given her much lower follower count.
Given her rapid rise on the social media platform, the 2022 Euros runner-up is already making on average £11,397 for each of her branded posts.
Wolfsburg star Jule Brand has seen her Instagram following explode by over 500 percent
Athenea del Castillo has enjoyed a huge 221 percent growth in her followers over the past year
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Del Castillo has appeared 25 times for the Spanish national team and has scored six goals
4. Athenea del Castillo – Spain/Real Madrid
292K followers; 221 percent follower growth rate; 15 percent engagement rate; £9,673 average media post value
Real Madrid’s Athenea del Castillo is another player who has seen her stock rise on social media considerably in the last 12 months.
The 22-year-old enjoys a strong follower base that is set to exceed 300,000, but will likely continue to see her numbers sky rocket thanks to a 221 percent growth in her figures.
The forward is one of the unlucky souls tasked with challenging Barcelona in Liga F, but she does at least stand a chance of getting her hands on some silverware with the national team.
Spain go into the tournament as third favourites and are bolstered by the return of back-to-back Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas.
Del Castillo has racked up 25 appearances for La Roja and will be looking to add her six goals at international level.
5. Lena Oberdorf – Germany/Wolfsburg
251K followers; 302 percent follower growth rate; 22 percent engagement rate; £11,466 average media post value
Lena Oberdorf is one of two Wolfsburg and Germany players on this list who have been on the cusp of major honours in recent years. Yes, she and her squad secured an unprecedented ninth successive German Cup in May.
But the 21-year-old has been part of teams that finished as runners-up in the Bundesliga, Champions League and the Euros.
Still, her performances on the pitch and openness on social media have seen her become one of the faces of the next generation as she has amassed a solid following of 251,000.
However, it’s her staggering 302 percent follower growth that really catches the eye and highlights her as one who could challenge the top names in the sport very soon.
Lena Oberdorf has already racked up 37 appearances for Germany, still only 21-years-old
The youngster helped Wolfsburg secure an unprecedented ninth straight German Cup in May
6. Lauren Hemp – England/Man City
228K followers; 201 percent follower growth rate; 12 percent engagement rate; £5,729 average media post value
Lauren Hemp’s prodigious talent saw her make an international debut for the Lionesses at the tender age of 18. 37 caps and ten goals later, still only 22, Hemp was a key piece of the squad who claimed Euros glory last summer. And she will be one of the main driving for Sarina Weigman’s team this.
Hemp’s starring role has seen her rack up 228,000 followers on Instagram with a very impressive 201 percent growth over the past 12 months.
A successful World Cup could vault her and a lot of his Lioness team-mates into a whole new stratosphere.
Lauren Hemp has 228,000 followers on Instagram and makes almost £6,000 per branded post
Sophia Smith has one of the highest engagement rates for each of her social media posts
7. Sophia Smith – USA/Portland Thorns
129K followers; 96 percent follower growth rate; 25 percent engagement rate; £7,952 average media post value
Sophia Smith is one of the new names entering the USWNT, with the unenviable task of making a mark on the back-to-back world champions.
The 22-year-old came into the international set up in 2020, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to appear for the senior squad, and has earned 29 caps, netting 12 times.
Smith, who plays her club football for Portland Thorns, enjoyed a stellar 2022 which saw her gain widespread acclaim after winning the NWSL Championship and being named league MVP.
The rising star enjoys a great 25 percent engagement rate from her 129,000 followers and is one of the favourites to take the mantle from ageing greats of US women’s football Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Co.
8. Salma Paralluelo – Spain/Barcelona
140K followers; 460 percent follower growth rate; 21 percent engagement rate; £5,744 average media post value
19-year-old former sprinter Salma Paralluelo made quite the impression after coming through the youth ranks at Zaragoza.
During a three-year stay in with Villarreal, she scored 23 goals from 37 games and then netted four times in five outings for Barcelona after making the switch to the Catalan side.
Remarkably, Paralluelo became Spanish indoor champion in the women’s 400m and was also part of a relay team who won the 4x400m national title. She became the second youngest athlete to participate at the 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships.
Not content with excelling at one discipline she has managed to force her way into the exciting La Roja side who are one of the favourites to win it all in Australia and New Zealand.
Salma Paralluelo has enjoyed a whopping 460 percent increase in her Instagram following
Barcelona’s Salma Paralluelo is a former Spanish indoor champion in the 400m and 4x400m
9. Trinity Rodman – USA/Washington Spirit
169K followers; 68 percent follower growth rate; nine percent engagement rate; £4,160 average media post value
Trinity Rodman’s rising social media fame may owe a little to her famous dad; the larger-than-life former basketballer Dennis Rodman.
Though even without her familial connection the 21-year-old would likely still have garnered a significant following thanks to her breathtaking debut season in the NWSL.
In 2021, Rodman was named Rookie of the Year, US Soccer Female Player of the Year and was in the Best XI. Those performances led to a call-up to the national team last year where she made her maiden appearance in the sheBelieves Cup.
It would be a surprise if the Washington Spirit forward was not topping this list next year.
Washington Spirit forward Trinity Rodman is the daughter of ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman
23-year-old defender Ellie Carpenter has amassed a 220,000 strong following on Instagram
Carpenter is bidding for World Cup glory with her superstar international team-mate Sam Kerr
10. Ellie Carpenter – Australia /Lyon
220K followers; 15 percent follower growth rate; seven percent engagement rate; £4,609 average media post value
Two-time Champions league winner Ellie Carpenter will be one of the leading lights for joint-hosts Australia alongside star Sam Kerr.
Carpenter made her debut for the Australia national team at the age of 15, the country’s first international player – male or female – to be born in the 21st century.
She was also the youngest Australian competitor at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and the youngest ever female footballer to compete at the Olympics.
Carpenter is sure to grow her profile with the exposure only a home tournament provides, and a fairytale run could yet see her challenging for a spot near the top of this list in years to come.
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