Football buzz is never more intense than in the leadup to the Super Bowl, and it's hyper charged this year with two huge-market rivals -- the Giants and Patriots -- about to meet in a rematch Sunday. A lot of the predicting now occurs on social-media channels, in the world of what we might call "social fandom."
Who's going to win? If we look at the volume of social conversations related to the Super Bowl, we can see that nearly 60% of the fans who are talking online about the two teams favor the Patriots.
Percent of all social conversations related to Super Bowl XLVI from Jan. 23 – Jan. 30, 2012, where fans sided with either the Patriots or Giants to win.
During the regular season, however, our data show that the Giants were ahead of the Patriots in total share of voice of NFL conversations, placing fourth, while Patriots ranked tenth. And there have been almost twice the number of Giants mentions as Patriots mentions during the last week.
This means Giants fans are keeping the buzz alive, as they have been throughout the season, even though plenty of them are picking the Patriots to win. The NFL chatter does indeed go on all year, as fans talk online about their favorite teams. Which ones have the truest fans of all? With social media we can begin to answer that question.
Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow landed in the Twitter record books this season for a game-winning touchdown pass to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. Twitter reported the record: new sports Tweets per second record: 9420. Pretty impressive. But instantaneous Tweets don't necessarily equal true fans. An 80-yard overtime pass will get them talking for a day, but what's going to keep them talking the other 364?
To find where the true fans lie, back in August we took a look at the volume of team conversations coming from true fans during the off-season. We re-ran the date to see how this played out during the season. Here are those results:
Breakdown of social mentions by fans talking positively about specific NFL teams from Aug. 2, 2011 – Jan. 1, 2012.
The teams that captured the greatest share of voice in the off-season were the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders. The Eagles and Bears remained in the top half. Is this because each of these teams had better than average records and fans had high playoff hopes? Could be. What's certain is that fans came out to vocalize their passion and enthusiasm for their team. But some of the off-season favorites could not continue the momentum. Pittsburgh and Minnesota fans fell off the map. And what about the San Francisco 49ers? Here's a team that made it to the NFC Championship, yet fans were in a social funk all year!
Whether it's player news, scores, specific plays, etc., true fans are excited to say to their networks "Did you see that ?!" What really helps increase chatter from true fans all year is when the teams get involved. The Dallas Cowboys are especially active in social media and focus efforts on keeping chatter high. Teams that encourage players to use social channels like Twitter to stay in touch with fans are doing wonders for the organization. If people can track their favorite players and occasionally get a shout out from them, there's a good chance you get a fan for life from it.
Brands outside the NFL can learn from all of this. There are true fans and bandwagon fans. In a brands case, true fans are often referred to as advocates or champions. A social campaign should start from the point of view of the true fans. They might be called to a small focus group to share some initial ideas. After all, if they create or launch something that gets them excited and makes them feel involved, the likelihood is increased that they will talk about the brand year-round. They'll also be eager to tell their friends, family and social networks what they are part of and potentially lead them to take part as well.