By Caroline Henley

January 19th, 2015

How do you determine the favored team leading up to the Super Bowl, the biggest football game of the year? While more and more football fans take their excitement to social media, we can track which teams might be propelled to victory thanks to large and supportive fanbases. And there is a way to name a winner in the popularity contest: use a data-driven social media monitoring tool.

Let’s start by measuring the social presence of the final eight teams leading up to a big playoff weekend: the Baltimore Ravens, the Carolina Panthers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos, the Green Bay Packers, the New England Patriots, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Indianapolis Colts. We can easily see which team is the most popular online. Then we can take a look at which of the four teams survived the cut this past weekend, and assess the correlation between a team’s online presence and its stamina on the field.

So, which team is poised to win on the social front?

Benchmark the competition – or get benched!

A whopping 31.85 million people make up the fanbase of these final eight football teams on Facebook. The Dallas Cowboys have the most fans, with 8.26 million.

Super-bowl-Screenshots-Total-likes-HBH

Here is a snapshot of the teams’ Facebook engagement over a three day period.

Super-bowl-Screenshots-Eight-teams-engagement-HBH

The Cowboys’ Facebook page peaked its engagement on Wednesday, January 7th. The team posted ten strong pieces of content that day. One of the most popular posts was a photo—a powerful photo, overlaid with a strong pull quote, and a tiny amount of text above the photo that includes tagging rival Green Bay Packers.

cowboyspost

It’s also interesting to see the Carolina Panthers’ steady engagement across the competition. The Panthers have the least amount of fans on Facebook (an eighth of the Cowboys’ fanbase), yet rival them post-by-post in terms of engagement.

pantherspost

The Carolina fanbase is certainly engaged. Will this social influence work in the Panthers’ favor on the field?

Mediapost chimes in:

"No surprise—the most popular teams on social media have been the ones winning on the gridiron, with one notable exception: the Carolina Panthers, who managed to sneak into the playoffs and the top ten for social engagement—despite a losing record—after winning last Saturday’s wild card game against Arizona."

Listening to the digital cheer

Now let’s listen to the team mentions across social, forums, blogs, and the news. Running a listening report for just the team names alone would bring hundreds of thousands of results. To narrow down the search, I looked for people cheering for the teams online in the United States. I ran queries for each team with the following combinations:

“go ravens” OR “go baltimore” OR “go baltimore ravens” OR “ravens win” OR “baltimore wins” OR “ravens victory” OR “ravens FTW”

Here’s a snapshot of the mentions from Wednesday through Friday, via Falcon’s Listening section.

Super-bowl-Screenshots-Activity-by-topic-HBH

Football fans are far and away using Facebook to voice their enthusiasm. From this report, 62% fans are posting on Facebook, 17% on Instagram, 3% on Twitter, and 2% on Google+.

Here’s the breakdown of the ratio of the mentions—looks like the Dallas Cowboys are favored by fans going into the playoff weekend, followed by the Green Bay Packers and then the Denver Broncos.

Super-bowl-mentions-HBH

So… Did social predict the outcomes?

On Sunday, January 11th, four of these eight teams were knocked out of the running. Let’s compare the digital cheer with Sunday’s outcomes.

The Patriots (724 mentions) beat the Ravens (944 mentions)

The Seahawks (900 mentions) beat the Panthers (275 mentions)

The Packers (2k mentions) beat the Cowboys (3k mentions)

The Colts (474 mentions) beat the Broncos (2k mentions)

It’s a big upset for the social media leader, the Cowboys! Sadly, we have to say goodbye to the Panthers, even with their steady fan engagement on Facebook.

And now, fast forwarding to present day, we are ready for the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks to face off in the Super Bowl. Stay tuned for the winner of the Big Dance on February 1st. We’ll be listening…

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