Social Media Equity: Sports

Paul Reifenstein    November 13, 2013


Fans of sports teams have never been limited to a city’s limits and with different television scheduling,  fans have long been able to follow their teams much easier than when you could only watch if it was in your area.  With social media, fans are closer to the action and experience of a sporting event without being there than they ever could be.  Twitter followers can see a bad call after the video a fan took was posted online seconds later.  Even unruly fan interactions shoot up online quicker than the in-game cameras can pan away.

But the blog, Emory Sports Marketing Analytics has taken the fan experience a step further and they look into fan equity among teams beyond the finite constraints of the stadium from the four major sports in North America.  They assess teams’ fan base quality based on a teams social media presence.  By looking at teams’ social media metrics and applying their own equation to those metrics, they have ranked each league’s teams based on their popularity on social media, mainly Twitter.

Despite some interesting discoveries during their research.  Like realizing that if one was to rank the teams in the NFL via Twitter based on most followers to least, the ranking would be the New England Patriots in first, the Arizona Cardinals in 32, and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in 31st.  They needed to add in other variables.

When it comes to social media equity, the model they used predicted Twitter followers based on team winning percentage, market population and median income.  They then compared that prediction with the teams’ actual Twitter following.  The difference between actual and predicted followers gave an idea of over or under performance in the world of social media.  A comparison of their NHL rankings is below.  Pretty interesting differences.

NHL-Fan-Equity2      NHL-Social-Media-Equity

One issue that this examination does not take into account is the followers of a team that are not actually fans of the team.  I follow the Boston Bruins on Twitter, but I’m not a fan of the team.  I just like the pictures they posted online and I wanted to hear more about the crazy ramblings of Tim Thomas. The authors also noted that Twitter analytics specifically are relatively new and comparing Twitter analytics to historic stadium attendance rates, will take a while to even out.

However, this is an interesting metric to keep in mind when looking at how far a sports team’s reach has and how a marketing department could get really innovative when it comes to different campaigns.  Social media outreach could look quite different to Yankees fans who live IN New York than those who love the team but live in the UK.

Lessons Learned

  • This is an early step that sports teams should take into consideration as social media becomes more influential in sports.
  • This could be a slippery slope with regards to the separation of fan engagement and sports teams and their head offices.
  • This is just the beginning of applying social media metrics to the world of sports.  I would be that there is much more to come.


Social Media Equity in the NFL: Another Metric for Evaluating Fans

Social Media Equity: The NBA

NHL Fan Base Rankings: Americans may like Hockey, but Canadians Love it


Submitted by: Paul Reifenstein – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.  To contact the author of this blog post, please email


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