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Insights from NFL Playoffs: A Battle of Emotions

As we all know, the NFL playoffs is an emotional time of year. Without exception, this year’s conference championship games caused a flurry of cheers and tears, which were all captured on social media.

Before we delve deeper into the hailstorm of emotions, below is an interactive real-time Topic Leaderboard Widget that tracks social media mentions of all 32 NFL teams in a rolling window of the last 7 days. It’s no surprise who’s topping the charts this week:

The great part is that by the time you’re reading this blog, the leaderboard will have most likely changed — if only because social conversations are always changing. Currently the Panthers are leading by a good margin.

However, if I check for the teams who are receiving the most emotional reactions on social media, the Broncos soar up to first on my report.

Tracking the Sentiment

This might indicate that Broncos fans and reporters are expressing more emotion than those tweeting about the Panthers. Could it be that Peyton Manning’s return from the near-dead is more exciting than Cam Newton’s larger-than-life personality?

When we look closer at the Sentiment Analysis of this past weekend for both teams, we see that the mood is looking slightly sunnier for the Panthers, who have already received more than double the volume of negative sentiment in positive sentiment.

Panthers Sentiment Report

Panthers sentiment

Broncos Sentiment Report

Broncos sentiment

But while the Panthers may have a better positive-to-negative ratio, the sentiment battle might actually be tipped in favor of the Broncos. Why?

Notice Audience Reached and Social Impressions of the Negative content. Not only does the Panthers’ negative content reach 2x the number of people and have 2x the number of potential views as their positive content, it also more than doubles the reach and impressions of the Broncos negative content. That negative content, while limited in numbers, is falling in a forest with a crowd of people there to hear it.

This is why it’s important for marketing departments to not only know when people are talking negatively or positively about their brand, but how far that chatter is traveling via the reach and impact of that content. A spark and a flame are both hot, but they have very different consequences and require very different responses.

Also, it’s important to do a quick read-through of the most influential content on your feed because negative sentiment doesn’t always mean ill feelings toward your brand. For example, this “negative” post drove the negative spike for the Broncos…


Another reason for you to pay attention to negative content? Some of your greatest gems can be found there.

Next Up: Pro Bowl

It’ll be interesting to watch sentiment ebb and flow over the days leading up to the big game. We’re bound to see plenty of activity as the excitement (and nervousness) heightens. Check back in with us in the weeks to come, including next week when we’ll be covering fresh social media insights from Sunday’s Pro Bowl.


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