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Winning Isn’t Everything: An Untraditional Approach to Traditional Viewership

The AFC Championship saw better TV ratings than any other broadcast since last year’s Super Bowl. Were fans just as engaged on digital? The Cowboys and Eagles each won their first-round matchup. Did that help bring Twitter numbers up for the NFC Divisional Round? 

The NFL Playoffs brings out some of the best work in social media from teams and fans alike. From the casual celebrity fan to the intense ones in the stadium, everyone comes out and supports their team in hopes they make the big game. We at Zoomph investigated what teams and games were talked about the most on Twitter during the playoffs and provide a ranking system of both the teams and games. 

Most Talked About Teams 

During the three weeks of the NFL Playoffs before the Big Game, we tracked all posts from each of the 12 playoff teams, the mentions of each team, the usage of each team’s hashflags, and other terms such as #NFLPlayoffs. This was used to see who was talked about and which teams reached the greatest audience. 

Here are the top teams from the NFL Playoffs on Twitter sorted by total activity: 

nfl team total activity

Some insights from these results: 

  • The Philadelphia Eagles generated the most total activity (organic posts + interactions) during the NFL Playoffs, thanks in large part to two close, high-profile games and a passionate fanbase that drove the most interactions. #FlyEaglesFly, the hashflag the Eagles used to unify & encourage fan conversation, was the #1 hashtag used during the NFL Playoffs, despite the team being eliminated in the 2nd Round. 
  • The New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs generated the most organic posts during the playoffs. Each playoff team was given a second hashflag to support any other branding campaigns the teams might have during the playoffs. Both teams’ second hashflags (#EverythingWeGot and #LetsRoll) were the top two. 
  • The Los Angeles Rams had the largest projected reach of any team in the playoffs, reaching nearly 160 million people. This is thanks in large part to celebrities interacting with the team during their run, namely pop singer and former One Direction star Niall Horan. His post about the Rams to his nearly 40 million followers after the Cowboys game was #1 amongst all posts about the Rams during the playoffs, with more combined likes, retweets, & replies than any post from the Rams own account. 

Playoff Game “Digital Ratings” 

In order to create a metric nearly equivalent to TV ratings, we created our own system of digital “ratings.” From one hour before kickoff to one hour after the final whistle, we gauged the organic social conversation around each game during the NFL playoffs. This was done to track the live conversation about each game in the moment, encouraging people following along to tune in live. 

Here are the top games sorted in order by number of organic posts on Twitter: 

team digital ratings

A couple of interesting insights from these games: 

  • CBS recently announced that the AFC Championship between the Patriots and the Chiefs was the highest-rated late-window Conference Championship game in seven years. It was also the highest rated TV program since the Super Bowl last year. The data here backs that up, as that game saw more organic conversation on Twitter than any other game during the NFL Playoffs. 
  • The two teams from the NFC East in the playoffs (Cowboys, Eagles) had their hand in the Top 3 games by total activity in the NFL Playoffs, with Cowboys vs Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card round topping the list. 
  • With the controversial NFC Championship game between the Rams and Saints, it wasn’t necessarily “talked about” in the moment, as it was 8th in the rankings. However, when assessing interactions per post (retweets + likes / posts), it comes in 2nd behind Seahawks vs Cowboys. 
  • Two games per day were played over 5 days during the NFL Playoffs. 4 of the Top 5 most talked about games were the later of the two on their respective days played, thus putting more digital value on the later slot.  

Most Influential Teams 

During games, some teams and their fans contribute more to the conversation than others. Even the losing team can be the subject of more conversation 

percentage of conversation by team

Some insights from these results: 

  • When the Patriots defeated the Chargers in the Divisional Round, they were featured in over 66% of the conversation. This is probably thanks to the game being “over” early on and fans being more encouraged to talk about the team and share clips & highlights. 
  • 2 of the Top 3 teams on this list lost their respective games. Despite losing, the Cowboys and Eagles were talked about more than the Rams and Saints in each of their games.  
  • The Los Angeles teams had the three lowest results in this list, despite winning in two of these occasions. I would imagine, as they continue to establish fans and settle in their new location, that they begin to grow in social chatter during games.

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