Networked Insights, a social media company, has been tracking the buzz around some of the most popular players in the World Cup in search and on social sites. The data could provide insight into the implications for the future of these athletes who might have the influence for endorsement contracts.
Tracking the trends through SocialSense, which monitors online buzz and engagement, Networked Insights found the most skilled players will not always provide the best spokesperson for a brand. On the cusp of the finals, audience engagement continues to decrease as favorite teams get booted from the tournament. Still, those players who maintain buzz even after their team has been sent home, show real potential as future endorsers.
Four of the top 10 most-buzzed-about players remain in the tournament, but at the time Networked Insights collected this data, both the American and the English teams lost crucial matches that removed them from the tournament. Despite eliminations, brands might find a dominant player in the bunch to endorse products. Take striker Lionel Messi, for example. Fans proved they loved him for more than his athletic ability, but his recent birthday could have bumped up the buzz during this past week.
Clustering technology in SocialSense helps to sort through and identify trends. The technology can answer "what is it that you don't know, you don't know," says Jonathan Zarov, director of marketing at Networked Insights.
SocialSense identifies trends that marketers might not have known to track. Product innovation provides another great example of how social listening can be used as a sort of focus group. Let's say you're building a car. Marketers know how quickly it can go from zero to 60, but they might not know that in this particular car consumers want the music controls embedded in the dashboard rather than the steering wheel. Consumers might talk about features or colors they want to see for the car -- hues and features that marketers didn't think were an issue.
It can also apply to a campaign design. Earlier in the process of tracking trends and buzz, Networked Insights found that skill and popularity of players didn't go hand in hand. Spain's Fernando Torres leads in Social Rank, but ranked 8 by ESPN in skill. The U.S. star Clint Dempsey had a Social Rank of 6 but didn't make ESPN's Top 25 for skill. It's about matching the personality of the player with the brand.
The strikers had the most buzz. In fact, the only two players -- Frank Lampard and Dani Alves -- in Networked Insights' Top 10 list that do not typically play a forward position are both involved in negatively trending discussions. SocialSense also helped track buzz by gender to separate likes and dislikes.
Don't just look at one or two social sites or on search engine for trends: Twitter went down and Yahoo Sports became slow during peak times. Landon Donovan's last-minute goal against Algeria resulted in overexcited fans swarming Twitter, causing the fail whale to make one of his all-too-frequent appearances.
Networked Insights' Top 10 list ranked Donovan No. 6 this past week with more than 1,500 tweets -- well below Messi, who holds the No. 1 place on the list with more than 500 tweets. "Twitter isn't a kingmaker," says Sean Reckwerdt, analyst at Networked Insights. "It's more important to focus on the larger conversation and not just one site like Twitter."
As the World Cup winds down this coming week, Networked Insights will continue to track players. During the first week the buzz centered on expectations and who fans thought would do well, followed by perception. This week should provide an aggregate view. When goals are made the buzz typically rises, but whether it sticks becomes the real test.
Any player endorsing a brand must have staying power.