And now for something completely different: Football and Twitter

So, my studies mostly focus on political communication, journalism and ethnic minorities and migrants in the media. But some time ago, my former student, Leon Mulder, collected cool data on football players’ positions, their scoring capabilities and their basic track record. We then collected their Twitter data. The study attempts to answer the question of what explains online popularity: performance on the football pitch or performance on Twitter? To be honest, we were surprised nobody ever took on this question before. But here we are, a new publication:

Vergeer, M. & Mulder, L. (2019). Football players’ popularity on Twitter explained: Performance on the pitch or performance on Twitter? International Journal of Sport Communication.

The link to the article is https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsc.2018-0171. Below is the abstract.

Abstract:

This study tested football players’ performance on the pitch against their performance on Twitter as explanations for Twitter popularity. Guided by network theory, social-identity theory, and basking in reflective glory and using data of all players of all teams in the Dutch premier league (“Eredivisie”), the multilevel models show that players with a Twitter account were more popular when they scored more goals, were non-Dutch, were on loan at another club, and were networkers actively following others on Twitter. The findings also show that context matters. Players under contract with a successful club receive an automatic bonus: Irrespective of their performance on the pitch or on Twitter, they automatically acquire more followers on Twitter. Players in general do not need to put a lot of effort into communicating on Twitter because sending tweets is unrelated to having more followers. Advertisers’ best options to reach larger and homogeneous audiences through football players are to choose attackers, scoring players, those out on loan, and foreign players, as well as players from successful teams in general. The study also identified which player characteristics do not add to a larger audience reach, such as tweeting behavior and experience on Twitter.

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Maurice Vergeer

I am Maurice Vergeer, working at Communication Science department of the Radboud University Nijmegen, in the Netherlands.