If you live in America and you don’t live under a rock, you know that last Sunday was Super Bowl XLVIII – aka “The Big Game.” Being the biggest U.S. sporting event of the year (sorry, Sochi) you’d think all the talk would be about the game.

And yet that isn’t the case. Big data – specifically, aggregated social media data – tells us a different story.


What is Big Data?

Big data is a term thrown around quite a bit these days, and one that is defined in many different ways. I define big data as massive (read: really, really big) volumes of data, found outside the firewall of any organization. These sets of data are so large that while collecting them is tough, making sense out of them and gleaning useful insights is the real challenge.


But when you do figure it out, big data can deliver valuable insight into just about any topic you can imagine.

Football and Big Data?

As a marketer who has no interest in football (seriously, I think I was one of the only people in the country that didn’t watch a single minute of the game), I have long believed that most people care more about the parties, the food and the advertising than they do the actual Big Game. But hey, as a non-fan, what do I know?

Here’s the thing about data: it can inform you so that you do know.

So, with great social listening tools at hand, I set out to see what the data might tell me about the Big Game. Rather than trying to prove a point, I wanted to test big data’s ability to provide unbiased insight on the game. Specifically, I wanted to see what social media data would tell me about the Super Bowl. Do people care more about Budweiser than Manning?

Why social media data?
Simple: social media data provides direct, real-time insight into what regular people are talking about and how they feel about a topic; in this case the Big Game.

More About the Data

Through social media listening, that is the monitoring of social media conversations, we can tap into what people are actually saying about the game (or any other topic). Analyze that data and we should be able to see interesting trends pointing to sentiment, themes, etc.

As you might have guessed, I used Meltwater tools for this analysis, specifically Meltwater Buzz, our cloud based social media monitoring and engagement software. To get an unbiased and accurate reading, I built search campaigns based on two primary terms: “Super Bowl” and “Big Game” – and the software did the rest.

What Big Data Told Us About the Big Game!

Data Insights

  • People were talking more about the big game on Monday than they did Sunday. A quick look at daily social media conversation volume for search terms “Super Bowl” and “Big Game” tell us that the majority of conversations happen post game, after all was said and done.

  • People have more to say about the commercials and brands than the game. Looking at the social media word cloud, that is the words most often associated with the Super Bowl in social media posts, there are an amazing number of hits for commercials, brands, half time references, etc. Sure, the game itself is mentioned, but a significant amount of the content is related to advertising.

  • On social media, people are expressing more positive (35%) sentiment than negative (25%).  Regardless of why they watch, most are happier than not with the overall experience.

  • Conversations are not limited to the US. As a matter of fact, people talk about the Super Bowl all over the world. Who’d have guessed that 1% of overall online chatter would come from Malaysia?

What have we learned about the Big Game?

While we learned quite a bit about the Big Game, the most interesting data, the data that tells me my instincts were right, comes from the word cloud. If you take a close look it’s clear that the chatter related to the advertising and the halftime show outweighs the chatter about the game itself.

Shocking? No, not to me. Big brands have been inserting themselves into entertainment and sports for years – but what is shocking is that people seem to enjoy their presence. People love Super Bowl ads but fast forward over them with their DVR’s on any other day.

In addition to the data its important to point out that the game itself was not great, many football fans say it was one of the worst Big Games they’ve watched, this likely had an impact on overall social media activity.

Using Big Data for Business

Looking at data surrounding things that hold meaning to you can be fun, but it can also be an amazing business tool.

I leave you with a short list of ways this type of data, be it about a Big Game, a brand, an industry or a pop star, can be used in business:

  • PR: Use big data to validate and reinforce a story, after all there is data on every topic, you just need to look
  • Brand Monitoring: Keep an eye on what’s being said about your brand in social media. It’s a great way to identify promoters, detractors, etc.
  • Social Media: One of the best ways to build a community is to engage with the people talking about your brand. Big data helps you find those people.
  • Crisis Communications: Determine the scale of the problem early on and help understand what people are saying. This will help you determine the best course of action.
  • Market Signals: Use big data to research before a product launch. What people are saying can be helpful in developing positioning, making product decisions and so on…


I highly recommend reading our recently published social listening ebook for more detail on big data business use.

When I started this exercise I promised myself I would do one of two things when I was done writing: watch a recording of the big game, or watch all of the commercials that aired during the big game. Big data would determine my choice. As you might have guessed, based on the data, my next stop is to watch all of the ads from the Big Game – I missed them the other day and I have been hearing so much about a puppy, a time machine, a horse, beer, a “doberhuahua,” Muppets and Seinfeld.

I can only assume they are all from different commercials; imagine if they were all in the same commercial, that would be something!