Facebook’s data science team dived into the social network’s data on NFL fandom and came back with some revealing findings. For one thing, pro football fans are shameless bandwagon-hoppers, especially during the playoffs. And it seems the bandwagon everyone’s hopping on right now is the one that belongs to the San Francisco 49ers.
In a post that draws on what he calls “one of the most comprehensive samples of sports fanship ever collected,” Facebook data-science intern Sean Taylor analyzed patterns in the numbers of people who “like” the team pages of various NFL organizations, including the Super Bowl-bound 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. In all, some 35 million U.S.-based Facebook users—more than one in 10 Americans—have declared their support for at least one team.
How does a given team accrue these “likes?” By winning, of course. But especially by winning in the playoffs. Facebook data show that a playoff win results in more than twice as many new “likes” as a playoff loss, and nearly five times as many as a regular-season win. In other words, an awful lot of Facebook users make their fandom official only once their team is in the national limelight.
By Will Oremus