FIFA’s biggest stage, the World Cup. A tournament that brings together nations in one of the oldest and most beloved sports globally. It’s supposed to be what launches the sport onto center stage and provide expansion opportunities for the sport that no other event can. However, in 2014, in one of the most passionate soccer countries in the world, Brazilians started the move towards change for this large organization.
In 2014 I used Adobe Social, which captures publically available social mentions across blogs, Facebook, G+, Reddit, Twitter, Dailymotion, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, VK, Disqus, Foursquare, Metacafe, WordPress, and YouTube to analyze Brazilian fan sentiment leading up to the World Cup. 42% of the buzz from Brazilians related to sadness, anger, or disgust. The buzz was namely tied to the protests going on within the country prior to the first game.
Having lived in Brazil previously, it was definitely shocking to see a country that loves soccer so much protesting its biggest tournament being hosted there. I followed the even flows of Brazilian sentiment and found some nice changes as the Brazil team won, but ultimately after a loss to Germany, the negative buzz increased to 55% expressing sadness, anger, or disgust and never bounced back.
Winning has an ability to smooth over a lot of things. Fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers burned jerseys of LeBron James when he left to Miami, but when he said he was coming back and the team started winning those same fans were first in line to buy a jersey and increase the buzz for the Cavs by 37x compared to the previous year.
Maybe Brazil winning wouldn’t have changed the current state that FIFA is in since the damage was done with the Qatar and Russia World Cup fiascos. However, it’s interesting to think about what a Brazilian victory would have done to keep FIFA expanding its brand in a legitimate way. Would there have been less focus on the empty stadiums in Brazilia and the amount of money it cost to get that Championship?
Soccer is on great footing as an emerging sport in the States. As I showed a few weeks ago with Champions League, the ESPN led sport is seeing its largest audience ever within the United States. The U.S. Men’s National Team also arguably had its best week ever on foreign soil after beating the Netherlands and Germany, at the same time the U.S. led investigation into FIFA corruption was starting to flare. With a sport that I love and have wanted to see succeed in the United States for a long time, it’s disappointing as a fan to see the governing body lose its way instead of building up the product that is reaching a tipping point for exposure.
This month, instead of celebrating the Women’s World Cup, social media has mentioned the terms ‘FIFA’ and ‘corruption’ in the same breath 600k+ times over the last 30 days, and social sentiment for the organization and its President is 60% negative. The use of social tools can help marketers of brands like FIFA to recognize when its sentiment is flipping towards negative and what events cause it to again go positive.
As a soccer fan, I hope that the teams and standard of play on the field can overcome this recent development and not curtail the growth that has been seen across the pond. It’s still a great time to be following the sport and no doubt the ESPN, FOX, and NBC backing of soccer will push ratings and sponsorships to new heights without corruption. I just hope we don’t have to wait for a Brazil victory in the 2018 World Cup to push the social sentiment of FIFA from 60% negative to 60% positive.
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