Empathy Helps Drive Football Fan Engagement
Year Of Mostly Empty Stadiums Helps Build Social Media Interaction In Sport
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, sports teams around the world have had to play their games in empty stadiums. This means that fans will have had to watch games and events from home and interact with them on social media.
In 2020, English Premier League clubs posted over 80k messages, attracting 280+ million fan engagements*.
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional (or affective) empathy, and somatic empathy.
It is a strong social media theme in 2020. Last year's top 100 tweets show over a million likes, retweets, replies and mentions surrounding positive, off-the-pitch sentiments expressed by fans from Premier League clubs. The more engagement different tweets and social media posts get, the higher up the news feed they will appear meaning more people are likely to see them and interact with them. This can help to build the fan base of different clubs and help build their revenue.
There are many successful social media posts which illustrate empathy for others. These include tributes to healthcare workers or victims of the Beirut port explosion.
Fans echo club sentiments, sometimes berating the graceless, more attention-grabbing members of the social media community, particularly around the tragic passing of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola's mother. This helps to highlight these issues and make them more prominent. This in turn leads to members of the media picking them up to highlight them even further in the form of news stories. This helps to place more emphasis on the issues and create change in modern society. If an issue is reported on a lot and is portrayed to be something bad, people are more likely to talk about it and spread the message far and wide.
Brad Rees, CEO, Mediacells commented on the emerging Empathy trend in club social media:
"UK Football's interactions on Twitter contradict the accepted narrative around the degrading social effect of social media. AFC Marine may have lost 0-5 against Spurs in the FA Cup on January 10, 2021 but they won GBP30k in virtual tickets, a substantial amount attributed to @SpursOfficial promotions. Manchester United's Marcus Rashford has become an advocate for the social good off the pitch and when he influenced UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's U-turn on free school meals for poor kids, the loudest digital applause came from rivals Manchester City, Liverpool FC and far beyond the football family."
Football is generally considered to be one of the more popular sports and this gives it more power as it is more likely to attract a larger audience. This means that if there is a certain event in the world, good or bad, more prominence can be given to it by commemorating it during a football match. An example of this would be having a minutes silence before games to commemorate the lives of soldiers who died in different wars.
Posts about this can then be published on social media, driving fans who are watching at home to comment on them and push them further up the news feed for more people to see. Other examples of issues that would drive more fan engagement are the current “Say no to racism” campaign and the Hillsborough disaster. The first of these issues is extremely important as it happens all over the world and many people will either have been a victim of it or know someone who has been a victim of it.
There are few surprises in the popularity of social posts that rejoice or celebrate, attracting 3.5 million engagements, 59% of top 100 post engagements. Last season's Premier League winners, Liverpool, amplified jubilant emotions to good effect.