Super Bowl 2016 Social Media Trends: Increased Spam, Fan Profanity and Engagement

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Sunday is the big game and fans across the U.S. are getting ready. In preparation, our expert social media research team examined the official Facebook pages for the 12 playoff teams between January 7-27, 2016. We uncovered which fan base is the most profane, most polite and most passionate—and which team is the most targeted by spammers.

Similar to our research last year, large audiences attract bad actors and deviants. The 2016 teams included the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins.

Let’s kick it off…


Most Passionate

Denver Broncos fans are the most passionate Facebook fans (based on post engagement, 181k+ total comments). Given that the Broncos ultimately reached the Super Bowl, have more than 4 million Facebook fans, and their social team posts consistently great content, this is really no surprise. Table 1 ranks the Top Five Teams by Total Comments. 

We also wanted to go beyond sheer volume and examine comments per fan to get a sense of fan engagement or passion. Table 2 ranks the Top Five Teams by Comments per Fan. Once again the Broncos lead the pack. So, Broncos fans are getting it done by any measure. The only surprise here was the second-ranked Kansas City Chiefs, who weren’t on the top five list. Chiefs fans may be smaller in number, but they bring the passion to social media.

It’s worth noting that the Broncos’ 2016 comment total was significantly lower than our 2015 leader, the Dallas Cowboys, which totaled 247,057 comments—and the 2016 research window was six days longer. (You just know the NFL wants the Cowboys to rebound next year!)


Most Targeted By Spam

The 2016 peak spam rate on NFL playoff team pages was five times higher than 2015. In 2016, spammers targeted the Minnesota Vikings Facebook page more than any other playoff team—and the rate of profanity increased by nine times following their loss. The Super Bowl and other major events attract massive social media audiences, which in turn draw hackers, spammers and deviants. By dropping bait into the largest possible pools of potential victims, they maximise their success rates.

Table 3 outlines the five teams most targeted by spam as a percentage of total comments. The Minnesota Vikings were hit with the highest spam rates at 0.46 percent, while the Super Bowl-bound Panthers came in a close second at 0.421 percent. The peak spam rate last year was .08 percent, thus the Vikings peak in 2016 was roughly 5X greater. We will continue to see this trend as spammers realise how easy it is to reach large, targeted audiences via social media.

Below is an example of a customised NFL scam that is actively targeting Vikings fans. Virtually all are scams designed to rip off consumers.

Figure 1: NFL Spam Example: Free Vikings Jersey with Visa Gift Card (Ya Right)


Most Targeted by Pornography

The Houston Texans were the team the most victimised by spammers posting unwanted porn on their team Facebook page. Table 4 details the top 5 teams most targeted by pornography as a percentage of total comments. In our experience working with brands, pornography is one of the most (if not the most) sensitive content type. Pornographic content on any corporate social page damages the brand and drives down engagement. 

Unfortunately, bad actors sometimes find that they can get in free advertising and drive site traffic by posting links in social media. Like spammers, they are looking for large audiences for their “ads.” NFL playoff teams provide such audiences along with the ideal target demographic. 


Most Profane

The Houston Texans fans are the most profane of all the playoff teams this year with just over one percent of all comments including profanity. The results, shown in Table 5, rank Minnesota Vikings fans second with 0.821 percent. What do the Texans and Vikings have in common? Not frozen lakes or oil wells – but painful early exits. The Texans suffered 30 -0 loss to the Chiefs, while the Vikings missed a (very) short last second field goal (ouch). Perhaps a little anger release is just part of the healing process.  

On a side note, we were guessing a lot of negativity may have surrounded Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, but we were wrong. In fact, we did see a spike in profanity after the loss, but for the most part Vikings were supporting their kicker and even used profanity to defend their guy from outsider haters. Those Midwesterners stick together.


Most Polite

The Green Bay Packers fans took home the Most Polite fan base award by limiting their profanity to just 0.203% of comments. They just barely edged out last year’s winner, Carolina Panthers fans, by 0.001 percent. Looking at this list of cities you notice one thing – no early exits. It’s easy to be nice when you’re winning.


The Numbers Game Favors Bad Guys

Eliminating social media spam scams, profanity, pornography and other bad content is no simple challenge for NFL teams at the scale they have already reached. The Broncos would have to review more than 9,000 comments per day to keep pace with their fans. As teams become more successful in social, numbers like these will only increase. It’s a numbers game—that favors the bad guys—until teams put together a game plan to protect social media with automated security and content filtering.

Check out how the Golden State Warriors are keeping their social media pages fan-ready.