3 Stars of the 2014 World Cup

When researchers and sociologists look back at the World Cup in Brazil, they will have a mountain of information (and blog posts like this one) to sift through. From the alleged FIFA corruption to Brazilian protests, there will be no shortage of topics to choose for discussions in years to come.

This World Cup, however, will be known for its star power. We had the Lionel Messi, Arjen Robben, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez watch. Joining the crowd was Colombia’s James Rodriguez. All-Stars and stars in the making. All “starred” for their countries and made headlines in one way or another. BUT, that’s not the type of star power I’m referring to for this World Cup. I’m referring to the stars of social media and search.


1) Social Media: Like it or not, the #1 star in this year’s World Cup wasn’t on the pitch. It was on our desktops, laptops, phones and tablets on a daily basis. The #1 star could only be social media. A few highlights: 

Facebook: 350 million people with over 3 billion interactions centered around the World Cup. Sunday’s final alone had 280 million interactions among 88 million people. Brazil, U.S.A. and Mexico were the top countries in terms of people discussing the tournament. Neymar and Memphis Dupay led all players in terms of growth (raw, percent increase, respectively).

While I, myself, did not go to Facebook much during the tournament, I have no doubt that these numbers prove that Facebook can be a player when it comes to a live sporting event. Now, it helps that this is a world event. The “world” loves Facebook. Events like this draw in casual fans. And, of course, when national pride is at stake, well…you don’t mess with that. That said, Facebook has made some strides to be a player when it comes to sports events. While it is the #1 social network based on numbers, for me it pales in comparison for sports to…


Twitter: 672 million tweets were World Cup related, according to Twitter. Neymar and Messi led the way in terms of mentions on Twitter. 

One of the brilliant moves by Twitter was sharing their data like this…

[tweet https://twitter.com/TwitterData/statuses/488483433849438208 align=’center’]

and this:


Twitter has grown up fast. They’ve had to because of user demand (think: journalists). Demand for Twitter, and subsequent positive response to its usage, forced Facebook to change, adapt and become relevant in the world of sports. The numbers for Facebook seem to dwarf Twitter. However, as this Forbes article points out, “Twitter is where people go to talk about surprising, unexpected events as they’re unfolding. Facebook is where people go to record their feelings about big, shared milestones somewhat after the fact.”  

When it’s a “live event”, conversation happens on Twitter. I was hoping to take that to the next level on…


Google: Google+ to be exact. And, we’re not quite there yet on Google+. Real-time conversation can happen through Hangouts On Air, or rather Business Hangouts On Air, but that concept is not there yet. Where Google did excel is in Search. According to Google wth 64 matches having been played, there were over 2.1 billion (yes, BILLION) related searches. 

Google meme

Monitoring everything from most searched match to, well, player memes, Google’s prowess in Search is unmatched. Especially considering Google’s very own…


YouTube: While writing this post, I went to look for some stats on the World Cup and YouTube. Aside from the video below (which happened to be trending on YouTube this past week), I was unable to find current  data on anything post-World Cup related. 


Plenty of brands, teams, athletes, broadcast entities and the like utilized YouTube in creative and engaging ways. According to this AdNews article, views are there – subscribers are not. Views for non-World Cup sponsors were a hit. They outpaced the official sponsors of the tournament, according to AdAge.


Instagram: Picture sharing leader Instagram was a force to be reckoned with during the World Cup. At this point, you’ll just have to take my word for it as no official stats have been released yet. Some of the Facebook numbers could include Instagram posts. If they do or don’t, please let me know. 

Random Google search of anything related to Instagram stats for the World Cup doesn’t provide anything of substance. I did happen to stumble across a Tumblr page that documented IG numbers before the tournament, here.

Followers, well, that’s a different conversation. Athletes from nearly every sport have embraced the photo/video sharing platform. And, their fans have responded in kind. Bloomberg reports that “7 of the top 10” players,  with respect to follower numbers, hail from Brazil. Neymar and his library of selfies proved to be quite popular with fans…and maybe a few non-soccer types too. 

How popular is Neymar on Instagram? Note the number of Likes and Comments on his two highest posts over the past month.



  • SnapChat angers users with their “Story” from Rio
  • Tumblr part of the social media conversation too


2) The numbers are in and it’s allllllll gooooood for ESPN and Univision. Viewership (live-streaming) earns the runner-up spot in my unscientific list of World Cup stars. Rather than quoting the numbers, here are a few selected links on this subject:

  • Ken Fang of fangsbites.com: Univision goes out from the World Cup on top
  • Jonathan Tannenwald of philly.com: Discussing the records and near misses in the World Cup final and tournament overall
  • SI.com’s Noise Report: Breaking down the numbers and markets

Not breaking any earth-shattering news here, but numbers were up. Way up in some cases compared to South Africa in 2010. There were a couple of scenarios that played into ESPN and Univision’s hand for this level of soccer viewership. One is a known quantity. The other, an unmeasurable one. Sort of. 

  • Time difference. For those of us on the West Coast of the United States, this is a big deal. Watching a game at 9 am is a heck of a lot easier than 4 am! Noon on the East Coast? Piece of cake to plan a lunch (long lunch) to watch a game, right? Early morning when you’re just getting to work? Maybe not. So yes, a manageable time difference allows for more eyeballs, even casual eyeballs, to watch the tournament. And, if your friends are talking about it on social media (see #1 above), you might just tune in yourself. 
  • Rise of the Hispanic/Latino population in America. This is more of a theory on my part, but one I firmly believe in. Soccer (futbol) is popular, the #1 sport, in many Hispanic/Latino countries. It rivals and even surpasses what the NFL is here in America. Those who come or who have come to this country don’t just stop being fans of the game. They bring that passion and love of it with them. Add in a World Cup component and you have yourself a huge demographic tuning in to the tournament. But, if the Univision numbers are any indication, “my” demographic brought it, and brought it LARGE to the World Cup.

Keep in mind, these are only based on America’s viewing audience. This does not take into account any numbers from around the world. My guess is that from England to India to Australia to Japan, numbers were equivalent or up compared to 2010, depending upon location, of course. Time difference could very well come into play. But, the deeper the run by a country’s team, the guess here is, the higher the viewership. 


3) Bringing up the rear in my Star Power list is mobile. Part of mobile includes the live streaming as discussed above (WatchESPN and Univision apps). But, there’s more to it than that. Much like we do in our daily lives, our mobile devices became nearly essential to our staying connected to the World Cup. The CBC alone had their World Cup apps downloaded over one million times. FIFA too saw a rise in their app for the tournament – downloaded over 10 million times as of July 7th.

During the Olympics, talk began centering on the rise of dating apps like Tinderr. According to this article last month, dating apps were seeing a 50% increase. Not just in downloads either. That is in usage too. Surprising or perhaps not in this day & age, some “dates” are turning into relationships.

RELATED: USA-Ghana match sees apps in demandGottaBeMobile


FINAL THOUGHTS: So there you have it. The 3 stars of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for me are: Social Media, Viewership and Mobile. I did not mention compelling games, but there are always compelling games to some degree or another during the World Cup. Compelling games lead to higher social media activity, increased viewership and a need for apps, apps & more apps on our devices. 

There can be no question of social media’s impact in sports. It supplements events and sometimes drives engagement either in posts/tweets or actual views. Mobile continues to grow. And grow. And grow. That is and will be a key component for any sporting event in the future — making it work for mobile. 

But, what will you remember about this World Cup? Will it be the social media records that were broken? Or, will you remember the breakout tournament for young Mr. James Rodriguez? Or the flying Van Persie? Late game heroics from USA’s John Brooks? Surprising Costa Rica? The bite heard, seen, shared around the world from Luis Suarez? Germany’s pasting of Brazil? Algeria’s never-give-up attitude? Nigeria playing despite unrest back home? Brand engagement? Perhaps it’s the less popular stories of Brazilian protests? 

What will you remember? What stood out to you? 

While we all reflect on it over the next four years, or (PLEASE) simply leave your comments below, let me leave you with this gem of a video from KickTV. 



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