Why Football Fans in Twitter Wish that Cristiano Ronaldo Wins FIFA Ballon d’Or 2012

We present another analysis about the power of football players as icons, and some learnings about social media dynamics, by exploring Twitter content analysis.

As explained in the previous post, FIFA representatives will announce this next Monday 7 January 2012 who is the Football Player of the Year, awarded with the FIFA Ballon d’Or, which is the result of the merger of the two most prestigious individual football awards: FIFA Football Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or by France Football.

There are three finalists from a previous shortlist of 23 football players. They are: Leo Messi (FC Barcelona, Spanish League), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Spanish League) and Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona, Spanish League).

We have shown in the previous post that based in media value analysis, Argentinian Leo Messi playing in FC Barcelona is the favorite to win the award. Betting odds by leading online betting firms show also a clear favoritism for Leo Messi (79.5% assigned probabilities, for 11.5% for Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) and 9% for Iniesta (FC Barcelona)).

Now we explore in this post which is the feeling in the social media about who will be the winner. As in other previous studies, we have chosen Twitter sentiment analysis, as Twitter is an open social espace, in contrast with other social media platforms.

We have monitored tweets published between 23 December 2012 and 5 January 2013. We have included results for tweets published in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.

We have identified the tweets where a clear preference was shown for one of the three finalists. The statement may reflect a winning conviction, a desire or a petition.

We present first the results day by day. They appear in the following figure.

Our empirical analysis shows that Cristiano Ronaldo has been the preferred option, with  a large advantage, within the period between 26 December and 2 January. Before and after this period, Leo Messi got the highest share of tweets concerning the FIFA Golden Ball. Andrés Iniesta appears consistently as the third option, with a share of tweets between 5%-15%, except a peak of 25% by 3 January 2013.

fifa ballon d'or 2013 favorite odds by twitter fans cristiano messi iniesta

Which is the aggregate result? Who is the player that gets more ‘popular votes’ in Twitter during the whole period covered in our analysis? We present in the following figure the evolution of the aggregate values of tweets received by each finalist, between 23 December and 5 January.

The results show that during the first couple of days Leo Messi was the preferred choice in the social media. But the trend changed abruptly since 26 December 2012. Cristiano Ronaldo becomes the first option, increasing its share to a maximum of 70% of all published Tweets by 2 January 2013. Since 3 January Leo Messi is gaining momentum again.

fifa ballon d'or 2012 favorite odds by twitter social media fans cristiano messi iniesta 7 january zurich


Our results say that taking into account all tweets published between 23 December and 5 January, the fans’ preferences in Twitter come as follows:

1. Cristiano Ronaldo: 61.9%

2. Leo Messi: 27.1%

3. Andrés Iniesta: 11%

A clear question emerge: why do we have a huge divergence between perception in the social media and perception by betting professionals and other analysis?

Presence and engagement with followers do influence Twitter social media conversation

There may be many answers to why people in Twitter prefer Cristiano Ronaldo winning the Ballon d’Or even if apparently objective chances are not with him.

A first answer could come from the base of fans of each football star. Cristiano Ronaldo has played both in the Spanish League with Real Madrid and in the English Premiership with Manchester United (and also with the Portuguese Sporting Clube de Portugal when he was a young promising star). This broad set of followers is important, as English Premiership is dominant in Asia and Oceania, By contrast, Leo Messi has always played with FC Barcelona, since he was 13 years old. Cristiano could also have more fans than Messi among women due to his physical attractiveness.

Even if this reason seems appealing, it does not solve the problem satisfactorily. Our analysis shown in the previous post shows that Leo Messi is by far the global media reference of the season 2011/12. If he is present globally in the news more than Cristiano Ronaldo, this is because his sport performance is considered superior, but it also reflects that readers (and thus fans) want to know about this performance, that journalists are likewise ‘obliged’ to publish.

Besides, we count with tools to measure, at least indirectly, the number of fans that each football star attracts, thanks again to social media. Followers in the social media are a good proxy for actual number of fans.

Looking at Facebook figures we have (data by 5 January 2013):

1. Cristiano Ronaldo: 52.6 million followers.

2. Leo Messi: 49.9 million followers.

3. Andrés Iniesta: 11.7 million followers.

We find thus that both Cristiano and Messi count with almost the same power in Facebook.

The difference comes when we look at results in Twitter.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo 15.2 million followers

2. Andrés Iniesta: 5.1 million followers

3. Leo Messi: there is no official account.

And here comes the inception of the answer that we privilege: Leo Messi is not present in Twitter for some reason, and he is paying the price in terms of lower visibility than other stars similar to him. In the same time, Facebook numbers are telling us that both megastars count with a similar number of followers worldwide.

Our first finding is presence: if a brand, corporate or personal, is in Twitter, social media conversation around the brand will probably increase. If you are a powerful and admired brand, being exposed in the social media with an official active Twitter account will probably benefit you and increase your brand power.

For instance, 16.4% of tweets chosing Andrés Iniesta as favorite for the award were addressed directly to his Twitter account @andresiniesta8, in a suggested interaction from the followers to the star.

This ‘imagined dialogue’ does not exist with Leo Messi, as Messi’s fans know that he will never read the messages as he is not present in Twitter.

Like with Andrés Iniesta, many followers of the Portuguese star write a tweet as if they were talking or sending a personal message to Cristiano Ronaldo, using his account @Cristiano.

The relevant point in the case we present today is that Cristiano Ronaldo and/or his social media team have fostered this ‘dialogue’ these last days by interacting directly with followers in Twitter. This will be the second finding: engagement.

They have chosen a very smart way to maintain a dialogue with the star and increase the traffic of tweets in the days previous to the announcement of FIFA Ballon d’Or winner.

Here is the dymanics chosen by @Cristiano team to increase substantially engagement with followers.

1. Find an objective reason to interact with followers. The issue chosen was to celebrate reaching the 15 million followers mark. Instead of presenting a proposal, they asked for ideas, linked around the hashtag #celebrate15M. This was 18 December 2012.


2. Show with RT some of the proposals sent by fans.


3. He announces by Christmas the way to celebrate the mark: with the fans


4. Every day, a question for the fans. 15 fortunate fans will appear in @Cristiano TL, and will be voted with RT by all Cristiano Ronaldo fans as the best tweet of the day. All this mechanism means a lot of messages directly addressed to @Cristiano, and a lot of RT to the selected tweets. This means a substantial increase of traffic in Twitter around Cristiano Ronaldo. These are the 5 questions posed by Cristiano:



5. The celebration with fans was opened by 27 December ended by 1st January.

Now, if we look back again the first graph, we can find that the challenges proposed by Cristiano Ronaldo match with the sudden increase of mentions of followers hoping that Cristiano become the winner of Ballon d’Or. Challenges posed in 30 and 31 December got as an easy answer for followers ‘we want you winning the Ballon d’Or next 7 January’. This answer was picked only by exception among the selected 15 answers in his TL, but flooded Twitter during these days, as we have found out.

All in all, this case shows us that powerful brands count with creative means to interact with followers in the social media, in a way highly appreciated by them. Benefits for the fans, benefits for the brand.

In our case, interaction launched by @Cristiano has as a result that people in Twitter see that a vast majority of Twitter users prefer Cristiano Ronaldo winning the FIFA Ballon d’Or.


Other analysis in this site about FIFA Ballon d’Or


2 thoughts on “Why Football Fans in Twitter Wish that Cristiano Ronaldo Wins FIFA Ballon d’Or 2012

  1. Pingback: Balón de Oro 2013: Cristiano Ronaldo arrasa en Twitter | SM Reputation Metrics

  2. Pingback: FIFA Ballon d’Or 2012 Three Finalists: What Twitter in Spanish Predicts | REPUTATION METRICS

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