Major League Soccer (MLS) Social Media Equity Rankings: Sporting Kansas City & Seattle Sounders FC on Top

MLS Social Media Equity RankingsFan base evaluation has always been a topic of interest for sports researchers.  The world of social media provides an opportunity to look at fan base support/loyalty without worrying about capacity constraints, pricing, or revenue data issues.  To calculate MLS teams’ “social media equity” we collected social media engagement metrics (Twitter mentions of the club, both with and without hashtags).  We then created a statistical model that predicts these measures of social media engagement as a function of factors such as market size, official club tweeting activity, team payroll, and team performance for this past season.  We then compared each team’s actual social media engagement against the model predictions.

To examine the social media equity of MLS teams, we collected tweets for each team from 2009 to 2013 and built a statistical model.  The logic behind this model is that social media engagement from fans is driven by a bunch of factors like team performance, city demographics, etc.  Unlike other factors, social media equity is not directly measurable.  So we can attribute the contribution from social media equity to model residuals after controlling for measureable factors like team performance.

Social Media Engagement MLSWe first used data from 2009 to 2012 to calibrate the model, i.e. to estimate the coefficients for the explanatory variables, and then we used these estimates to calculate expected social media engagement using data for explanatory variables in 2013. The difference between our prediction and the true engagement we observed is the social media equity for each team.

Across the various specifications of the model, average attendance was significant.  This means home game attendance is crucial for engaging fans online.  This was also true for championships won by the club.  Social media equity rankings from the models are quite consistent.  Here, we present the ranking from the model whose dependent variable is the sum of all types of mentions on Twitter regarding the club.  It is not surprising to see Sporting Kansas City & Seattle Sounders FC at the top the chart.  Sporting Kansas City has been very strong in recent years, and won the championship in 2013.  Seattle Sounders FC has the highest average attendance among all MLS teams, which is evidence for the enthusiasm of fans.

Zhe Han, PhD Student