With Ravens Super Bowl Win, Ray Lewis’ Legacy Defined by Accomplishments on the Field
Last week on the Crimson Hexagon blog we conducted social media analysis on the conversation about Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis throughout the ups and downs of his 2012-2013 NFL season. The fascinating results begged the question: how will his Super Bowl performance, with the media spotlight surely trained on Lewis, shape conversation about his legacy?
Crimson Hexagon’s social media analysis platform, ForSight, can uncover not only the positive and negative divide over time but also the themes and emotions driving praise and criticism of the now retired NFL star.
In total, an astounding 1.2 million social media posts on Super Bowl Sunday involved Ray Lewis. ESPN.com used ForSight social media analysis to highlight the sheer volume of this conversation, and USAToday.com took a closer look at the emotions fans expressed. Notably, the opinions expressed on Super Bowl Sunday and in the following days closely mirror social opinion about Lewis during the rest of the season.
All season long, negative opinions about Ray Lewis ranged from anger towards his homicide involvement to mockery of his personality off the field. Positive themes included admiration of his character and respect for his football career, which was consistently the largest strand of the Ray Lewis conversation, making up 41% from season opener to the AFC Championship.
One might have predicted that the recently uncovered banned substance scandal would sway conversation in a more negative direction, or that a Ravens win would spike praise of his contributions on the field. Instead, our findings show that none of the recent developments, the scandal, Super Bowl, or his retirement, shifted the conversation about Ray Lewis; social media users are still just as heavily focused on his football achievements.
The only measurable change in social opinion is in the negative remarks about Lewis. At 32%, negative sentiment is a larger portion of the conversation than it had been during the rest of the season (24%), but still nowhere near as high as after the Ravens won the AFC Championship on January 21 (55%). However, the types of opinions driving the criticism now link to his alleged use of deer antler spray rather than his murder implications, and they are largely of a mocking nature:
The remainder of the conversation is positive (68%) and shows a level of praise for his football career (41%) consistent across the rest of the season. Despite playing a key role on the winning team, Lewis left sports analysts underwhelmed by his individual Super Bowl performance, suggesting a possible reason this figure did not spike but remained flat during the final, biggest game of his career.
Sports superstars’ legacies are shaped not only by pivotal athletic moments but by the reactions to media coverage of their actions on and off the field. Ray Lewis’ actions, athletic and otherwise, stir a polarized conversation that will likely impact the image of any brands or organizations that partner with him in retirement. Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight social media analysis indicates that, despite his pratfalls off the field, fans’ engagement with Lewis’ remarkable athletic talent remains a driving force behind positive opinions.