What Engages the Tennis Audience?

Analysis Tool Identifies Tennis Fans’ Interests

The French Open is one the four Grand Slams, annual tournaments that attracts tennis lovers from all over the world to watch the best players compete for one of the world’s most prestigious titles. While some fans are lucky enough to travel to Roland Garros to witness the matches in person, many tune in via television, radio, and the web to support their favorite players. One way for fans to engage in the action is through Twitter, from tweeting a selfie at Court Philippe Chatrier to commenting on a questionable call from their living room sofa.

As viewers become better social media users, social media analysis offers marketers the chance to develop a more informed understanding of the audiences for sporting events such as the French Open. Crimson Hexagon’s Affinities tool identifies the interests of engaged tennis fans and can be used to identify the qualities that distinguish fans from each other and from the general Twitter audience. Marketers can use these insights to develop advertising strategies and to inform sponsorship deals.

Our analysis explored the interest segments of tennis fans talking about the finalists at the 2014 French Open. We tracked social conversation about each player individually to highlight changes in volume and to analyze general fan interests.
French Open Social Opinion Analysis
 
Collecting data from May 25th to June 8th provided us with roughly 350,000 Twitter posts discussing the French Open finalists and from these we analyzed 191,469 relevant posts. Not surprisingly, the champions made up the greatest proportions of the conversation with 44% of the conversation discussing Rafael Nadal and 27% talking about Maria Sharapova.
French Open Affinities Social Analysis
 
When looking at the conversation surrounding the finalists, we found that the popular hashtags correlated with the most discussed players. While hashtags representing the tournament were most popular, #nadal followed with over 14,000 uses as did #sharapova (+11,000), #djokovic (+8,500), and semi-finalist Andy Murray, #murray (+4,100).
Tennis affinities analysis
Using Crimson Hexagon’s Affinities tool we found, not surprisingly, that fans of all four players exhibit strong interests in tennis and tennis related events and organizations. For example, fans of each of the four players were 32 (Nadal and Djokovic) to 36 (Halep) times more interested in tennis than Twitter authors in general and 108 (Djokovic) to 215 (Halep) times more interested in other Grand Slams such as Wimbledon and the US Open. Fans were also more interested in other tennis players. For example, the strongest interest is seen in Sharapova and Halep fans who are 1,000 times more likely to have an identified interest in Serena Williams than the general Twitter audience.
Sports affinities in tennis audience
Fans of all four players also exhibited greater interests in several other sports in comparison to the general Twitter audience. Fans of each of the four players were 5 times more interested in racing than the general Twitter audience and 17 (Djokovic) to 22 (Halep) times more interested in cricket. While interest in other sports was generally uniform across fan groups, several varied more dramatically. For instance, Sharapova, Djokovic, and Halep fans were 5 to 7 times more interested in the Champions League than the general Twitter audience while fans of Sharapova and Halep were 4 times more interested in golf than the general Twitter audience and 2 times more interested in baseball.
News and Media affinities in tennis audience
Fans were also 3 to 4 times more interested in news and media than the general Twitter audience. Fans of each of the finalists were 8 to 9 times more interested in Univision than the general Twitter audience, 2 to 4 times more interested in BBC, and 2 times more interested in ESPN. These interests may be increased by coverage of the French Open as fans rely on various news sources to track the latest scores.
However, this interest also distinguished fans of Nadal and Djokovic from the female finalists. Nadal fans are 34 times more interested in Canal+ than the general Twitter audience and 9 times more interested in TF1 while Djokovic fans are 42 times more interested in Canal+ than the general Twitter audience and 10 times more interested in TF1. In contrast, Sharapova fans were only 17 times more interested in TF1 than the general Twitter audience and Halep fans were only 12 times more interested. Canal+ was absent from Sharapova and Halep fans strong affinities.
Places affinities in tennis audience
Fans’ interests in locations also varied by player and distinguished tennis fans from the general Twitter audience. All fans had a strong interest in France, from 8 to 10 times greater than the general Twitter audience which is expected since it is the home of the French Open. Fans’ interest also matched players’ native country. Nadal fans were 5 times more interested in Madrid than the general Twitter audience and 4 times more interested in Spain. Similarly, Djokovic fans were 25 times more interested in Serbia than the general Twitter audience. Crimson Hexagon’s Affinities relies on many social signals to assign interests to authors, and the strong interest in Serbia may be influenced by recent flooding in Serbia which Djokovic has drawn attention to using social media.

Halep fans are also strongly interested in a variety of locations from Halep’s home country, Romania (87 times more than the general Twitter audience) to Italy (5 times more). In contrast, Sharapova fans did not show a strong affinity for Russia, Sharapova’s home country.

India features strongly as an interest segment. Nadal fans are 15 times more interested in India than the general Twitter audience, Djokovic fans are 10 times more interested, and Sharapova and Halep fans are 11 times more interested. This interest may be influenced by the Aircel Chennai Open which is held in Chennai, India and is part of the 250 series of the ATP tour. However, fans of each of the four players had an interest in Bollywood, from 12 (Djokovic) to 16 (Nadal) times more than the general Twitter audience and Hindi, 3 times more. These related affinities suggests that fans of all four players are more likely to be interested in India independent of the tournament.
Least Affinities with tennis audience
In addition to interests that are stronger for tennis fans, insights can also be gained from interests that are weaker than the general Twitter population. For example, fans are 4 (Djokovic) to 5 (Nadal and Sharapova) times less likely to be talking about Justin Bieber than the general Twitter population and they are 3 (Djokovic) to 5 (Nadal) times less likely to be talking about One Direction. Halep’s fans display similar qualities; they are 4 times less likely to be talking about Hip Hop than the general Twitter audience and 4 times less likely to be talking about colleges and universities, which is the same level of interest as Nadal fans. While these topics may suggest that teens and young adults make up less of the tennis fan population, perhaps this illustrates a preference for sports over popular music performers.

Unexpectedly, the topic that was absent from strong fan affinities was brands. While many athletes pursue numerous sponsorships, appearing in advertisements and promoting products on social media, they do not figure prominently among fans’ interests. For instance, Maria Sharapova engages with a variety of different brands from fashion to candy. There were no strong affinities to these products visible in Sharapova’s fans’ interests in comparison to the general Twitter audience. Interestingly, the only brand that fans were strongly interested in was Ferrari since Nadal fans were 8 times more interested in it than the general Twitter audience. This connection may be strengthened by Nadal’s ownership of a Ferrari 458, comparison of Nadal’s strength to that of a Ferrari, and an interest in Formula 1 racing.
With ForSight’s Affinities tool, marketers and creative agencies can identify the topics that interest tennis fans in general as well as supporters of certain players. Each player is unique based on their personality, home country, and ranking, which attracts different segments of the population. The qualities that separate player’s fan bases from general tennis supporters can inform successful sponsorships which targets the right consumers.
Leading up to the finals, we developed a quiz to find your tennis match. Click here to check it out!

Ivan Ferret
Written by Ivan Ferret
Ivan works as a Content Marketing Intern for Crimson Hexagon. Coming from France and studying in South Carolina, his biggest wishes are to face new challenges, to meet new opportunities and to eat some French pastries… again.

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