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Published October 6th 2022

AFL vs. NRL: Who Scored Online?

September was a peak for Australian football finals. We dive into the data to see which event came out on top.

Two of the biggest football codes in Australia, the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL), recently played their grand final just days apart. How did the online conversation surrounding these events fare online, and which came out on top?

The last few weeks have been huge for Australian sports, with the AFL and NRL playing their final matches just eight days apart. Fans gathered across the country to watch these games, sharing their excitement on social media.

So, what do online conversations about the AFL and NRL say about these events? Which, according to the data, won online – and why?

Let’s dive into the data to see which event came out on top and why.

Which event saw more discussion online?

This year, the AFL final had an attendance of over 100,000, with the NRL seeing just over 82,000 fans attending the event. Interestingly, the difference in attendance reflects the conversations happening online.

The AFL received over 188,000 online mentions during the week of the final. The NRL received just under 97,000 – an impressive number. However, this is still half of what the AFL achieved. The AFL also saw a larger baseline conversation throughout the year and an impressive peak in online mentions about the event during the final.

In September 2022, the AFL saw over half a million online mentions. In the same month, the NRL saw 335,000 mentions. By these numbers, it seems the AFL came out on top when it comes to the number of fans discussing the events online. However, the volume of mentions doesn’t tell the full story. Let’s dive deeper into the sentiment analysis of each event.

Sentiment analysis of the AFL vs. NRL

Brandwatch’s sentiment tracking automatically categorizes online mentions. Using this tool, we can see how conversations about these impressive football events compare.

When it comes to sentiment, both events had similar percentages of positive and negative-categorized mentions. The AFL saw 17% of emotions tagged as positive. For the NRL, 14% of mentions were categorized as positive. For the negative sentiment, the AFL had 27% of mentions categorized, and the NRL had 32% of mentions.

However, for emotion-categorized mentions, things looked slightly different. 30% of the AFL’s emotion-categorized mentions were joyful. However, only 23% of the NRL’s mentions shared this sentiment. That’s a substantial difference. Following this deeper, we can see that fans were less likely to engage in happy conversations about the NRL than they were about the AFL. This might have impacted the volume of mentions online about these events.

How can sporting events encourage more positive mentions online? The joyful mentions for the AFL included a tweet by singer Robbie Williams, who performed at the final. Robbie received a number of positive tweets from fans and brands alike, who loved the singer’s performance. In fact, the AFL itself tweeted multiple times about the appearance.

For the NRL, some of the most engaged-with tweets were from the event’s own Twitter account. These included celebrations for the winning team and live tweets from the final.

For any live event, sporting or otherwise, it’s clear that encouraging positive online mentions will generate a higher volume of mentions. From utilizing celebrities with large online followings, to live tweeting about the event, being active on your brand’s accounts will ensure more and more fans are chatting about your event online.

Why did the AFL come out on top?

The AFL scored higher than the NRL when it comes to online chatter during the events, including both volume of mentions and sentiment comparison. Let’s look deeper into why the AFL saw more online mentions than the NRL and how brands can learn from this analysis.

Interestingly, the AFL saw a higher percentage of Australians discussing the event online. 71% of online conversations about the AFL were from Australian-based accounts, whereas this number was only 62% for the NRL. Perhaps the higher the number of native users discussing an event online, the more other local followers are likely to also engage in this conversation. If users see their friends getting involved in the conversation, they might be more inclined to also join in. Brands might benefit from encouraging local discussions on social media to increase online conversations about a given event.

On top of this, the percentage of positive and joyful mentions for the AFL were both higher than for the NRL. Event owners might benefit from encouraging positive conversations, utilizing celebrities for higher exposure, and live tweeting about events as they happen. By doing this, brands are more likely to boost conversation volume about their events on social.

Utilizing social listening

For sporting events, it’s clear that there are plenty of things that have an impact on conversation volume. Brandwatch Consumer Research can help you to decipher how your brand stands out from others and how you can get involved in the online conversation on social.

You can find out more about how Brandwatch Consumer Research can help you here.

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