Twitter reveals biggest sports trends in 2012

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
8:10
AM ET


Looking back on 2012, it was an incredible year in sports.

The Giants ended the Patriots’ Super Bowl dreams yet again; King James finally won a ring; and Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Plus, winter, spring, summer or fall, it always seemed to be Tebow Time. Oh yeah, then there was that whole Linsanity thing.

But which story was the biggest in social media?

Well, the results are in on the social side and Twitter gave us a first look at the year’s biggest athletic events on Twitter, the most retweeted athlete, what was trending in athletics and more.

(Much to our excitement, ESPN and your beloved Skip Bayless were trending in 2012.)

In related Twitter news, we’ll be at Twitter headquarters this week to speak with the company's head of sports. Stay tuned for the full interview, along with an article in ESPN The Magazine.

For now, here’s a warm-up on Twitter's biggest sports moments of the year:

[+] EnlargeFernando Torres
Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty ImagesTorres' goal set Twitter afire.
Top Overall Sports Data Moments (in chronological order)

The Super Bowl, Feb. 5

The Giants-Patriots game on Feb. 5 was a tweet magnet, pulling in 13.7 million tweets related to the Super Bowl, 1 million of which flooded Twitter the first minute of the game.

Banter spiked again with 201,466 tweets per minute (TPM) following the game's final play, an incomplete pass by Tom Brady which guaranteed a Giants win.

And Madonna still has it, bringing in 108,077 TPM during the halftime show.

Barcelona-Chelsea, UEFA Champions League semifinal, April 24

One of the most notable Twitter sports moments happened during a soccer game in Barcelona.

In the second leg of the Barca-Chelsea Champions League semifinal in April, tweets around the world peaked at 184,535 TPM after Fernando Torres' late goal secured Chelsea's passage to the final.

Euro 2012, June 8-July 1

As Spain triumphed over Italy 4-0 in the final, the tweets soared, peaking at 267,200 TPM following Juan Mata's goal in the 88th minute. Fans (and likely foes) also took to the Twittersphere after Mario Balotelli scored a stunner for Italy against Germany; when Spain’s Cesc Fabregas scored against Italy; and for Spain’s win over Portugal in the semifinals.

The Olympics, July 27-Aug. 12

[+] EnlargeMelanie Brown
Odd Andersen/AFP/GettyImagesThere were 116,000 tweets per minute during the Spice Girls' Olympic show.
Sixteen days of sports allows for a lot of tweets -- specifically, 150 million in the case of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Usain Bolt (@UsainBolt) of Jamaica, who won gold in the 100 and 200 meters, was the most tweeted athlete, with 80,000 TPM following his 200-meter victory.

But the Spice Girls took the Twitter gold, inspiring more than 116,000 TPM for their performance in the closing ceremonies.

To put all of this in perspective, here’s a roundup of other notable 2012 events and their tweets:

The U.S. presidential election

10 million: Number of tweets surrounding the first U.S. presidential debate
31 million: Number of tweets about the election on Election Day
327,452: Number of TPM circulating as election results were tallied on the news

The MTV Video Music Awards

52 million: Number of votes cast over Twitter for the “Most Sharable Video” competition of the VMAs
14.7 million: Number of tweets related to the show
98,307: Number of TPM when One Direction won Best Pop Video (peak TPM of the show)
86,275: Number of TPM surrounding Taylor Swift’s performance (the second-highest TPM of the show)

[+] EnlargeT.J. Lang
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesT.J. Lang's replacement ref tweet was retweeted 98,000 times.
Sports Retweet of the Year

It’s not often that a tweet has more RTs than the account has original followers. That’s what happened with Twitter’s most retweeted sports tweet, which came from Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang (@TJLang70) on Sept. 24 following the game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.

Lang (and a million others) took to Twitter to sound off on the controversial game-ending call by a replacement ref: “F--- it NFL. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs,” Lang vented to his 40,000 followers.

With 98,000 RTs, the tweet didn’t just become the RT of the night, it managed to become the most popular RT of the whole NFL season.

Sports Trends on Twitter

If you tweet, you’re familiar with trends -- they’re the conversational topics that are popular enough to make it to the sidebar of the Twitter home page.

Here are the top sports-related trends of 2012, in order of popularity:

• #nfl
• #nascar
• #mlb
• olympics
• #sfgiants
• jeremy lin
• super bowl
• dwight howard
• kobe
• #yankees
• #dodgers
• blake griffin
• #redsox
• US open
• lebron
• melo
• OKC
• skip bayless
• braves
• ESPN
• anthony davis
Katie Linendoll is an Emmy Award-winning technology expert contributing to ESPN, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. She contributes tech segments to CNN and hosts a tech show on Spike TV. She has a degree in Information Technology New Media from Rochester Institute of Technology and is a diehard Buffalo Bills fan.

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