How the arrival of South African teams in the Pro14 will boost social media engagement

This is a guest post by Trev Keane MD of fan data and analysis experts

This last saw week saw huge news break in the world of rugby as North and South combined to create history. The newly named Guinness Pro14, the latest evolution of the Celtic league, will see two new teams and a new structure.

South African franchises, the Southern Kings and the Toyota Cheetahs, will ensure plenty of air miles for the likes of Munster and Edinburgh Rugby. The new structure will see 14 teams split into two conferences of seven, with three from each qualifying for the playoffs.

September 1st will ensure all eyes are on Kingspan Stadium when Ulster make history as they clash with the Cheetahs. Emerging Springboks Uzair Cassiem, Oupa Mohoje, Francois Venter and Ox Nche are set to become familiar names to Scottish, Irish and Welsh rugby fans over the coming 12 months as the franchises integrate into a new rugby way of life.

PRO14 chief executive Martin Anayi hailed the historic and bold move as an ‘astonishing achievement’ and a ‘golden opportunity’ but how did the everyday fan react? Sportego took a look at the social media reaction to the announcement, and found that it has overall been very positive.

The three main social channels for the newly named Pro14 grew 2.8% compared to the previous 7 days when it grow 0.2%.

  • They now have a reach of 286k and with the huge potential rugby audience in South Africa this will grow further over the coming months. Social activity was up 266.7% with 44 posts while social engagement increased an incredible 2,294%.
  • The official announcement of the new league achieved 7.99% audience engagement on Facebook.
  • This was significantly bigger than the 4.49% and 2.63% achieved on Instagram and Twitter; although with an average engagement of 0.50% across all channels, these numbers are impressive.

As you can imagine, key accounts from the world of rugby were quick to spread the news. Looking at the hashtag #Guinnesspro14, 72% of those that interacted with the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram were male. 81% of the audience interaction were white, while 37% were Generation X, with the much coveted millennial generation making up 41%.

The sentiment was very positive, too, with “SouthernKingsSSA”, “Pro14”, “WelcomeCheetahs”, “Excited” and “Looking Forward” the key positive words while “Expensive” and “Travel” were the most common negative words associated with the announcement.

Social mentioners are key at spreading influence. Edinburgh Rugby player Allan Dell wrote a welcome message in Xhosa with 103 engagements while Rugby United, WalesOnline Rugby, SA Rugby Magazine, Leinster Supporters and Paul Williams spread the good news to their 200k plus audiences.

In terms of audience size, the Cheetahs have a social audience of 148,305 (17k Instagram, 79, 805 Facebook and 51.5k Twitter) while the Southern Kings SSA have 31,269 (3,668 Instagram, 18,045 Facebook and 9,556 Twitter). Those audience numbers put them well behind leaders, Leinster Rugby with the Kings boasting the smallest social audience and the Cheetahs sitting mid-table.

While the Pro14 news has captured the imagination, it is still not at the level of Leigh Halfpenny. The Lions’ fullback returned to Wales this week joining the Scarlets.

The announcement of his return led to 18.9% and 13.3% audience engagement on their respective Instagram and Facebook pages, much more than the 10.4% (381 engagements the Southern Kings garnered for their league-joining announcement.

Of course, there are no grand final places handed out for social audiences.

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About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 261 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and a regular contributor to Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan91

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