The World Cup will have a lasting effect on some players – but only if they’re smart about it

The World Cup is over but more than just the memories remain.

France will have a second star above their crest while England have a new generation of nearly-men. And the follows and interactions which took place on social media will always remain, too.

This is a modern version of an old phenomenon: break-out players always happen at World Cup finals, but now their popularity is enhanced by social media. Every week, something is written about the pulling power of a sportsperson with a big social media following – you just have to look at Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to Juventus to see what an impact he’s had already not just on the club but on the Italian league. And that’s even after the fact that he’s a 34-year-old who has just commanded a €100m price tag.

Cristiano Ronaldo graphic

Graphic via IQUII SPORT

“Social media are becoming the first fundamental touchpoints between clubs/athletes and their followers: we must take into consideration the importance of these tools for the engagement and the entertainment of fans within the strategies structured to enhance this relationship,” says Fabio Lalli CEO of IQUII Sport.

Whilst the World Cup is a festival of football that takes place once every four years, the knockout nature of the latter stages and the competition comes around so infrequently makes it a bubbling cauldron of pressure. And when young players like Kylian Mbappe come through, the media starts to take notice.

Because of social media, though, it’s no longer journalists or those with large platforms who direct public opinion about players, it’s fans themselves. Any player who bursts onto the scene or who is loveable on social media can use the World Cup to boost his profile – but keeping the engagement rates high after the tournament is the challenge.

“To give an example, purely in quantitative terms, the numbers of England National Team accounts during the World Cup really explain the team’s path at the tournament: the official channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) have grown, since the start of the competition, by +8.5% that’s more than 1.1 million followers,”says Lalli.

“And a particular mention is for Harry Maguire (+420%), Jordan Pickford (+260%) and Kieran Trippier (+190%) who have registered incredible increases thanks to their great performances in the pitch.”

“At the same time it’s necessary to make a quantitative and qualitative analysis [of the fanbase] to understand the effective results of the activities and comprehend the best ways to consolidate that relationship without getting distracted by ‘vanity metrics’.”

Before the tournament, it was clear that England had few actual stars in their team, and certainly none who were going to rival Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or Neymar in the social media popularity stakes. Whilst the tournament growth of some of their players is impressive, we won’t know for a while whether or not that level of interaction is sustainable.

What we can predict, though, is that those numbers will remain high as most new followers won’t go to the trouble of unfollowing as quickly as they followed.

The World Cup was great for social media growth, but if those headline numbers – the ‘vanity metrics’ – are to mean anything, then those players who experienced that increase will have to give their new followers a reason to keep clicking the like and share buttons. More and more, that’s what savvy sponsors are demanding. But there’s no doubt that the tournament has given some players a platform to do just that.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 716 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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