How Super Bowl LI Drove Millions of Engagements on Facebook

February 8, 2017

Written by NewsWhip

What did Super Bowl LI look like on Facebook? We look at how social reacted to this history-making game, diving into the top teams, pages, & stories. 

How did social media react to arguably the most legendary Super Bowl in history? It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime, where one team was leading 28-9 in the last quarter. The first Super Bowl to lead to five championships for the team’s quarterback or for an NFL head coach.

Using NewsWhip Analytics, we dived deep into the data of the ‘second screen’. What did Super Bowl LI, or Super Bowl 51, look like on Facebook? Where did fans gather to react to one of the wildest Super Bowls in NFL history?

We chose to look at engagement on native content, as fans scrolled their Facebook feeds during the game to connect to the experience.

Super Bowl 51

We can see that pre-Super Bowl hype was strong on the night of February 4th, building up again through the 5th. Engagement on the team keywords dipped during the beginning of the game, while mentions of Super Bowl keywords rose through the game.

Around 8:30 p.m. EST, mentions of the Patriots started to sharply spike as the Patriots started to score, leading to the most dramatic comeback in a Super Bowl. Engagements around the Falcons, which had been close to the Patriots during the game, dipped as the Patriots gained momentum.

How did that engagement look on Facebook? The biggest difference was in the amount of shares.

Facebook Shares Super Bowl

Content around the New England Patriots on Facebook drove nearly triple the amount of shares that content around the Atlanta Falcons did.

#SuperBowl stat: The Patriots drove over 2.4 mil shares to the Falcon’s 980k on Facebook

The most shared Patriots post didn’t come from a football focused page, but instead a comedian’s Facebook page. The video, where Ryan Davis gave his post-game analysis comparing Tom Brady to the Illuminati, drove over 147,000 Facebook shares. 

The video, posted at 11 pm, has quickly amassed over 9.8 million views and sparked over 44,000 comments. The success of this video speaks to a few things here: the ability of content to go viral, even if it’s not from one of the “big guys” (Davis’s website is even called “Who Is Ryan Davis?“). There’s also the value of timeliness. Ryan Davis posted that video within an hour of the Super Bowl ending.

Speaking of top Facebook pages, let’s dive into the most engaging Facebook pages of Super Bowl LI.

What were the top Facebook pages during the Super Bowl?

Super Bowl LI 51 Pages Facebok

Like we saw in our analysis of headlines in 2015 vs. 2017, politics has caused a disruption across publishers and topics. The U.S. political landscape has permeated the Super Bowl, with Donald J. Trump, Conservative Daily, and Occupy Democrats featuring in the top 20 most engaging Facebook pages around the event.

Recent news of a friendship between Trump and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady sparked headlines, and Trump’s top Super Bowl-related posts continued this as he congratulated the Patriots on their win. 

What did the other political publishers see Facebook buzz for? Both Fox News and Conservative Daily, a page of IJR, saw engagements around Former President George Bush’s appearance at the game with his wife Laura. Other posts speculated on the political stance of Lady Gaga’s halftime show, who Mike Pence brought to the game, and the political statements of individual Super Bowl 51 commercials.

What were the top Super Bowl posts on Facebook?

Top Posts Super Bowl 51

Four of the top ten posts came from NFL and the New England Patriots, as to be expected. Also unsurprising is the post from Lady Gaga, as she performed the halftime show. Celebrities accounted for four of the posts — Jason Statham was promoting his Super Bowl commercial appearance, while Dane Cook shared his reaction to the win and Mark Wahlberg shared why he left the game early.

Conservative Daily was the only publisher page to break into this top ten, sharing an external link to an IJR article on George Bush’s arrival to the game. Celebrity endorsements of sports tend to do well on social, whether they are the ones sharing their experiences, or a publisher is speculating on them.

What were the top engaging post types?

Publishers, rejoice. A good 28 percent of the top hundred Facebook posts around the Super Bowl led to external links.

Super Bowl Post Types

Visual content, videos and photos, still combined to make up the majority here, but external links show that Facebook users were engaging with publishers’ domain content that was being posted to the platform. The top link posts led to analyses of the game and controversial commercials, recaps, and what celebrities and politicians at the game were up to.

How did Super Bowl LI stack up against Super Bowl 50?

NewsWhip Analytics can offer us a historical look into past Super Bowls. We analyzed the two days over Super Bowl 50 and Super Bowl LI to see which game made the bigger impact on Facebook, and by how much. Again, we did this by searching keywords around general Super Bowl terms to surface the native content engagements.

Super Bowl 50 51 LI

The activity around Super Bowl LI outranked Super Bowl 50 (another noteworthy year) by approximately 11 million likes, shares, reactions and comments. This jump could be from more users turning to Facebook as their second screen during important sporting events, or from the history-making moments of Super Bowl LI. We could drill down into this increase by comparing the top publishers, content, and tactics between the two.

Either way, with over 81 million engagements in just two days, it’s clear that actively connecting with your fans on social is a necessity. Wherever they are, you can bring content to them. The trick is to find the angle they’re most excited about, whether that’s pure sports, political, or celebrity-focused.

Try a demo of NewsWhip Analytics to dive into the events and topics your audience cares about


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