Predicting the Strictly Come Dancing winner using public engagement data

December 17, 2021

Written by Cian Shortt
Image of dancing feet for strictly come dancing

Every year, the final of Strictly Come Dancing (also known as Dancing With The Stars in the US) falls just before the holiday period. While dancing ability is important to get you to the final, it ultimately comes down to a public vote. So we’re going to use public engagement data from NewsWhip Spike to see if that public engagement can help us to predict the public vote that decides the winner of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing — because NewsWhip Spike is built to help you predict public engagement.

Spoiler alert, we think Rose Ayling-Ellis is likely to run away with it.

As we see the rise of brand ambassadors in marketing strategies around the world, predicting the winner early can give you the head start on supporting existing brand ambassadors in their efforts, or finding early opportunities for collaboration, and we’ll also take a deeper look at how to do that using Spike.


Some context to help you

For those new to NewsWhip Spike, to help you understand this breakdown — public engagement data in this article is defined as the total number of Facebook Interactions + Twitter Influencer Shares that an article receives.

The 3 finalists this year are:

  • AJ Odudu (purple in our graphs)
  • John Whaite (turquoise in our graphs)
  • Rose Ayling-Ellis (pink in our graphs)

Note that for every graph in this post, the winner from each year will always be in pink.


Prediction through research

The recent launch of our Combined Timelines widget allows us to explore and compare public engagement with each contestant going into the final. Plus the fact that we store historical data as well as real-time data means we can assess previous years to track the trajectory of each finalists’ public engagement.

For the final, let’s first look at the three finalists before the outset of the competition, in the month before episode 1 on the 18th of September.

Chart showing engagement with Rose Ayling-Ellis at the start of Strictly come dancing
Timeline shows that public engagement with all three was very similar in the month running up to the start of the show, but Rose Ayling-Ellis was far and away the leader on public engagement in week one of the competition.

As the next graph shows, this is in spite of media interest focusing on the other two contestants that are now in the final. AJ Odudu was mentioned in 247 articles, John Whaite in 317, but Rose Ayling-Ellis was only in 149.

Chart showing number of articles published that mention Rose Ayling-Ellis at the start of Strictly come dancing

Prediction through real-time media monitoring

Now that we have a landscape on the early days of this year’s competition, let’s look at the month running up to the final, including up-to-the-minute data as of the afternoon of Thursday 16th of December.

NewsWhip Spike’s predictive data will often be used to predict the importance of an individual article or post, but it’s the Timeline widget that helps visualize a trajectory in real time. Adding multiple Timelines to create a Combined Timelines widget then puts it all into a comparative context. We can also use our social network content feeds, and leaderboards to get insight into the conversation and put the data into context, particularly when injuries come into play.

The last month of public engagement data confirms that Rose is leading the way, even if things get a little close after the November 28th episode.

Chart showing engagement with Rose Ayling-Ellis at before the final of Strictly come dancing

If we were using public engagement data only, the late surge for AJ Odudu would indicate that she’s catching up to Rose Ayling-Ellis and it will be a close finale. However, Timeline is interactive and allows us to dig into the graph to find out what’s happening. By clicking on AJ’s timeline in purple, we can highlight all articles about her. This reveals that the peak in public engagement is down to an injury, so it looks like she might not win!

Chart showing engagement with AJ Odudu before the final of Strictly come dancing

If you were a brand partner with AJ, you might want to explore further, and you can click View Details to open the article details card to predict how much engagement there will be with the article, and identify how big the story will be.

Chart showing predicted engagement with story about AJ Odudu injury

If you’re a Rose Ayling-Ellis brand partner, you can breathe a sigh of relief because the public engagement data still indicates she’s on track to win.


Reassurance through historical context

While we’ve given a clear case for Rose winning by looking at public engagement to date, how can we be sure that it translates to winners? Luckily, Spike gives you historical data too. Let’s take a look at the three finalists from the previous two years. A reminder that the winners are the pink line.

In 2020, Bill Bailey came out on top. The below graph shows that for the final weeks, he was winning on public engagement.

Chart showing public engagement with 2020 Strictly Come Dancing finalists
There was a period where Maisie Smith was capturing the most public engagement, but with the article plotting feature in Timeline, we can see that much of this engagement was with a media narrative around her being too confident, and this may have worked against her when it came to public perception and how they voted.
Chart showing public engagement with article about Maisie Smith's dance partner

It’s also important to note that Bill Bailey was often winning the share of public engagement throughout the competition, before it swung heavily towards him in the closing stages.

Using public engagement as a measure for 2019, we can see again that the winner Kelvin Fletcher earned the most public engagement throughout the competition. Kelvin had 137.6k public interactions on 2,345 media articles that mentioned him. With Emma Barton being the closest to him with 94.8k public interactions on 1,437 articles mentioning her.


Will public engagement guide us to a confident decision?

So while there are often small anomalies in the public engagement data, NewsWhip Spike helps you to find out what is causing them and understand their impact.

Ultimately, NewsWhip Spike is the real-time media monitoring platform that helps you identify trends, and what is behind them so you can understand what matters and make confident decisions — like deciding that Rose Ayling-Ellis is in for an enjoyable weekend of dancing and celebrating her win.

If you’d like to carry out your own research using public engagement data like we have in this blog post, you can email your Customer Success Manager for help in getting started by clicking here.

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