Facebook’s Super Bowl Prediction Has Big Data Behind It

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goiabarea/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goiabarea/

Can a football fan’s emotions predict the outcome of a game? According to Facebook  data, there’s a direct correlation between the pre-game posts from a winning team’s fan base and the final result. When you see a higher level of confidence expressed by fans posting on Facebook, that team more often than not triumphs. Using this methodology, the Denver Broncos look poised to win Super Bowl XLVIII.

A Facebook blog post revealed how posts on the social media site provide clues to who would win the big game. Over the course of the NFL playoffs, Facebook tracked the tenor of fans’ posts by noting the use of positive and negative words. That process showed a definitive trend.

“Fans of the team that eventually wins tend to be slightly more positive before the game than fans of the team that loses,” the Facebook post reads. In fact, nine out of 10 playoff games were won by teams that had the most positive pre-game chatter. Is that enough to say the Broncos emerge as a favorite?

To examine the Facebook theory in practice, the company posted graphs of the NFC and AFC Championship games. Sure enough, fans of both Denver and Seattle were higher on their teams than those of New England and San Francisco before kickoff. Curiously, the scores of the game also reflected the fan sentiment — even that of pre-game hype. While Denver showed a sustained edge over New England in the majority of Facebook posts before the AFC title game, Seattle and San Francisco were neck-and-neck. The trend held until Richard Sherman sealed the win for the Seahawks.

Following the kickoff in Denver, the Broncos maintained a huge lead in fan confidence, mirroring the score of the game. Glancing at Facebook’s charts of Denver and Seattle fan sentiment throughout the entire season, Broncos supporters reflected more confidence throughout the year. Both teams ended up losing only three games apiece.

Since the day the conference championships took place up until January 28, Denver has held a lead over Seattle in fan confidence, opening up a huge advantage in the period between January 20 and January 22. Coincidence? During that stretch of 48 hours, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s apology was dominating the discussion on sports networks and the news media in general.

Does that dip in Seahawks positivity reflect the hubris of Sherman, possibly underscoring a weakness in Seattle’s team as a whole? It’s impossible to tell. Thus far, the Facebook system has been right nine out of 10 times. Anything can happen in a Super Bowl. Players become immortalized; others are demonized for the rest of their careers. If gamblers were inclined to trust the Facebook system, Denver would be the bet to make for Super Bowl XLVIII. That said, there’s no telling if the advantage is worth a 2.5 point spread for the Broncos.