Messi backlash on Twitter

Chris PolechonskiSenior Research Executive Digital, Media and Technology
June 13, 2013, 4:35 PM GMT+0

Yesterday footballing ace Lionel Messi and his father were accused of defrauding Spanish authorities of €4m (£3.4m). This news of the FC Barcelona star’s alleged tax avoidance came on the same day that it was also announced that he came top in Bloomberg Sports’ first ‘Power Football 50’ – the most skilled footballer during the 2012/13 season.

By using SoMA, YouGov’s social media analysis tool, we are able to measure the impact that these breaking news stories had on Twitter, only a day after it happened. It will also be possible for us to determine exactly which news story had the biggest effect on the social media networks.

First off, it is clear to see that the media attention ascribed to Lionel Messi yesterday did indeed have a significant impact on the number of people who heard something about the Argentinian on Twitter. Whilst the proportion of the Twitter population who had heard something about Messi on June 11 was 4.2%, this jumped to 45.9% just a day later on 12 June when he made the headlines.

The top two words mentioned alongside Lionel Messi on Twitter were by far and away ‘tax’ and ‘fraud’, making it clear that it was the news story of his alleged tax avoidance that caused the spike in Twitter activity surrounding the footballer. Other popular words mentioned include ‘Spain/Spanish’, ‘accused’, ‘father’, ‘investigation’ and ‘4m’.

Additionally, on 12 June a staggering 91% of tweets were classed as negative in sentiment, while only 3% were positive and 6% were neutral.

Therefore, this analysis allows us to gain an understanding into both the extent to which the Twitter population heard about Lionel Messi yesterday, as well as the content that was heard. It also shows just how fast a news story can penetrate social media and how the Twitter population are able to use the site as a news source.

The analysis points to the fact that, although being an immensely popular footballer, negative media coverage led to a widespread backlash against Lionel Messi on Twitter, especially as it was concerned with such a heated topic as tax avoidance.

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