For the first time since we began our official Buzz reports, the Six Nations Rugby Championship tops our UK ranking. And thanks to the disjointed nature of this year’s sporting calendar, it scored well enough to make it into our top ten more than once. The tournament’s resumption in October saw it score highly enough for a second, middle-table appearance, which we do not show in our table below..
Our Buzz score is the difference between the percentage of respondents hearing positive news and the percentage hearing negative news about an event in the previous two weeks. So, depending on what is going on, an event’s Buzz score can reveal whether conversations around a property are positive or negative at a point in time.
For regular readers, the Six Nation’s triumph will come as no surprise. The property has been a perennial presence in the top five over the years and came close to topping it in 2017 when it was beaten by regular winner, Wimbledon.
But the cancellation of the tennis tournament this year left a window of opportunity for the Six Nations and it has comprehensively beaten its rivals, leaving the Premier League in second place by some distance.
But that’s not bad news for the league. Second place represents a high-water mark for the competition, which failed to make the top ten in two of the past three rankings. The very fact that it got games on, while other competitions found it too difficult, has helped the property achieve its best ever ranking.
It’s worth remarking, however, that despite their lofty positions neither the Premier League nor the Six Nations record higher scores than they did in 2019. Overall, peak scores were down, perhaps reflecting the greater noise created by events away from the sports field in 2020.
In fact, almost every property in our top ten fits the mould of scoring less highly over the last year. In a typical year, major annual, biennial and quadrennial tournaments would make an appearance in a ranking like this. For example, in 2016, the summer Olympic Games in Rio topped our table with a peak score of more than 42 points.
But the absence of these events has given a boost to the leagues and contests which have been relatively easier to hold in this pandemic period. An honourable mention must go to one such event here. Despite not even taking place, Wimbledon manages to rank 11th in our rankings this year. In any other year, this would represent a remarkable fall from grace from this solid-gold property but, in 2020, the fact that it remained part of the conversation at all is a genuine achievement.
Another notable accomplishment –and one which reflects the importance of sport to British popular culture –is the appearance of the Bundesliga in this year’s ranking. The German football league has never troubled the UK top ten before but as the first major European football competition to return to regular play, it has charged into fourth place.
The EFL Championship also benefits from the sterling work it has done to get the game back on again. Meanwhile, the Tour de France continues its persistent argument for consideration as a ‘major league’ event in the UK. It features in the top ten for the fifth consecutive year, no doubt buoyed by the one of the most dramatic finishes in Tour history.
So how does the performance of our UK top ten in 2020 compare to their 2019 scores?
Well, most scores are down overall –and that’s what we’d expect given the fact that so much else has been in the news in 2020, and that it’s possible that people had less appetite for sports news overall. When you take into account the fact that much of the sporting calendar was also –to one extent or another –disrupted, it’s really no surprise to see many sports events struggling to build on 2019 scores.
But in fact, three of our properties managed to do just that in 2020. The British Grand Prix, the Tour de France and England’s T20 cricket side all managed to generate more positive chatter than they did in 2019. It’s also likely that the Bundesliga would have seen gains had we been tracking the property in the UK in 2019.
But no property in our top ten suffered catastrophic loss over the year –in fact far from it. That’s a testament to the enduring interest of fans but also to skillful marketers and broadcasters –not to mention the playing and coaching staff who made the events happen in the first place.
YouGov Sport’s annual Buzz report looks at the world’s most talked about sports teams and leagues around the world, with data across ten markets. Read the full report.