Facebook milks Super Bowl mania to strut its football savvy

One in 10 Americans has spiraled a "like" to an NFL team on Facebook. But sadly, fair-weather fans are all too common.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
2 min read
Gillette Stadium
A U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy does a fly-over of a New England Patriots game at Gillette Stadium on November 11, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kelly Galloway

Super Bowl season is upon us, which amounts to television ads we might actually enjoy, too many men wearing makeup (a.k.a. face paint), and a ton of data mining on the social Web.

Far be it from Facebook to miss a golden opportunity to tell the world, particularly advertisers and marketers, how much it knows about us and our National Football League preferences. The social network's data science team has uncovered a few interesting bits about Facebook and football. Basically, we love to like our favorite teams.

Roughly 35 million Facebook users in the U.S. have liked the Facebook Page of an NFL football team, which according to Facebook, amounts to one in 10 Americans voicing their support for one of the 32 teams. And, apparently, we're all linked through our connection to Cowboys or Steelers fans, who make the most common friends of football fans on Facebook.

A map of the top team, by U.S. county, at the start of the playoffs in January. "Tennessee, home of the Titans, became an extension of the Indianapolis Colts fan-base at the start of the playoffs," Facebook said.
Perhaps the most telling (and saddest) takeaway is this: Facebook users are fair-weather fans.

"Most teams are accruing new fans on Facebook throughout the season, but teams who win are doing it faster," Facebook said. "Making the playoffs, whether you win or lose, seems to give a team's Facebook page a huge boost in fans. Some people just like to hop aboard the bandwagon."

In the same vein, once the playoffs started, Facebook's data team found that football fans were quick to relinquish their hometown allegiances and root for rivals still in the hunt. Chicago Bears fans, for instance, seemed to be cheering on long-time rival Green Bay Packers.

Now with just the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers still in play, Facebook looks to be split between East and West regions, though the 49ers appear to have more social support spanning the entire country.