#SOTU vs. #SuperBowl 2015

It’s just over a month into 2015 and we’ve already seen two of the most widely viewed telecasts draw extensive social media engagement – The State of the Union and Super Bowl XLIX. Tweeting thoughts and reactions during major televised events has become an essential part of the viewing experience. These internet-wide discussions have reached historic levels so far in 2015, with both the #SOTU and #SuperBowl garnering more activity on Twitter than ever before. Who controls these conversations? Whose voices are amplified? What themes are commonly discussed? At SKDK, we’re all about data so we examined Twitter activity surrounding these two highly talked-about events, which revealed a few key takeaways:

We analyzed two simple hashtags, #SOTU and #SuperBowl, to compare conversations about the two events. In terms of sheer volume, Super Bowl XLIX was a more widely discussed event, garnering over 3 million tweets on game day, whereas the State of the Union brought in 1.6 million tweets on the day of the speech.

Though there was a spike in tweets during Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler’s end-of-game interception, the Super Bowl’s most viewed tweets focused on non-football aspects of the event such as the halftime show and commercials, proving that the interests of the Super Bowl audience go well beyond the action on the field.

Men dominated Super Bowl discussions, with 61% of tweets containing #SuperBowl coming from male users.

The discussion surrounding #SOTU was slightly more balanced, with 55% of tweets coming from male users and 45% coming from female users.

Looking at the tweets that experienced the most exposure during each event reveals interesting insight into who drives social media conversations. The ten most retweeted posts during the State of the Union all came from government officials or the administration. Nine of those tweets either came directly from Barack Obama’s official Twitter or the White House account, demonstrating how successful the White House is at controlling the media narrative during the address.


During the Super Bowl, on the other hand, celebrities controlled the conversations, with seven of the top ten retweeted posts coming from actors or singers. The most retweeted #SuperBowl tweet was a post by actress Mindy Kaling referring to the Nationwide Insurance ad she starred in.


So, socially speaking, who came out on top: #SOTU or #SuperBowl? Considering the total number of those who participated in the #SuperBowl discussion this year as well as the geographic range of these tweets (36.9% of all #SuperBowl tweets on game day were posted outside of the U.S. versus a mere 8.8% of #SOTU tweets), one might consider Super Bowl XLIX the social media champion in this round. However, how much does this actually tell us about what kinds of people were watching the Super Bowl and the State of the Union? It is easy to make the generalization that the Super Bowl was a more popular topic of discussion on social media. But what if we zero in on Washington, D.C., the heart of U.S. politics? Were users in D.C. still more heavily engaged in the Super Bowl discussion than the State of the Union discussion?


An estimated 106 of the 2,357 retweets on this post came from D.C.-based users.

The difference is drastic. Analyzing the same two hashtags, #SuperBowl and #SOTU on their respective nights within the District of Columbia, there were 93,266 total tweets on the State of the Union as opposed to just 18,267 tweets on the Super Bowl. Even the rate at which Washingtonians were reacting to each event differed greatly. Whereas the #SuperBowl hashtag yielded 761 tweets per hour, #SOTU yielded 3,886 tweets per hour, reaffirming D.C.’s proclivity for politics.


Unsurprising that one of the top most retweeted #SuperBowl posts in D.C. was by Chris Matthews

We know that these days, people watch major television events with their smart phones in hand, ready to react and share their insights. This can serve as a major lesson for advertisers, campaigns, and brands, who need not only to get viewers to watch, but to also use their thumbs. And the more targeted your audience, the better insight social media analytics can provide.