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Maurice Vergeer and Leon Mulder

This study tested football players’ performance on the pitch against their performance on Twitter as explanations for Twitter popularity. Guided by network theory, social-identity theory, and basking in reflective glory and using data of all players of all teams in the Dutch premier league (“Eredivisie”), the multilevel models show that players with a Twitter account were more popular when they scored more goals, were non-Dutch, were on loan at another club, and were networkers actively following others on Twitter. The findings also show that context matters. Players under contract with a successful club receive an automatic bonus: Irrespective of their performance on the pitch or on Twitter, they automatically acquire more followers on Twitter. Players in general do not need to put a lot of effort into communicating on Twitter because sending tweets is unrelated to having more followers. Advertisers’ best options to reach larger and homogeneous audiences through football players are to choose attackers, scoring players, those out on loan, and foreign players, as well as players from successful teams in general. The study also identified which player characteristics do not add to a larger audience reach, such as tweeting behavior and experience on Twitter.