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College Football Through the Eyes of Googlers

By Bradley Engle

At a recent presentation given to the communications staff of the University of South Carolina, we showed a graphic displaying the 2010 college football season through the lens of U.S. Google search traffic. We created the chart using Google Insights, which compares the volume of searches for different keyword terms. Predictably, on every game day, search volume for South Carolina football spiked and even exceeded search volume of the university at large.

The size of the spike was proportional to the hype surrounding the game, and, according to Googlers, the biggest game of the season was South Carolina’s 35-21 win over the then top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. I think Gamecock fans would probably concur.

A few weeks after our presentation, South Carolina landed Jadeveon Clowney, the number one recruit in the country. February 14th was a huge day for South Carolina football, and Googlers proved it. There was more than twice as much search volume for “Clowney” as there was for South Carolina football on the day of the SEC conference championship game.

But since Google Insights only shows search volume relative to other terms, how would Clowney search volume compare to something bigger? When a more popular term like  “Obama” is added to the analysis, searches for Clowney on February 14th index at a 16. A big drop from the 100 shown in the previous chart, but still pretty incredible when you consider that a teenager pulled in half the search volume of the President of the United States.

And, when we looked at searches from the state of South Carolina (as opposed to the entire U.S.), the results were far more impressive. Search volume for Clowney on the day he signed with the Gamecocks was 12x more than Obama on the same day, and 5x more than Obama on the day of the State of the Union. The sustained interest in Clowney leading up to his announcement is also remarkable. Clowney was a more popular term than Obama for six days and an equally popular term for eight of the 44 days in 2011 leading up to his announcement.

Jadeveon Clowney will head to the University of South Carolina next fall not only as the biggest man on campus, but as the most queried man in the state.  Just one example of how we use data (and data visualization) to help our clients understand their communications landscape.

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