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2020 Year in Sports: Analyzing the Passion of Fans

2020 saw massive shifts in collegiate and professional sports. Seasons were canceled, others delayed, put in bubble format, and others massively cut down the number of games played. Among all the chaos, sports when available gave fans an outlet for moments of escape from an otherwise challenging year. We dove into the millions of comments posted on social media to get a good look at the most passionate fan bases in sports in 2020, the most popular athletes, and, alternatively, the most disgruntled fans.

Canvs Methodology

Canvs analysis measured any time a team or player drove a Tweet; meaning the Tweet targeted the subject. Some Tweets are fact-based, while others are emotionally charged, which Canvs identifies as Emotional Reactions. For the Most Passionate Fan Base on Social of 2020, we tracked who had the highest rate of Emotional Reactions (or passion). For the most popular athlete, we tracked athletes with the highest volume of Emotional Reactions. For the Most Upset Fan Base on Social of 2020, we tracked fan bases with the highest rate of ‘angry’ or ‘disappointed’ Emotional Reactions.

Most Passionate Fan Base on Social in 2020


5. Colorado Avalanche

  • The only professional sports team on the list who didn’t reach the finals in their respective sport, the Colorado Avalanche only made it to the second round of the NHL playoffs this year, yet were able to make it as the 5th most passionate sports fan base in 2020 with a 32% rate of passion in 2020
  • Verbatims:
    • Love: “2 games to go, boys. Great win! #GoAvsGo @Avalanche”
    • Excited: “Big save!! Let’s get this W boys @Avalanche !!”
    • Crazy: “@Avalanche Wow. You really making them look mad goofy”

4. Seattle Sounders FC

  • Another team that fell just short in their quest for a championship in 2020, the Seattle Sounders FC ranks number 4 on our list of most passionate fan bases in sports in 2020
  • Despite losing to the Columbus Crew in the MLS Cup, the engagement of the Seattle Sounders fan base was on full display in 2020 earning a rate of passion of 32% in all Tweets driven by the team
  • Verbatims:
    • Love: “DO WHAT YOU DO BEST SOUNDERS!!!!”
    • Crazy: “Wow, Sounders thisclose to getting back in it. #MLSCup”
    • Excited: “LETS GO SOUNDERS!!!!!! 3 POINTS = 3 STARS!!!!! #EBFG”

3. Miami Heat

  • Despite falling short in the bubble, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals, the Miami fanbase came out in droves to show support and passion for the team in 2020
  • Heat Nation was able to drive massive levels of passion for the team in 2020, with a 33% rate of passion from all Tweets this year following their underdog run to the finals, with top Emotional Reactions including ‘love’ (46% of all Emotional Reactions), ‘excited’ (13% of all Emotional Reactions), and ‘enjoy’ (12% of all Emotional Reactions)
  • Verbatims:
    • Love: “Jimmy Butler. Miami Heat is thankful….”
    • Excited: “I JUST LOST 10 YEARS OFF MY LIFE LETS GO HEAT BB”
    • Enjoy: “No matter what happens I’m proud of y’all @MiamiHEAT”

2. Kansas City Chiefs

  • In the NFL, this was the year of the Kansas City Chiefs
  • Not only did football fans watch young quarterback Patrick Mahomes rise to the heights of MVP, the Chiefs were able to secure their first Super Bowl Championship since 1970, and the first ring for head coach Andy Reid
  • The team was also able to generate a rate of passion of 34%, with top Emotional Reactions including ‘congrats’ (22% of all Emotional Reactions), ‘love’ (20% of all Emotional Reactions), and ‘enjoy’ (15% of all Emotional Reactions)
  • Verbatims:
    • Excited: “Oh boy…. Chiefs are heating up! Let’s go!!”
    • Congrats: “Yeah! Way to go @Chiefs Super Bowl LIV Champions!”
    • Crazy: “PATRICK MAHOMES BEAT THE MADDEN CURSE OMG”

1. Duke Blue Devils Basketball

  • Despite a shortened season, the college basketball behemoth Duke Blue Devils were able to claim the top spot as the most passionate fanbase in sports.
  • The Blue Devils were able to generate a rate of passion of 36% when mentioned in tweets in 2020, with the most engaging game being back on February 8th against the North Carolina Tarheels, where they came from behind and were able to close out the win in overtime
  • Verbatims
    • Love: “DUKE DUKE DUKE THAT WAS AMAZING”
    • Crazy: “Titus JONES! Wow, Not even a Duke fan but WOW!”
    • Excited: “Let’s go Duke!!! Big time players make big time plays. #TreJones”

Honorable Mentions: Los Angeles Lakers, North Carolina Tar Heels, Ohio State Buckeyes

Source: Canvs Explore, Tweets driven by the Duke Blue Devils in 2020

Most Popular Athletes on Social in 2020

5. Tom Brady

  • Tom Brady is arguably one of the greatest NFL players of all time, and in 2020 his fans came out in droves to show support for the star quarterback in his last season with the Patriots, and continue to support him as he joined the Tampa Bay Bucs
  • Despite ending last season on a disappointing first-round exit from the playoffs, Tom Brady was able to drive nearly 600K total Tweets and over 160K Emotional Reactions in the year 2020, with top Emotional Reactions inclusive of ‘love’ (23% of all Emotional Reactions), ‘crazy’ (15% of all Emotional Reactions), and ‘enjoy’ (13% of all Emotional Reactions)
  • Verbatims:
    • Love: “Tom Brady still the best QB to ever play the game.”
    • Crazy: “wow tom brady is having a good game”
    • Enjoy: “Is tom brady clutch👀👀👀👀”

4. Kawhi Leonard

  • The fun guy Kawhi Leonard ranks fourth on our list of most popular athletes in 2020, a category heavily dominated by basketball players
  • In 2020, Kawhi joined up with superstar Paul George in hopes of bringing a championship to the Clippers
  • Kawhi was able to drive 700K total Tweets and 175K Emotional Reactions, with top Emotional Reactions inclusive of ‘enjoy’ (23% of all Emotional Reactions), ‘crazy’ (12% of all Emotional Reactions), and ‘funny’ (10% of all Emotional Reactions)
  • Verbatims:
    • Enjoy: “I forget how good Kawhi is at defense sometimes”
    • Crazy: “KAWHI CARRYING THE CLIPPERS OMG”
    • Funny: “KAWHI GET READY FUNNY GUY”

3. Jimmy Butler

  • The outspoken star of the Miami Heat was able to take his underdog team all the way to the NBA finals, along the way generating over 600K total Tweets and nearly 200K Emotional Reactions
  • Top Emotional Reactions for Jimmy Butler in 2020 include ‘love’ (44% of all Emotional Reactions), ‘crazy’ (7% of all Emotional Reactions), and ‘funny’ (4% of all Emotional Reactions)
  • Verbatims:
    • Love: “The way Jimmy Butler fights is amazing”
    • Crazy: “Idc what happens jimmy butler is insane dude”
    • Funny: “LeBron scared to guard Jimmy Butler LMAOOOO”

2. Kobe Bryant

  • The sports world lost an icon early in 2020: Kobe Bryant
  • Fans came out in droves to share their love of the late basketball player, driving nearly 2M total Tweets in 2020 and nearly 600K Emotional Reactions, with top Emotional Reactions inclusive of ‘love’ (60% of all Emotional Reactions), ‘sad’ (14% of all Emotional Reactions), and ‘supportive’ (6% of all Emotional Reactions)
  • Verbatims:
    • Love: “Very strong woman!!! Rest easy Kobe & Gigi 🙏🏽💜💛”
    • Sad: “crying at work 😭 Vanessa is the Strongest woman for speaking in front of all those people after losing the love of her life & her baby in such a tragic accident. ♥️ God Bless the Bryants. & I agree, God definitely knew Kobe & Gigi would not be able to live without each other.”
    • Supportive: “I couldn’t hold back my tears while watching this. Prayers to the family. RIP Kobe & Gigi”

1. Lebron James

  • This one should come as no surprise to anyone with internet access… Lebron James finished his 17th season in the NBA with both another championship, and his 4th Finals MVP
  • Lebron James was able to drive over 850K Emotional Reactions in 2020 along with nearly 3M total Tweets, with top Emotional Reactions inclusive of ‘love’ (35% of all Emotional Reactions), ‘enjoy’ (13% of all Emotional Reactions), and ‘crazy’ (12% of all Emotional Reactions)
  • Verbatims:
    • Love: “LeBron and the other guys on 🔥 #NBAFinals”
    • Enjoy: “This consistency of LeBron is underrated imo”
    • Crazy: “FINALS MVP LEBRON JAMES AHHHHHHHH”
    • Congrats: “Way to go Lebron MVP! The kid from Akron.”

Honorable Mentions: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pat Mahomes, Carson Wentz

Source: Canvs Explore, Tweets driven by the Lebron James in 2020

Most Upset Fan Bases on Social in 2020

5. Washington Nationals

  • Following a 2019 run to the MLB World Series, the Nationals failed to make the playoffs in a shortened 2020 season, leading to 8% of Emotional Reactions being ‘angry’ or ‘disappointed’
  • Verbatims:
    • Disappointed: “Come on @Nationals we need a win from you guys”
    • Angry: “For the Nationals, this season is all but lost”

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

  • The powerhouse Crimson Tide college football team failed to make the College Football Playoffs in 2020 and fans were not happy, with 8% of all Emotional Reactions categorized as ‘angry’ or ‘disappointed’
  • Verbatims:
    • Disappointed: “Alabama special teams never fail to disappoint.”
    • Angry: “Alabama always has a way to piss me off every time they play”

3. Los Angeles Clippers

  • Arguably the only basketball team that deserves to be on this list, the Los Angeles Clippers massively underperformed in the 2020 NBA bubble, losing to the Denver Nuggets after taking a 3-1 series lead
  • Following their early departure from the bubble, the team faced criticism from the fans with 9% of all Emotional Reactions surrounding the team showing ‘anger’ or ‘disappointment’
  • Verbatims:
    • Disappointed: “Clippers are cursed smh . Gotta be sumn.”
    • Angry: “Bro the Clippers are pissing me off smh😒🤦🏽‍♂️”

2. San Antonio Spurs

  • Disappointment surrounding the San Antonio Spurs in 2020 is likely due to the team being a staple in NBA postseason basketball, and despite making it to the NBA bubble, the team fell short in 2020
  • The San Antonio Spurs fan base let the team hear it this year on social media, with 10% of Emotional Reactions being ‘angry’ or ‘disappointed’ in the team this year
  • Verbatims:
    • Disappointed: “Spurs not making it man smh”
    • Angry: “Spurs didn’t make the playoffs and I’m pissed ….”

1. Denver Nuggets

  • Even though the Denver Nuggets had a fantastic playoff run in the NBA bubble, the fans were very disappointed in the team falling short in the Western Conference Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, with fans showing the highest rate of disappointed and angry Emotional Reactions in 2020, 13% of all Emotional Reactions this year
  • Verbatims:
    • Disappointed: “Nuggets bout to pull a Falcons style choke smh”
    • Angry: “Sorry Nuggets, we ain’t the Clippers 😤😤😤”

Honorable Mentions: Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, Illinois Fighting Illini, Cleveland Browns

Source: Canvs Explore, Sports Teams with Highest Rates of Angry/Disappointed Emotional Reactions in 2020

Canvs, the leading emotion measurement technology company, connects consumer input to research insights with patented semantic AI technology to help companies deeply understand and empathize with their audiences

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