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He Shoots! He Scores! They Text! The World Cup in 160 Characters

It’s clear from SMS usage data that we watched the World Cup with our mobiles in-hand.

Back in 2012 we ran some analysis of how the fans at the games reacted during the London Olympics, and identified the top five events, using SMS/texting traffic.

SAP Mobile Services, in addition to providing mobile engagement services for enterprises, also provides a range of services for mobile network operators. One of these is delivering inter-carrier traffic between mobile operators around the world.

This enables us to use statistics from that data to provide very accurate estimates of global texting (or SMS) traffic. So, when a worldwide event such as the Olympics comes along, it’s the perfect opportunity to have a look at how the world is responding.

Or in this case, how the fans of individual countries are coping with the their team’s progress in the World Cup.

Before we get into the results, I’m sure a number of you are questioning if people still text, and can we really see anything. Yes and yes. Here’s my evidence: a graph of the traffic for the Netherlands SMS during the match with Spain on June 13.

Netherlands Spain

As the goals are scored, the SMS traffic significantly spikes. You can even work out how many goals were scored, and by which team, just from the traffic.

In our analysis, we looked at overall increases, and also minute-by-minute increases.

Let’s start in the Round of 16. Some matches had very evenly matched fans. Take Columbia vs. Uruguay. Columbia had a 108 percent increase in SMS volume during the match, and Uruguay saw a 105 percent increase (although most of that was in the hour leading up to the game).

However, when Belgium beat the USA, the Belgian fans went wild with a stupendous 2,337 percent increase in SMS volume vs. the USA’s mere 6 percent. Whether this reflects that losing really hurts, or that soccer football isn’t widely followed in the U.S. (despite John Oliver’s best efforts) I can’t really say.

In the quarterfinals, the standout result was Costa Rica vs. Netherlands, when the SMS volumes form the Netherlands increased 776 percent vs. 147 percent for Costa Rica.

In the semi-finals, we saw an interesting contrast to previous results, as it wasn’t always the winning team that generated the most texts. Brazil vs. Germany, the winners Germany also took the lead for texts with:

Brazil +239 percent (1) vs. Germany +530 percent (7)

Whilst for Argentina vs. Netherlands, the losing team drove the greatest increase.

Argentina +246 percent (4) vs. Netherlands +630 percent (2)

So how did the other matches go? Who drove the biggest increases? Which are the chattiest fans? And what was the minute-by-minute breakdown for the final? All is revealed in our infographic below (or on slideshare here).

Textiest World Cup Infographic

 (Updated to fix missing infographic)