The Big Trend in Sports Engagement: A Little Hashtag Emoji

Twitter has already activated a hashtag emoji for this Sunday's Super Bowl 50, held about 45 miles south of the company's San Francisco headquarters.

Sports fans have taken notice of a unique feature on Twitter, and they love it.

For major sporting events such as the College Football Playoff National Championship and the National Hockey League All-Star Game, Twitter has developed custom emojis that appear whenever someone tweets a specific hashtag.

Select brands have been using the hashtag emojis (think Coca-Cola and Starbucks), but Twitter has been rolling out this feature for many events.

Twitter has already activated a hashtag emoji for this Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, held about 45 miles south of the company’s San Francisco headquarters.

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Note: The Carolina Panthers’ official hashtag is #KeepPounding.

Postano, which works with various teams and leagues to boost social engagement, sees this being a huge trend for sporting events in 2016. Postano worked with the NCAA during the championship football game, as both schools (Alabama and Clemson) had special emoji tied to team-specific hashtags. Team logos showed up after the hashtag #AllIn for Clemson or #RollTide for Alabama. A trophy emoji also appeared after #NationalChampionship. unspecified-1 Postano and the NCAA also set up a social station, called a “Hashtag Hangout,” where fans could see top posts about their teams and join the conversation. Postano created a fun game-within-the-game by having Clemson and Alabama fans compete to see who could dominate the conversation, sparking more participation. Across Twitter and Instagram, here’s how each hashtag performed:

  • #nationalchampionship 142,000 posts
  • #bamavsclem 22,400
  • #allin 64,400
  • #rolltide 118,000
  • #cfbplayoff 22,900

Postano president Justin Garrity told SocialTimes that these hashtag emojis are a hit because they are an added bonus to sports fans following along on Twitter:

We worked with Twitter to put those emojis on our displays. As the fans were tweeting about the support of their teams, using their official hashtags, not only did they see it there in the Twitter app, but when they saw the large screens all around the venue, they saw the emojis there as well. I think that’s a big thing for fans to see through Twitter and Postano, to see their team allegiance reflected.

Previously, SocialTimes worked with Brandwatch to track the usage of #Postseason for the Major League Baseball playoffs the past two seasons. While it would be a leap to declare that the emoji (introduced for the 2015 postseason) directly led to an increase in engagement, the numbers show that #Postseason with the emoji was much more popular than the plain #Postseason of 2014. postseasongraph It’ll be exciting to see what kind of social visualization is on tap for the Super Bowl, held in the Silicon Valley city of Santa Clara. Two brands already have hashtag emojis live — Verizon and Pepsi (which will have a Promoted Moment). A Twitter spokesperson told SocialTimes that a few other Super Bowl brands will have hashtag emojis running soon, too.

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Postano’s Brian Cheek, director of sports business development, is excited to see what kind of social innovation will happen Sunday:

When you have an activity like the Super Bowl, Twitter activity is pretty much a given at this point. … The Twitter-official emojis, it sounds simple and like not a really big deal, but I think Twitter has even said that it has increased participation in pretty large percentages. It’s amazing how little things like that can really work.

Readers: Are you more likely to use a hashtag if it has an emoji?