Deflate-Gate: How Social Media Responded

January 25, 2015
Bill Bellichek deflate-gate presser

Bellichek press conference on deflated footballs

If you haven’t heard of “Deflate-Gate” by now you might be living under a rock. The news on this scandal broke last week shortly after the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts and has been mentioned over 330,000 times online. What is it all about? The New England patriots allegedly deflating the footballs to give them a competitive advantage. Of course, social media was the place where the information was first exposed and has really been driving the conversation since it first broke.

Here we have the overall volume of mentions across the Internet. The sources in this dataset includes: Public Facebook, Twitter, Mainstream News, Blogs, Forums, YouTube, Vimeo, Craigslist, MySpace and News/Blog comments. The conversation peaked on Tuesday into Wednesday and has been on a downward trajectory since.

Deflate-Gate Conversation Volume

social media deflate-gate volume


I wanted to trace who first uttered the now infamous #DeflateGate on Twitter. We could do a deeper analysis to see who really influenced the use of #DeflateGate, but let’s first look at who can claim they started this national trending topic.

Who Created #DeflateGate on Twitter?

Mitch Huppert one of the first on Twitter to use "Deflate-Gate"


Twitter first tweet of #deflategate

Nithin Krishnan (@nithkrish) first used @DeflateGate at 11:01 p.m. MT followed by Mitch Huppert (@Mitch_Huppert). These two Twitter users can be credited with coming up with the #DeflateGate hashtag on Twitter following the initial report by @bkravitz. It should be no surprise both of these users reside in Indiana according to their Twitter profile.

@bkravtiz breaks #deflategate on Twitter

What does this mean? The #DeflateGate hashtag was first used within six minutes of the news breaking on Twitter. This demonstrates that Twitter trends happen organically and incredibly quick. There is no way you can control them, the community will dictate the hashtag.

First Mainstream News to Break Deflate-Gate

Who was the first major online news source to break deflate-gate? That credit goes to Eric Edholm, contributor to Shutdown Corner at Yahoo Sports. He published this article a little more than 30 minutes after Bob Kravitz broke the scandal on Twitter.

Eric Edholm breaks first mainstream news on #Deflategate

Pointing out that @Eric_Edholm broke this on Yahoo Sports first is important because he used the trending topic #DeflateGate in his headline. This really helped solidify all other news sources to continue its usage throughout the week in their reporting.

What regions of the world have been talking about #DeflateGate the most? It should be no surprise that the United States leads the way, but others on the list may shock you.

Conversation by Region

#DeflategateThe United States accounts for 84.4% of the total conversation followed by Canada at 3.7% and the United Kingdom at 0.9%. Also making the list include India, the Netherlands and China.

Conversation in the United States by Platform

Chart showing deflate-gate conversation in the United StatesIt’s obvious the United States is really talking about this scandal on social media. Facebook and Twitter account for 83.4% of the total conversation taking place online. That’s an incredible skewed amount in terms of share of conversation. Forums come in a very distant 3rd place accounting for 5.2% with 14,828 posts across the Internet during the scandal’s first week.

This is a small snapshot of  the crisis the New England Patriots are facing. Putting out press releases and managing traditional media is important in any crisis, however it’s obvious this is really being fueled in large part on social media. One look at the New England Patriots social media accounts shows them not addressing deflate-gate in any meaningful way. It’s a fundamental failure, and one that shows the Patriots have no problem letting the media and fans across the world paint them as cheaters.

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