Big sports news starts on Twitter

Last week, in one of the year's biggest sports news stories, Sir Alex Ferguson called it quits on his illustrious 26-year career at Manchester United. Ferguson’s popularity on and off the pitch has been well documented (including on Sports Geek Podcast 002), and the online response to the news from fans and players past and present, was understandably overwhelming.

Sports stars show Twitter love

As we've come to expect when significant sports news breaks, social media goes into an frenzy. Within five minutes, the official Manchester United Press office tweet announcing Ferguson's retirement had been retweeted 5,000 times. An hour later, that number had grown to over 100,000. It wasn't long before the #thankyousiralex hashtag was the number one trending topic worldwide, as reported by Head of sport for Twitter in the UK/Europe @LewisWiltshire:

Analyzing Twitter data

According to the #thankyousiralex hashtag was used around 350,000 times on Twitter in the week following the news being broken, with spikes of 167,000 on May 8th and 140,000 on May 12th, here is a quick infographic we built with

Tracking #ThankYouSirAlex

A look at Facebook traffic using

Fans were also encouraged to leave messages of support via a custom Facebook application, which to date has been clicked more than 240,000 times from a number of locations around the world, as explained in Sports Geek Podcast.

Geographic distribution of clicks

Facebook numbers, WOW!

The announcement was handled extremely well by Manchester United's media team, who were able to incorporate their respect and appreciation with a number of Facebook posts that oozed class and a strong sense of fan engagement:

ManUtd - Facebook Timeline Photo - 'Legend'

#thankyousiralex - behind the scenes

Sir Alex and his trophies

But the most heart-felt sign of fans' appreciation came before his side's penultimate match of the 2012-13 season, where players from both Manchester United and visiting team Swansea City joined to form a guard of honour:

Professional til the end.


Did you listen to Sports Geek Podcast #2 where Sean discusses #ThankYouSirAlex with Francis Leach?

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