The online (and real world) rise…

The online (and real world) rise of Leicester City

Leicester City’s success in winning the English Premier League this season completed one of the most remarkable fairytales in professional sport and captured the imaginations of people around the world in the process.

Given odds of 5000/1 at the start of the season to win the title, bookmakers believed that there was a better chance of finding the Loch Ness monster, Kim Kardashian becoming US president in 2020 and discovering that Elvis was still alive.

The factors behind this being the biggest underdog story in sporting history have been covered in the pages and on the screens of many media outlets around the world, but what we want to understand is how, why and when Leicester’s story began resonating with the wider public.

Using Hitwise data, we have charted the search behaviour of over one million Australians to see how their searches for “Leicester” have changed over the previous 12 months.


Not all fairytales begin with three team players filming themselves engaging in acts later described as “gross misconduct” during the club’s pre-season tour in Thailand, but from the beginning this was no ordinary fairytale. This is where Australians first encountered Leicester this season, with a 304% rise in search share for “Leicester” mainly due to the terms related to the incident appearing in over 50% of all “Leicester” related search variations.

Although the team made an impressive start to the season, it wasn’t until late November that interest in the team spiked once more. On this occasion, it was all about the football, particularly the visit of Manchester United, with “Manchester”, “United”, “man” or “UTD” in more than 40% of searches. The result was 1-1, but the key story was that of Jamie Vardy whose goal saw him go in the space of five years, from being a factory worker to breaking the record for scoring in the most number of consecutive matches.

The next big spike came just before Christmas, with the visit of the previous season’s champions Chelsea (over 25% of searches contained “Chelsea”). Leicester won this game 3-1 to become the second team ever to go from being last at Christmas of the previous year to first place at the next Christmas.

Interest slowly faded away until early February, when Leicester played three traditional powerhouses in as many games, Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal. Winning two of these vital games started getting people to believe that they could actually win the league. Although people had been asking whether Leicester could win the league, variations of “Leicester” that contained “can” spike sharply during this period.


The next big spike came as Leicester officially secured the title in early May. A 1-1 draw away to Manchester United was followed by its closest rival, Tottenham, drawing 2-2 the following day to ensure that they couldn’t be caught at the top of the table. Variations of “Leicester” made up 0.04% of all search traffic that week, a 2,452% increase on the week of the 30th May 2015 (the week before the Thailand scandal).

Searches for Leicester quickly died down, with Andrea Bocelli’s serenade of the team being of interest the next week (approximately 10% of searches containing “Andrea” or “Bocelli”).

Now that we understand how the Leicester story played out online, we can use the new AudienceView platform from Hitwise to segment those searching around “Leicester” in order to find out exactly who they are and what they do online. This can give us a deeper understanding of which audiences were the most engaged with the club’s season.

The analysis found that this group are most likely to be ages 25-34, males with medium to high incomes. In terms of their digital behavior, aside from Sports news sites such as ESPN and Fox Sports, they are highly likely to be using social sites such as Twitter, Reddit and Instagram. This provides us with the richer image of a young sports-loving male, using Twitter and Reddit to provide immediate commentary and source immediate opinions from like-minded individuals as they watch matches from their homes during ungodly hours in the morning.

hitwise_blog_leicester_chart3 hitwise_blog_leicester_chart4Leicester’s story is a great example of how any brand can follow and gauges the consumers’ reaction and interest in real time based on how they behave online. Brands can also quickly understand precisely who is engaging, how they are engaging and how else they spend their time in order to devise more effective marketing strategies to reach them. These insights will allow marketers to review and plan ampaigns that will reach their ideal audience with the right content in the right place at the right time.

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