World Cup 2018 – Messi dominates publicity, but Suárez tops tone comparison

World Cup 2018 - M-Brain

For the last two weeks the world has come together celebrating the king of games, football. Although the World Cup 2018 championship is all but decided, plenty of discussions topics have already arisen. Often the ruckus focuses on star players. We followed the publicity of selected key players during the tournament. Now, as the group stage is done and dusted, let’s look at the publicity of some key players.

Messi wins the contest on publicity volume

During the group stage, Messi recorded the biggest amount of hits in media. C. Ronaldo came in second. At first Ronaldo had more publicity, but as tournament progressed, Messi took over the top position. Not surprisingly, publicity peaks occurred on game days or the following day, depending the time of play. After games the post-game analysis was usually hectic, which translated as peaks in publicity. The graph below depicts the publicity development of the players.


Development of publicity World Cup 2018 M-Brain

Picture 1: Development of Publicity

Graph reveals how C. Ronaldo’s brilliant performance against Spain (15.6) earned media limelight on the 16th. In contrast, Messi’s publicity peaked on the 22nd following Argentina’s shock defeat against Croatia (21.6.). Since then the hullabaloo around “La Albiceleste” and Messi has been plentiful. Only Kane and Kroos managed to supersede Messi and Ronaldo as kings of publicity, though only temporarily: Kane shone in England’s first game with two goals (19th), and Kroos put himself in media spotlight (24th) by scoring the deciding goal against Sweden.

Neymar received relatively high levels of publicity but without any higher peaks. Lack of major peaks reflects Neymar’s struggle to emerge as the decisive player in the Brazilian squad. The hype around Egypt star Mo Salah was intense prior to World Cup. Unfortunately, he was not fully fit to lead Egypt in the World Cup. He, nor his team, did not make major headlines, resulting in mediocre publicity volume. After a good beginning, the publicity volume of the French star Griezmann had a declining trend, whereas Suárez has remained on a lower level altogether.

Suárez surprisingly enjoys the most favorable sentiment

The player with the biggest share of favorable publicity was Luis Suárez: Half of his hits (49%) had a favorable sentiment. Moreover, he also had the smallest share of negative sentiment (12%). Quite the opposite, Neymar had the smallest share of favorable sentiment (28%), and the biggest share of negative sentiment (37%). Kroos, Kane, and Messi recorded good sentiment scores too.

Sentiment scores of the players - World Cup 2018 - M-Brain

Picture 2: Sentiment scores of the players

No doubt, the top rank of Suárez in the sentiment department is surprising. Then again, Uruguay has done well in the championships, and Suárez has managed to keep his focus in the game, scoring few goals. Neymar’s poor score reflects the fact that he has not been able to produce the same high level he is known for. Instead, Neymar has been ridiculed for theatrics, and his ability to lead the Brazilian team has been questioned. Portugal and C. Ronaldo had a very good start in the tournament, which is why Ronaldo’s mediocre sentiment score is somewhat surprising. On the other hand, here player’s personality comes into play, and Ronaldo surely divide opinions. The turmoil of Messi and Argentina team does not come across in Messi’s sentiment score. One would rather expected Messi and C. Ronaldo to swap graphs.

On the other hand, Messi and Kroos both stepped up to save their teams, which surely contributed to their high scores of favorable sentiment. Ultimately, Germany faced exit, which marked the biggest surprise of the tournament. In the aftermath, Kroos received his share of negative publicity. For example, Brazilian sports media Lance reminded him of what goes around, comes around.

Lance - World Cup 2018 - M-Brain

Picture 3: Kroos received his share of negative publicity.

Media Channels

Editorial and Twitter were the two main publicity channels for almost all the players. Combined these channels covered 75-85 % of the publicity for all but two players. Compared to others Suárez had proportionally much stronger presence in Instagram (26%). Also Neymar had a considerable amount of publicity in Instagram (15%). Kane stood out from others with substantially bigger share of editorial visibility (52%).

Baffle outside the pitch

In the World Cup retired legends come together too to enjoy the game. Two characters have especially raised headlines behind the scene, namely Maradona and Zlatan. In the beginning Zlatan had more publicity. Besides his commercial cooperations, Zlatan caused commotion with his “trademark” unconventional views of himself and the Swedish team. Nevertheless, Maradona stole the spotlight in Argentina’s faith-deciding game against Nigeria on the 26th. His exceptional demeanor in the stadium drew attention, of which a lot was negative. As a result, Maradona went viral, and social media was flooded with memes of his various antics witnessed during the game.

Development of publicity2 WorldCup2018 M-Brain

Picture 4: Development of publicity


Publicity includes both editorial and social media in English and in the native language of each player
Computer automated sentiment used in defining tone

Main image by Thomas Serer on Unsplash

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