Perspective

How Twitter came to the rescue of a girls’ football team

Girls who want to play football face challenges that boys don’t. That was the story of one girls’ primary school team in Devon at the Barton Hill Academy (). They had no kit of their own, just hand-me-downs from the boys, and were being forced to play yet another season in a hand-me-down boys’ kit.

Their teacher, Jordan Bushell (), sent an email in July to social inclusion charity Football Beyond Borders (@FBeyondBorders), which turned to Twitter. Very quickly, the charity connected with influential voices and players from the women’s football community.

Former women’s football players Mollie Kmita () and Claire Rafferty () got involved, and in less than an hour, the issue was sorted. Mollie arranged through her connections for the Barton Hill team to get a kit, which they finally received in October. All of this was done within a couple of Tweets, a lovely example of an only-on-Twitter moment involving the women’s football community and how it came together to support each other.

Jordan Bushell said: “Last July, I posted out a really hopeful Tweet to try and source our primary school girls’ team a new kit. The reason behind this was simply that school budgets are shrinking and the school had already sourced the boys a kit, which meant that the girls were going to once again be given the hand-me-downs from the boys. 

After posting the Tweet, Ceylon Hickman from Football Beyond Borders got involved and Retweeted my original Tweet. The response from this was incredible. Mollie Kmita got in contact with me and said that she agreed with everything I was saying and wanted to sort us a kit with her links to Pro:Direct and Nike. Mollie did so much to help sort this kit and kept in constant contact making sure that the kit was everything we wanted.”

Football Twitter is one of the largest groups on the platform,1 which we recently identified as a part of a groundbreaking research project into understanding the audience on Twitter in the UK. The study uncovered the communities that thrive on Twitter and drive conversation. 

Using a combination of cutting-edge data science analysis2 and traditional market research, the study identified 75 subcommunities. It looked at them to find out what motivates Twitter's audience and how brands can best engage with them. 

Within football, you can find a spectrum of different people who all have an interest in a specific part of the beautiful game. It is made of many different groups including club tribes, grassroots football, Spanish football, stats and analytics, England Internationals, and women’s football. 

The women’s football community is made up of everyone from top athletes to dads ferrying their daughters to football practice. They’re coming together to live-Tweet matches, cheer the action and celebrate every player. They’re pushing to empower and elevate one another in a traditionally male-dominated business.  

Football Beyond Borders coming to the aid of a girls’ school football team is just one example of how the football community supports each other on the platform. Furthermore, it points to what more the community can achieve through Twitter. 

According to Ceylon Andi Hickman (), head of impact at Football Beyond Borders: “It’s a really, really, nice story and I was actually so surprised because within 15 minutes it was sorted. But beyond that, I thought if we can do this in such a short amount of time, what more can we do for girls across the country who want to play football?”

What can brands bring to Football Twitter?

The story also points to how brands can get involved and help in the football community. Our research found that football fans are happy for brands to get involved. Here are a few ways they can do that:

1. Support grassroots development: This is what football communities want most from brands (even club tribes). Brands’ involvement can range from ongoing support for grassroots clubs or help in funding facilities, kits, and resources through sponsorships and other activities

2. Add to the football conversation: People in club tribe Twitter thrive on being the first to know, or in having a unique piece of information or perspective on what’s happening in football. This gives them greater social capital and therefore standing in their group. Think of the way in which betting companies often use statistics to engage with fans.

3. Raise awareness for women’s football: Support can be as simple as Tweeting about the Lionesses. Most importantly, be consistent. Don't just Tweet around big games, but do it over time.

Sources

1. Jaywing, Join The Dots, and Twitter, 'Flocks — Uncovering communities on Twitter', June 2019, UK

2. To conduct the research, Twitter partnered with data-science agency Jaywing (‎) and insight agency Join the Dots (‎) to crunch and analyse the data based on follower graphs and Twitter bios. It combined this work with online diaries from each community, in-depth interviews, cultural analysis, and a quantitative survey (total n=1,500) to ensure the most robust results.

The analysis uncovered the unique roles that Twitter plays within each community and the reasons people engage with their communities. For brands, the research identified what they can do to make sure that when they get involved with these communities, they can be successful.

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