Instant success for @SkySportsGAA on Twitter (but how did they do it?)

The SkySportsGAA account is 50 days old today (29th May 2014), having been set up on April 1st.  Was it an April Fool’s Day joke we thought … SkySports getting involved with the GAA?  Well, despite a slow start in April, they now have over 22,000 followers.


In their first 50 days, SkySportsGAA only tweeted 28 times – a very low output by most standards!

And, despite many tweets to @SkySportsGAA, they never responded to any tweets, i.e. zero engagement.  Most GAA fans I spoke to were wondering why SkySportsGAA were not engaging with GAA people.  In a blog publicising Glenflesk GAA Club’s Guinness world record attempt earlier this month, a blogger (GAA_Corner) used a fictitious interview between the Wild Man of Carrauntouhill (a yeti) and a SkySportsGAA reporter as a metaphor for the fact that many people believe a yeti exists but no one believed that SkySportsGAA reporter was real.  [read this satirical blog here]

According to popular belief (and most research), a good tactic for attracting new Twitter followers is to follow highly influential accounts and engage with them + maybe they follow you back, but SkySports GAA only follow 4 accounts!  Obviously, this is not the reason they have so many followers so quickly.  Or, is it?

  • Today FM Sport                       3,177 followers
  • The GAA                                 115,504 followers
  • Sky Sports News              2,716,822 followers
  • Sky Sports                          2,255,568 followers

Interestingly, neither Sky Sports News or Sky Sports followed SkySportsGAA back.  This would have increased Sky Sports GAA’s social authority score but would it have influenced their followers?  Maybe their social media expert needs to ask them to for a follow.  Or, maybe the existing SkySportsNews and SkySports followers are not the right target audience.

Given that they are new to GAA circles, it was somewhat surprising that they did not follow any of the top GAA pundits or their rival sports broadcasters on Twitter – after all, these people would probably follow them (eventually).  Perhaps there’s a SkySportsGAA “bot” in the background – quietly receiving, recording and interpreting the social media conversation.  Either way, this is the benefit of being a big brand, i.e. SkySportsGAA is not a new brand – it is an extension of the SkySports brand into the GAA space.  This ‘leverage’ allows them to attract new followers much more easily than a completely new brand.

Another popular tactic (to attract a few followers) is to follow accounts that have a large number of followers in their own right.  They didn’t ask for Sky News or Sky Sports News to follow them, so maybe this isn’t a good tactic after all.  Even without their sister accounts, SkySportsGAA have 12 followers with over 50,000 followers, plus another 78 followers with between 10,000 and 49,999 followers.  An interesting question might be “how many of SkySportsGAA followers also follow these big accounts?”

SkySports GAA’s most influential follower accounts are not usually associated with Gaelic games, so maybe this is where they have been getting their support.  Westlife’s Brian McFadden and SkySports presenter Natalie Sawyer (an avid Brentford soccer fan and native Londoner) are SkySportsGAA’s top followers.


This theory doesn’t hold up well either, since

  • only 491 Twitter accounts follow both SkySports GAA and Brian McFadden
  • only 1,861 Twitter accounts follow both SkySports GAA and Natalie Sawyer
  • and only 93 Twitter accounts follow all three accounts

Who else, in their Top 20 list of followers, might be influencing people to follow SkySportsGAA?

BrianMcFadden Brian Mcfadden 298,639
nataliesawyer Natalie Sawyer 161,324
officialgaa The GAA 113,965
RACHEL_WYSE Rachel Wyse 101,628
RTEgaa RTÉ GAA 101,572
JOEdotie 100,978
GarethBale22 Gareth Bale 83,368
SkySportsMobile Sky Sports Mobile 81,295
eoghanmcdermo Eoghan McDermott 70,870
bernardbrogan Bernard Brogan 69,546
oliviajwayne Olivia Wayne 58,777
LiveGAAResults Live GAA Results 40,912
nidgeofficial tom lovehate 40,365
Boylesports Boylesports 39,255
SeanCronin2 Sean Cronin 36,238
murphm95 Michael Murphy 34,932
hoganstandgaa HoganStand GAA 34,417
JoeyCan88 Joe Canning 34,324
TicketmasterIre Ticketmaster Ireland 32,593
OfficialCorkGAA Cork GAA 30,281

The obvious answer, if this theory holds up, is RTEGAA and OfficialGAA with 101,572 and 113,965 followers, respectively.  Also prominent on this “Top 20” list are TV & radio star Eoghan McDermott (Dublin boy in London), Bernard Brogan (current Dublin GAA star), LiveGAAresults, HoganStandGAA and Official CorkGAA.


As we can see from the chart above over a third (7,515) of SkySports GAA’s followers do not follow RTEGAA or OfficialGAA on Twitter.  This is interesting because RTE and the GAA themselves are hugely influential and have massive followings.

  • Over 42,000 of RTE’s 101,000 Twitter followers follow RTE alone (out of these three)
  • Almost 53,000 of the GAA’s 115,000 Twitter followers follow the GAA alone (out of these three)
  • Almost another 50,000 Twitter users follow both RTE and the GAA
  • Over a third of SkySportsGAA’s followers (7,858) also follow both RTE and the GAA
  • Almost another third of SkySportsGAA’s followers (6,703) follow either RTE or the GAA but not both


As we can see from the above chart, SkySports GAA doesn’t even register on the total tweets or average tweet per week graphs but they dominate in terms of new followers per day (average) with almost 400 followers per day since they started 50 days ago.

So, where does the one third of SkySportsGAA’s followers that do not follow RTE GAA or OfficalGAA come from?

Of the 50 days thus far, the most prominent conversation on social media has been the ill-judged (and widely reported) comment by Joe Brolly (Ex-Derry footballer, barrister, TV pundit on RTE’s The Sunday Game, journalist and columnist with Gaelic Life Magazine) about Rachel Wyse – SkySportsGAA’s new presenter.  Joe is a prolific Twitter activist – with 3,789 tweets in 463 days and during this time he has amassed a respectable 50,816 followers.  Since Joe’s comments have hit the proverbial fan, Rachel kept to the moral high ground and didn’t respond to Joe’s ranting.

Sorry Joe, but Rachel is a former international sportswoman and an experienced sports presenter across a range of sports, so there’s no reason why she shouldn’t also succeed in GAA circles.  It isn’t too long ago that leading (male) soccer misogynists slagged off female soccer presenters and the girls seem to have won that battle a long time ago!  With ladies soccer and ladies Gaelic football now so popular (and the standards so high) it isn’t unreasonable that a female presenter on GAA matters might be successful.  Time will tell on this point.

Sky Sports GAA, Rachel_Wyse & Joe Brolly followers comparison

  • Of Rachel Wyse’s 102,000 followers, 4,150 of them also follow SkySportsGAA
  • Of Joe Brolly’s 50,816 followers, 6,003 of them also follow SkySportsGAA
  • And 2,564 follow all three of the above Twitter accounts

And there’s a potential answer, of the 7,515 of SkySports GAA’s followers do not follow RTEGAA or OfficialGAA on Twitter – maybe Rachel (6,714) and Joe Brolly (8,567) have contributed a few of these between them – following all the publicity Joe may have inadvertently given SkySportsGAA after his “eye candy” comments.


According to current social media marketing theory, social authority score is a much more valuable attribute than the number of followers and SkySportsGAA’s “Top 20” followers with high social authority scores makes for interesting reading.

For those of you who do not know, social authority “helps you find, optimize, and engage your Twitter audience. It’s a 1 to 100 point scale that measures a user’s influential content on Twitter.  More than just another self-focused metric, Social Authority helps you discover influential tweeters.” (

GarethBale22 Gareth Bale 80.3
kpsundayworld Kevin Palmer 78.1
officialgaa The GAA 77.1
JOEdotie 76.1
OfficialCorkGAA Cork GAA 74.5
BrianMcFadden Brian Mcfadden 72.9
DavidMeyler7 DM 72.6
eoghanmcdermo Eoghan McDermott 72.1
ballsdotie 71.6
murphysgloves ciaran murphy 70
gavreilly Gavan Reilly 69.5
Darransull86 Darran O’Sullivan 69.2
Inphosports Inpho Photography 68.9
GAABanter GAA Banter 68.7
CelticGossip Celtic Gossip 68.5
breakingnewsie 66.2
CLGLaois Official Laois GAA 66.2
thescore_ie 65.9
nidgeofficial tom lovehate 65.6
nataliesawyer Natalie Sawyer 65.4

As we can see from the above table, 14 out of the “Top 20” are Irish people (or Irish organisations) with a strong interest in the GAA and/or GAA-related issues.  Tweets, re-tweets and mentions by these accounts would certainly influence people to follow whoever they are talking about.  If this table is extended to the “Top 100” influencers, we find 74 of the 100 are Irish – thus the 400 new followers per day average.

It will be interesting to see if SkySportsGAA can convert these followers into subscribers.

It will also be interesting to see how many Twitter followers SkySportsGAA will have by the end of June (when they have a few weeks of actual GAA match coverage behind them, i.e. how will they compare to RTE and TG4 in terms of quality, commentary and punditry?

In fairness to them, they do have quite a bit of content on Facebook.  Maybe the extra space suits their content better.


Statistics source: MOZ Followerwonk




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