Social media: Super Bowl is tops for 2012

From the New York Giants to the San Francisco Giants, the NFL referee lockout to the NHL lockout, #linsanity to #HeIsManziel, 2012 will go down as a win for sports and social media.

In recognition of another banner year, here are the top sports and social media moments of 2012.

Super Bowl XLVI

The NFL championship game has long proved to be one of the world’s most popular sporting events, so the fact that the Super Bowl surges on social media is no surprise. Super Bowl XLVI provided not one, but two record-setting social media moments. The game accounted for 13.7 million tweets.

The dramatic finish in the New York Giants’ victory over the New England Patriots generated 1 million tweets in the final five minutes. Meanwhile, Madonna’s halftime show -- punctuated by a prime-time middle finger from M.I.A. -- generated more than 10,000 tweets per second.


In February, then-New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin burst onto the NBA scene and Linsanity overtook social media. “Jeremy Lin” ranked No. 6 on Twitter’s list of 2012 sports trends.

He generated more Twitter mentions than any NBA player in history and has gone on to leverage every platform from YouTube to Google+ to Sina Weibo.

Los Angeles Kings

The breakout star of the Los Angeles Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup run? The @LAKings. Before the lockout overtook all hockey news, the Kings’ Twitter handle grabbed headlines and attracted followers like no sports team account in social media history. Why? Because -- regardless of whether one is a fan of the Kings or even hockey -- the handle is fun to follow. The account authors poke fun at opponents. They poke fun at themselves. And where else will you ever see playoff tickets delivered in Jell-O?

Call Me Maybe

Whether you thought Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit was the catchiest or most annoying song of the summer, the tune was inescapable -- as were the ensuing sports team “Call Me Maybe” YouTube covers. The Harvard baseball team’s “rendition” of the hit song swept the Web (17 million views and counting), spawning versions from University of Florida baseball, Syracuse men’s basketball, SMU women’s crew and the U.S. swim team, just to name a few.

The Olympics

The 2012 Olympics were as defined by memes and tweeting as they were by medals and competition. Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare were among the social media networks with Olympic initiatives. Usain Bolt dominated on the track and on the Web. McKayla Maroney was not impressed. GIFs captured the Games’ greatest moments. A Greek triple jumper became the first athlete in Olympic history expelled over a tweet. The two-week sporting extravaganza generated more than 150 million tweets and more than 116 million Facebook posts.

Brad Keselowski

NASCAR made social media headlines when the racing body became the first organization to formally partner with Twitter, but the real racing social media story of 2012 was Brad Keselowski. He featured the Twitter handles of more than 2,600 followers on his truck during the Camping World Truck Series race at Daytona. He posted an in-race tweet during the Daytona 500 that went viral. He got in trouble for posting a tweet during a race at the Phoenix International Raceway. And when he won the Sprint Cup, he tweeted about that as well.

Ronaldo hits 50 million on Facebook

There’s popular, then there’s Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid star became the first athlete to surpass 50 million likes on Facebook. That’s 10 million more than any other athlete. (Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is second with 40 million.) Need a bit more context? Five times more people like Ronaldo on Facebook than live in his native Portugal. In fact, only 24 countries have more citizens than Ronaldo has Facebook likes.

NFL replacement refs

Social media has become the go-to medium for fans to voice displeasure over lockouts -- and sports has plenty of recent lockout case studies to support that claim -- but never was fan outrage more evident than during Week 3 of the NFL season.

With the regular referees locked out by the league, the NFL sought to make do with replacements. The reaction to the fill-ins and their officiating abilities was overwhelmingly negative on social media. (One substitute referee was even pulled hours before officiating a New Orleans Saints game after his Facebook page revealed his overt Saints fandom.)

The lockout reached a climax after a botched call ultimately determined the "Monday Night Football" game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. The moment generated more than 1 million tweets -- including a tweet by Packers guard T.J. Lang that would become the most retweeted post of the NFL season and earned honorable mention from Twitter as one of 2012’s Golden Tweets. Even President Barack Obama took to social media to weigh in.

Few fans had much nice to say about the replacement refs, but the refs' calls did make for some of 2012’s most amusing sports memes.

May 2013 provide many more memorable moments.

Elsewhere in the social mediasphere

Kobe Bryant finally joined Twitter (well, kinda). The Lakers star is tweeting from the Nike Basketball account as part of a multiday takeover.

FIFA suspended a Brazilian agent for two months after he made insulting comments about a Belgian soccer club on his Facebook page.

Baseball America unveiled its list of top 50 baseball-related Twitter accounts.

H/T to @KevinDeShazo and @anna_gallegos for the suggestions for this week’s column.

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