July 21, 2014

Checking in at the World Cup and Leaving with Friends

By: Alan Clark, Sean Taylor, Dustin Cable

Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world traveled to the 2014 World Cup and we wanted to take a closer look at those who used Facebook to stay connected while they were in Brazil, checking into host cities and forging new friendships with fellow soccer fans. We first looked at arrivals among World Cup visitors in this animated visualization of check-ins leading into the first week of matches. Over the course of the tournament, there were over 1 million check-ins to World Cup stadiums on Facebook – many of these people met in person, and some connected on Facebook to stay in touch. In this post, we explore who checked into World Cup stadiums and the international Facebook friendships that were formed during their visits.

Most of the first check-ins by visitors to Brazil occurred on the day of the first game (June 12th), but arrival check-ins continued at a steady pace throughout June and into July.

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We count a first check-in in Brazil as a visitor’s arrival. Most people arrived on the day of the first game, though there was a steady stream of international visitors the whole month.We count a first check-in in Brazil as a visitor’s arrival. Most people arrived on the day of the first game, though there was a steady stream of international visitors the whole month.

The World Cup stadiums were among the most popular places for people to check in after arriving in Brazil. Here are the top five:

  1. Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
  2. Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília
  3. Arena de São Paulo, São Paulo
  4. Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
  5. Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte

This map shows the total number of check-ins in close proximity to all 12 venues during the tournament. The size of the circles are proportional to the total number of people who checked into a World Cup stadium.

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The most popular matches to check into were on the first and last days of the World Cup, at Maracanã stadium for the final, followed by the opener at Arena de São Paulo. The third highest number of check-ins was during an upset match, when reigning champion Spain lost to Chile. Here are the Top 5:

  1. Germany vs Argentina (final match) – July 13, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
  2. Brazil vs Croatia (opening match) – June 12, Arena de São Paulo, São Paulo
  3. Chile vs Spain – June 18, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
  4. Colombia vs Uruguay – June 28, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro
  5. Brazil vs Cameroon – June 23, Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília

Brazilians checked into World Cup stadiums the most, followed by visitors from the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.

Making New Friends

As international visitors spent time in Brazil and attended the World Cup matches, they met and socialized with other passionate soccer fans from around the world. We were curious to see if the fans were making friends with people they wouldn’t ordinarily meet at home, so we looked at new friendships between people who checked into Brazil that spanned across countries.

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Given that a World Cup visitor made a new Facebook friend, the probability that friend was from a different country increased during the games.Given that a World Cup visitor made a new Facebook friend, the probability that friend was from a different country increased during the games.

We can see a steady increase the probability that a new Facebook friend is from a different country among World Cup visitors. Travelers to Brazil begin June with a relatively high 10% probability of a new friend living in a different country but it increases to about 15% during the tournament.

On average, an international visitor who checked into Brazil during June made one new Brazilian friend and one new friend from another country on Facebook. The resulting cross-country friendships span the globe and make the world more connected. In this next map [high resolution], we show connections between cities with at least 25 new friendships that occurred after the individuals checked into a host city during the World Cup.

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Each arc represents at least 25 new friendships between people from two different cities. Red arcs include one Brazilian city and blue arcs are between two cities not in Brazil.Each arc represents at least 25 new friendships between people from two different cities. Red arcs include one Brazilian city and blue arcs are between two cities not in Brazil.

Because it’s a city-level map, it can be difficult to read the country-level friendships that formed. We summarized our main findings in the following lists.

People who visited from these countries formed the most new friendships with Brazilians during the World Cup

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. Argentina
  4. Mexico
  5. UK

People who visited from these countries formed the most new friendships with Americans during the World Cup

  1. UK
  2. Australia
  3. Mexico
  4. Colombia
  5. Canada

Friendships between people in these country pairs were the most common among non-Brazilian and non-Americans

  1. UK and Australia
  2. Mexico and Colombia
  3. Columbia and Chile
  4. Australia and Canada
  5. UK and Canada

This analysis was conducted on anonymized and aggregated data. Sean J. Taylor is a research scientist on Facebook’s Data Science team. Alan Clark contributed the stadium check-ins analysis and Dustin Cable provided guidance on the friendship map. Many thanks to Mandy Zibart and Alex Walker for helpful feedback on this post.