The Power of Leafs Nation Association & Social Media

In one Toronto blue and white jersey he holds claim to the number 29. Last night he encountered the 82. One minute he was packing in carbs at the Noodle Bowl on Bloor St W, the next minute he was rushed down to the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues‘ twitter account was the first to announce the naming of Brett Willow as the emergency goalkeeper for the Toronto Maple Leafs after James Reimer went down early in the first period.

When the Varsity Blues’ twitter account freely tweeted that Willows had been eating at Noodle Bowl when he received the call-up all I could think about was  the value of the tweet for Noodle Bowl.

Noodle Bowl is situated at Bloor and Spadina, it is a rather large dingy hole in the wall and a favourite of students due to its low prices and large portions. This low key low-on-money student and sick-student haven received a social media publicity blast last night out of the blue. The Varsity Blues had 4200 followers at the time of the tweet last night. It was retweeted 4 times, among the retweeters was is a TSN reporter with about 42700 followers.

At this point in time I realized it would be an excellent opportunity to just briefly examine the effect of an association with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the widespread use of social media.

At the time of writing Brett Willows is followed by 535 people. Since the time I originally started observing (I must admit I felt like a creepy stalker) he has gained 258 followers, a 93% increase. At a closer look, the majority of the new followers are pure Leaf fans – their reason for following Willows is due to last night’s association with the well-known blue and white team of Toronto.

As for the Varsity Blues’ twitter account? They only received 19 new followers despite being the first source of the call-up of Willows.

And for Noodle Bowl? On my way from the grocery store today I realized it was much busier than a normal Friday lunch hour. It can’t be said if it is a result of the free publicity and the Brett Willows endorsement but this is what was observed.

The difference in twitter followers gained by Willows and the Varsity Blues presents somewhat lackluster and conflicting results of an association with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It could be for a number of reason, one being the fact the Varsity Blues’s twitter account could be approaching “cash cow” stage.

Personally I feel Willows’ Twitter account experience such a steep increase of followers while the Varsity Blues’ account did not is due to the fact he is a person and not an organization. In this day and age, with the opportunities offered by the various forms of social media, individuals are more interested in reaching out to persons as opposed to an organization, simply because they can. And because it offers them a sense of personal connection, as if they are really friends in real life as opposed to just online-behind-the-screen-“populars” (for more insight the Palmerston Group has excellent research regarding the Butterfly Effect).

I cannot offer any insight on what these little observations truly mean but I would like to make note that while the Toronto Maple Leafs brand is extremely powerful it does not certainly lead to an increase for another brand due to simple association.


I also found it interesting that many of the news articles online citied the Varsity Blues’ Twitter page (yet it still received so few new followers) as their source of the Brett Willows call up and inserted his tweets. What a long way communication has travelled.

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