Salah Shows Athletes Can Be Superheroes In Influencing Behavior
BY ADAM GROSSMAN
Fighting crime is typically a central component of the superhero narrative that appeals to fans of movies, comics, and graphic novels. While athletes are often portrayed as superheroes, it is typically for their “super human” on-field accomplishments rather than any ability to fight crime.
Liverpool F.C. forward Mo Salah, however, could be one of the first athletes to change that narrative. A study from Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab found that “hate crimes fell 18.9 percent in Merseyside County relative to a synthetic control” since 2017 when Salah was signed by Liverpool.
As the authors of the study wrote, ”This decline was more extreme than we would expect based on chance alone, and the decrease in hate crimes was more pronounced than the decrease in any other crime category. Taken together, the evidence points to Salah’s rise in prominence causing a decrease in hate crimes in Liverpool F.C.’s home county.”
The authors of this study were looking to see if a “celebrity” could potentially reduce hate crimes in the area against a prejudiced group. In Salah’s case the impact is specifically focused on the reduction of hate crimes against Muslims in Merseyside County in England by looking at “police data, 15 million tweets from soccer fans and took a survey of more than 8,000 Liverpool fans.”
Salah was selected because he has arguably been a superhero on the field for Liverpool having won two consecutive Golden Boots for scoring the most goals in each of the past two seasons in the English Premiere League. This included helping to lead Liverpool to a UEFA Champions League Final victory on June 1st.
However, Salah’s ability to be a more “traditional” superhero in helping to fight crime is really extraordinary. B6A’s Social Sentiment Analysis Platform (SAP) can provide some insight into why this is the case.
A recent study commissioned by the Welsh Government found that “the majority of hate crime offenders in the UK are white, male and under 25.” Our SAP demographic analysis demonstrates that Salah is able to disproportionately reach this audience by looking at his 8.9 million Twitter followers. In particular, 30.1% of his followers are under 25 years-old and 82.8% are male. Salah also reaches a significant portion of both Caucasian and non-Caucasian audiences.
This combination puts Salah in the position of reaching a large audience that is the right fit to target with positive, engaging content in ways that could have at least some impact in reducing hate crimes. The Stanford study found that “Liverpool fans halved their rate of anti-Muslim tweets compared with other top-flight English clubs — a drop from 7.2 percent of all tweets about Muslims to 3.4 percent.”
The “Salah effect” does provide new evidence on the extraordinary ability for athletes to influence behavior as we have highlighted in past B6A blog posts. While definitely less important from a moral / social perspective, influencing the behaviors of target audiences is one of the most important attributes in successful partnerships. In fact, fit and lift are central components of our Corporate Asset Valuation (CAV) Model.
We understand that even athletes with comparable profiles to Salah are not always necessarily going to be able to single-handedly reduce crime like a superhero. However, it is clear that athletes can have tangible impacts on important outcomes and need to be considered as an important part of any influencer marketing or partnership campaign strategy.