Manchester United will go into the Champions League final against F.C. Barcelona on May 28 with an advantage: More active fans on Facebook, according to this infographic prepared by Fangager, a social media consultancy. (Click to enlarge -- it's very big!)
Of course, United will enjoy a "home" advantage as well -- the game is being played at Wembley Stadium in London, which is easier to get to for United fans. Either way, the game will likely be one of the most-watched football events since the 2010 World Cup final due to both teams' massive international fanbases.
The previous Champions League matchup between the two in 2009, won by Barcelona, was watched by 109 million people -- more than the Super Bowl that year. (The Super Bowl topped that at 111 million viewers in 2010.) Although few in the U.S. watch the game, it is one of the biggest annual media exposure events for advertisers. Heineken is most closely associated with the broadcast, but Sony, Ford, MasterCard, PlayStation and UniCredit are also partners.
The May 28 audience could easily top the 2009 Champions League record as both United and Barcelona are trying to win "doubles," having already claimed the English Premier League trophy and La Liga, respectively.
The two clubs are almost evenly matched in terms of fans on the social network: Manchester has 13.2 million and Barca has 14 million. That's up a few million from April, when Fangager last looked at sports brands on Facebook for BNET.
But total fans aren't the key to a sports franchise's business success, Fangager argues. What counts is "active" fans -- those who are so engaged with the brand that they spend time commenting and posting about their club. Man. Utd. has 223,670 of those to Barcelona's 209,206.
Oddly, United's "top fan" on Facebook is Danny "pnefc" Maiorca, who has generated hundreds of likes and comments about the club. PNEFC are -- as I'm sure you don't need reminding if you've read this far -- the initials of Preston North End F.C., a rival club to United currently dwelling in the relegation zone of England's second tier of professional football. The explanation is that Maiorca is a fan of 15 different soccer teams but is still the most active United fan on Facebook.