Heart strong: Social media sentiment on Gilas Pilipinas' FIBA journey

The moment that Jimmy Alapag hit that fourth quarter three-pointer in Smart Gilas Pilipinas’ final game for FIBA World Cup 2014 was a bittersweet one. The buzzer beater signaled their first win and the concluding highlight of the team’s fabled run.

Though it looks like a disappointing turn of events, no one considered it a total loss; far from it, in fact, given the significance of the team’s participation in the FIBA games. It’s been 36 years, after all, since the Philippine basketball team made it to the world championships and 40 years since they won a game on that level. When the news first broke that Gilas was headed to the world stage, all but those die-hard fans expressed surprise at the fact. Given the amount of determination and talent present, though, even that initial astonishment seems ludicrous now.

If previous years served as any indication, Gilas’ entry into the FIBA league is comparable to the PBL’s past milestones. A bronze during the 1954 FIBA and a fifth-place standing during the 1936 Summer Olympics serve as the country’s top claims-to-fame. Since then there’s been a drought in wins, if not actual participation in a world-ranked arena. Subsequent suspensions in 1963, 2001, and 2005-2007 also dampened any championships chances the country had.

As Gilas gained more momentum on the courts so did they prompt many from all over the world to take up the cheer: “Laban Gilas!” 

A Steady Rise to Fame

Saying that this mythical journey made people sit up and take notice is somewhat of an understatement. A Radian 6 analysis shows the volume of mentions at 392,374, with 128,429 mentions at its peak as a result of the the Philippines vs. Senegal game. This increased from 750, since the day before the first Gilas game against Croatia.

They drew attention from the Philippines and from all over the world as well. The United States, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, and the Netherlands were noted as top sources for mentions about Gilas.

Remaining mentions were generated by other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and France. All eyes were on the team to deliver the performance of a lifetime and that they did. Mentions spiked several times, the highest noted during the Philippines’ solitary win against Senegal. This can probably be attributed to Filipino communities abroad tuning in on the action.

Countrywide love

Despite subsequent losses against Croatia, Argentina, Greece, and Puerto Rico, the sentiment for Gilas remained largely positive at 45,000 to 5,000 negative value. This was noted especially among Filipinos who were riding high on the team’s exploits.  Their participation bolstered country pride to unprecedented levels resulting in concurrent data spikes during Gilas games at FIBA. “So proud to be a Filipino,” “Filipino pride,” and many more similar statements flooded the web in response to the team’s world cup efforts.

Brand sentiment

Though there was a noticeable difference in the level of response toward Gilas, the same can’t be said of their sponsors. Data shows the amount of mentions related to the team outpaced any related to telecommunications giant, SMART, or family restaurant Max’s Fried Chicken.

Factoring in mentions of SMART’s Manny Pangilinan raised the brand’s presence by a small amount, but not enough to meet or outstrip the Gilas margin.

Both Filipino-led companies have been with the team every step of the way but fade in comparison to the overwhelming response to the team members themselves.

Captain Jimmy Alapag received the most number of mentions at 19,431 followed by Jeff Chan with 12,554. Coach Chot Reyes was third with 7,354 mentions. There was relatively little difference between the rest of the team members, with all receiving an almost equal amount of mentions.

The data also further reinforces the fact that all attention is focused on Gilas at the moment.

Looking to the future

With the team’s exit from the FIBA 2014 proceedings, the focus now shifts to the upcoming Asian Games. Social media buzz at present has trended downward from its previous high as the team lays low in preparation for its upcoming challenges. Walking forward without Gilas team captain Jimmy Alapag and point man Andray Blatche seems quite a hurdle to overcome. However, the country remains hopeful.

A current word cloud analysis shows that talk about Gilas is still prominent. The effect of the team’s winning game has generated a spark of hope that could see them through the months ahead. With trending hashtags such as, #winningenergy, #labanpilipinas, and #puso, it’s clear that there are many more battles to fight and win.

Gilas Pilipinas may have walked off the courts (for now) but certainly not out of the hearts of Filipinos. Both the country and most of the world watch as they make a repeat performance at the FIBA Asian Championship Games, where the momentum they sustained during FIBA World Cup 2014 is predicted to generate even more of an impact. – Rappler.com