Jeremy Clarkson, BBC and the "fracas": Rally to Social Media Support

Jeremy Clarkson, BBC and the "fracas": Rally to Social Media Support

Jeremy Clarkson, host of BBC’s popular series “Top Gear”, has never been known for his soft or sensitive side. But when he allegedly slapped a producer during while working on another episode of the car series, the BBC had enough. Clarkson was suspended and the remaining episodes of the series cancelled after what the TV station called “a fracas” in its official statement.

Huge online support for Clarkson

Clarkson’s fan base immediately rallied to his support. Mentions for Top Gear jumped to more than 20,600 per hour in the late afternoon of March 10th, after news of the suspension broke.

Buzz over time Clarkson and BBC
Online mentions for Top Gear, Clarkson, and the BBC alongside Clarkson for March 10-11, 2015

Clarkson followed with 13,000 mentions per hour over the same period. But while the number of mentions was a bit lower, he could definitely count on his fans to show their support. Within a few hours, a petition to reinstate him as the Top Gear host gained hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Sentiment shift for Clarkson & Top Gear

While Clarkson isn’t exactly known as charming, this is exactly what his fans like about him. His attitude of “calling things as he sees them” brought him a 36% share of positive sentiment in the week before the incident, compared to 22.5% negative.

With his suspension, negative sentiment for Clarkson rose to 29% on March 10th; a miniscule change compared to the drop in positive sentiment, which sunk to just 7.4% the very same day.

Sentiment Clarkson and Top Gear
Sentiment for both Clarkson and Top Gear on March 10, 2015

The shift in attitude is not only related to this particular incident. A closer look at the results shows that many conversations about Clarkson and Top Gear reference other things he said, such as remarks that were perceived as racist or an incident while shooting for Top Gear in Argentina.

Emotion cloud Jeremy Clarkson
Emotion cloud for Clarkson for the period from February 23 - March 24, 2015

A look at the adjectives most commonly mentioned in context with the Jeremy Clarkson over the past 30 days show that he is considered almost as popular (6,500 mentions) as some of what he said is considered racist (7,600 mentions).

Worldwide discussion

The discussion about Clarkson’s suspension from the BBC was not limited to the United Kingdom. As Top Gear enjoys worldwide popularity, the news upset many Clarkson fans and pleased critics all over the world. Between March 10th and 25th, Clarkson has been mentioned more than 400,000 times worldwide, Top Gear even more than 520,000 times.

World map discussion Clarkson and Top Gear
Worldwide discussion from March 10 - March 24, 2015

The majority of the overall conversation is split between Europe and North America, but other continents and countries took great interest in Clarkson’s firing as well. Mentions come from Australia, Argentina, but also from the African and Asian countries.

Jeremy Clarkson and his “fracas” are an impressive example of how quickly a social media shitstorm can engulf a TV station, and how quickly a dedicated fan base can rally to support a celebrity. While the discussion is slowing down, many fans are calling on Clarkson and his former co-hosts Richard Hammond and James May to create their own version of Top Gear. If it really happens, Clarkson can definitely be sure to count on his fans to support him.