29.04.2016 Balls and brands: How businesses celebrated a social phenomenon

At 4:20pm on 28 April 2011 the Labour MP Ed Balls, then shadow chancellor, tweeted his own name instead of searching for it. Little did he know his clumsy fingers had inadvertently created a new meme and, for some, a new national holiday.

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Every April 28 since that fateful day people old and young have enthusiastically celebrated Ed Balls Day, taking to Twitter to share in the spirit of the occasion and pay tribute to the legendary tweet using the hashtag #EdBallsDay.

Last year there were even tongue-in-cheek complaints that this tongue-in-cheek celebration had become over-hyped and too commercialised:

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But the truth is that brands had already started to jump on the Ed Balls Day bandwagon (Balls-wagon? Er…maybe not…):

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Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 09.39.57When Mr Balls lost his parliamentary seat in last year’s general election (just nine days after the fourth Ed Balls Day) there were fears that this year’s celebrations would be cancelled, but yesterday turned out to be one of the biggest yet, with thousands marking the fifth anniversary of the meme.

And this year brands really got into the spirit of the day in a big way:

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A theme developed around this year’s celebrations as at least three separate brands marked Ed Balls Day by promoting edible balls. Of these Domino’s was probably the most successful, gaining hundreds of retweets and likes for its TwistED DoughBALLS (geddit?).

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And if you’re wondering how the man himself celebrated, well, he baked himself a cake of course:

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As keen observers of social media trends we are fascinated to see how Ed Balls Day has developed. What started just five years ago as a simple mistake by a high-profile politician has become an annual Twitter event. While most social media memes have a shorter lifespan than a mayfly this one has not only survived, but actually grown year on year to the point that major brands are taking part. Not even a general election defeat could stop the Ed Balls Day juggernaut (juggerBalls? Ok I’ll stop now…).

In fact, it’s probably fair to say that the day now enjoys a higher profile than the man. After all, how many people who tweeted yesterday actually know what Ed Balls is doing now? (According to his Wikipedia page he is a senior fellow at Harvard University.) We’re interested to see how long Ed Balls Day can survive and how brands will get involved. We’ll see you on 28 April 2017!

How did you celebrate #EdBallsDay? Let us know @BrighterComms