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Social Media & Sports: A Winning Combination
August 29, 2012
Twitter reported that the 2012 Olympics in London generated 150 million tweets, with Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s gold medal finishes in the 200m and 100m races resulting in the most Twitter chatter during the Games (80,000 tweets per minute and 74,000 tweets per minute, respectively).
Other highlights included:
- Andy Murray’s gold medal in the men’s tennis singles: 57,000+ TPM
- Jamaica wins gold, sets world record in the 4×100 relay: 52,000+ TPM
- Team USA beats Spain, wins gold in men’s basketball: 41,000+ TPM
This has been quite the accomplishment for athletes, considering that the 2012 State of the Union address received 14,131 TPM.
And the social chatter didn’t stop when the athletes did. While consumers were taking to social media to comment on the Olympics, competitors like Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas also took to Twitter to chronicle their Olympic experience. Going into the Games, Gabby Douglas had 14,358 followers, and fewer than two weeks later, she was tweeting to an impressive 540,174 followers.
Although sports are still largely viewed on television compared to other mediums, social media and digital technology are enhancing and changing the experience. Even if you aren’t in the grandstands, digital technology makes sporting events extremely accessible to everyone, with coverage being dissected across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs. In this sense, the real-time nature of social media platforms gives viewers the opportunity to become broadcasters of the game as well as ambassadors for their favorite teams. With a mere WiFi signal, fans now control the how sports are experienced by others.
U.S. television viewers are no strangers to media multitasking. According to research firm Penn Shoen Berland, 79% of viewers always or sometimes visit Facebook while watching TV, while 41% of viewers tweet about the show they are watching. The trend is even more amplified when it comes to sports. Sports agency KT Tape reported that 83% of fans check sports social media sites while watching the game on TV. TV is a form of entertainment, while social media is a utility—allowing viewers to read real-time comments, zoom in on a photo or replay a :30 clip on YouTube. Unlike TV, social media is about the information, not the styling and editing of broadcasters.
As an inherently social experience, watching sports at home or at the stadium has become entwined with social media, broadening the camaraderie beyond just the immediate circle tied to the tube.
Influencers and organizers speculated just how much social media would impact the London Games, and they did not disappoint. Fans at home relied on tweets and Facebook updates from those at the Games to provide information NBC’s telecast didn’t, and they in turn had the opportunity to amplify it on their social channels in near real-time. Nowadays, the sports anchors and writers don’t always have the most exclusive information—consumers do, and they’re sharing it the second it happens. Chances are Aly Raisman’s parents weren’t expecting to result in a viral video while watching their daughter’s uneven bars performance, but thanks to a spectator shooting coverage, it was almost immediately picked up by Twitter and YouTube.
Between livestreaming, tweets and apps, consumers came, saw and conquered the first social Olympics. With the help of social media, sports fans are now engaging in a total experience rather than being absorbed in the action on the field alone. And the pinnacle of sporting events, the Olympics, was not an exception, but rather an example of how consumption of social media can amplify (and in turn be amplified) during sporting events.