Yesterday saw the launch of the first in our 5-part series taking a look at how social media played its part in the 2012 Olympics, with a particular focus on how Team GB fared.
Whilst our first part looked at the growth in follower numbers of individual Team GB athletes, we wanted to dig a little deeper in today’s follow-up to analyse what part winning a medal had on the athletes – or in a few cases, missing out. Does winning a medal produce a spike in your following, or is merely competing enough to see a boost?
Before we go in to the details, here’s a couple of great stats that we’ve learnt from this exercise:
- A gold medal will, on average, increase your Twitter followers by 97% overnight
- A silver medal will, on average, increase your Twitter followers by 32% overnight
- A bronze medal will, on average, increase your Twitter followers by 20% overnight
We’ve taken a look at a number of the highest-profile Team GB medal-winners – as well as a couple of athletes who were predicted to do well but didn’t for whatever reason.
First up is Mo Farah – arguably one of the most celebrated Team GB athletes at the end of the games. Mo saw big jumps in his following after both of his gold medals – though the first clearly had the bigger impact (a 65% increase) than the second (just a 20% increase) – perhaps suggesting his first made a bigger splash than the second?
Let’s look at cyclist and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins next. Unsurprisingly, Wiggo saw a 26% jump in his followers after he won his gold medal in the Time Trial – though it certainly wasn’t as pronounced as some others. This is most likely down to the boost he saw after the Tour win earlier in the month. One other interesting thing to notice is the lack of spike on the 27th, when Wiggins made his famous appearance at the very start of the opening ceremony – almost certainly seen by hundreds of times more people than his win…
Next up is diving super-hero Tom Daley. Tom won his first ever Olympic medal in the last few days of the games – though his popularity online saw its biggest surge much earlier than this, thanks to the tabloid uprising caused by an incident with an internet ‘troll’. Daley saw a massive jump in followers (almost 200%) on July 30th – and has been steadily increasing every day since.
As with Mo Farah, swimmer Rebecca Adlington won two medals this year – and just like Mo, it seemed to be the first one which generated the biggest spike in her followers – 216% for the first, just 13% for the second – as you can see below:
Boxer Nicola Adams was hailed as one of the biggest success stories of the games – and her meteoric rise to prominence is reflected nicely in her Twitter followers (up 240% overnight), as you can see below:
Laura Trott is another double-medalling Olympian, but unlike Mo Farah and Rebecca Adlington, Trott saw her biggest popularity spike after her SECOND medal (94% for the second compared to 40% for the first). The most likely explanation of this is the WAY in which she won her medals – namely, the first medal was as part of a team, whereas the second was for a solo race…
Victoria Pendleton is another cycling double-medalist, but unlike Trott she had a number of previous Olympics under her belt, as well as a very well-received BBC documentary about her, broadcast just before the games. These factors were almost certainly the reason that her medal-winning events didn’t give her as prominent a boost as some of the others we’ve seen (33% for the first, 9% for the second).
So far, so good – winning a medal certainly seems to result in a boost in your following – but is it really as simple as that? Let’s take a look at a couple of ‘medal hopes’ – athletes who were hotly tipped to do well, yet didn’t manage a medal on the day.
Welsh Hurdler Dai Greene was widely considered to be a favourite for a medal in the 400m hurdles, but came in 4th on the day – and his follower growth certainly looks less volatile as a result:
Pole-vaulter Holly Bleasdale was another athlete who Team GB had high medal hopes for – but who didn’t quite manage to make the podium. However, Holly hit the headlines the next day when she revealed on Twitter that her boyfriend had proposed to her moments after she got knocked out. Unsurprisingly, this feel-good story resulted in a nice spike on Holly’s follower graph (up 45%), as you can see below:
How about Team GB themselves – the Twitter account supporting the athletes as a team? As you can see below, the biggest jump they saw in their followers was after July 31st – naturally we can’t be sure what caused this, but it can’t be coincidence that Team GB’s followers leapt after the first flurry of medals won on the 30th, as well as the much-hyped Men’s Road Race.
So, what can we learn from all this?
Obviously we’ve not shown you how every single medal winner fared – mainly to save you from having to scroll through 80+ graphs. But from looking at the data as we have, we can tell you the above examples illustrate the trend nicely. But what IS the trend?
Unlike what you might expect, the biggest boosts haven’t always been medal-driven. Looking at the wider picture though, it seems as if the games raised our athletes’ profiles in lots of other ways than just winning medals – with Tom Daley and Holly Bleasdale being prime examples. Whilst we’re sure this will be of little consolation for those who lost out on medals, it’s certainly a lesson in how a little media attention can result in raised awareness online.