13 September 2012 | Tanya Goodin

‘TweetyTwelve The Review’: Part 6 – ParalympicsGB’s social media performance

With London 2012 sadly now well and truly over and the last crowds from the Paralympics off home, we look back at what was the most watched, and supported, Paralympics ever.

With comparisons between the Olympics and Paralympics – both positive and negative – being much debated in the past month, for our final blog post in our ‘TweetyTwelve‘ series we’ve taken a very close look at whether the Paralympians experienced the same social ‘boost’ that our TeamGB Olympic athletes saw.

At the beginning of the Paralympics many of the athletes were relatively unknown but the support and awareness that the Games created in the Paralympic movement has been hailed as a huge success by most commentators. The subsequent jump in both awareness and social following however has taken many people by surprise – not least the athletes themselves.

As with our previous Olympic research and blog posts, Tamar once again measured awareness on the most visible platform – by looking at social media activity – arguably the arena where the Paralympics saw the most significant boost.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter was once again used by thousands of supporters to connect with and show support for ParalympicsGB. Athletes Jonnie Peacock, Ellie Simmonds Jody Cundy MBE, Will Bayley, Lee Pearson CBE and Aled Davies received the biggest increases in Twitter followers however the absolute number of followers gained were not as large as those witnessed during the Olympics for TeamGB.

Top 10 ParalympicsGB athletes by total Twitter followers

Taking data from the start of the Paralympics (29/8/2012) till the end (9/9/2012) the ParalympicsGB athletes who witnessed the biggest growth in their social following are:

Rank Athlete Opening Ceremony Closing Ceremony Net Growth
1 Jonnie Peacock 3,237 31,321 28,084
2 Ellie Simmonds 5,776 30,238 24,462
3 David Weir MBE 3,080 19,745 16,665
4 Richard Whitehead 3,491 12,028 8,537
5 Hannah Cockroft 2,224 10,175 7,951
6 Jody Cundy MBE 3,412 9,465 6,053
7 Sarah Storey 7,781 11,864 4,083
8 Aled Davies 2,212 5,807 3,595
9 Will Bayley 6,887 8,893 2,006
10 Dan Greaves 2,908 4,522 1,614

What caused follower growth?

Our research also examined those athletes who had seen the largest growth in followers to see if there was a pattern – was Twitter follower growth purely attributable to winning medals, or were other factors at play?

Jonnie Peacock

Jonnie Peacock saw the largest increase in Twitter followers over the Paralympics. His following went from 4,803 followers on the 29th, then slowly rose as interest in him grew, and on the day of his event it leapt from 7,253 followers to 20,287. A figure which continued to grow and had risen by 868%% by the 9th September to 31,321.

David Weir

Below we can see the rise in followers each time David received one of his four Gold medals. On receiving his first medal he had 7,326 followers, which had risen to 9,868 followers by his second medal, his third medal took him to 13,876 and by the closing ceremony and his final medal he had 19,745 followers, 541% more than he had to begin with.

This steady growth was actually very different to the growth the multi-medal-winning TeamGB Olympians experienced, where (for the majority) the first medal had the biggest impact.

The data we analysed showed us that competing and winning a medal boosted the athletes following, as people become more interested in the athletes ‘human story’ and wanted to hear more about their lives.

Top 10 Paralympians by %age increase in Twitter followers

We also looked at the Paralympics athletes that saw the biggest increase in their followers in percentage terms. Although Peacock and Weir still had the highest percentage gains the rest of the Top 10 is – as for the TeamGB list – a lot more varied.

Rank Athlete Opening Ceremony Closing Ceremony % Growth
1 Jonnie Peacock 3,237 31,321 867%
2 David Weir MBE 3,080 19,745 541%
3 Ellie Simmonds 5,776 30,238 423%
4 David Devine 134 680 407%
5 Hannah Cockroft 2,224 10,175 358%
6 Olivia Breen 389 1,698 337%
7 Matt Walker MBE 86 353 310%
8 Paul Blake 180 688 282%
9 Heather Frederiksen 100 379 279%
10 Jonathan Adams 589 2,129 261%

This information not only highlighted how little known these athletes were before the Paralympics began, it also highlighted what a profile boost they received from the event.


Our research also looked at the effect the Paralympics had on athletes’ Facebook accounts.

  • Sarah Storey saw her Facebook fans grow by an outstanding 721%.
  • Wheelchair racing athelete Hannah Cockroft’s Facebook fans increased by an amazing 1,193%, from 639 to 8,000.
  • Equestrian competitor Lee Pearson saw a 370% increase in Facebook likes.

The Olympics vs. Paralympics 2012

Due to a wide variety of factors (TV coverage, length, experience of sports etc) the anticipation was that the Paralympics would not attract as much attention as the Olympics, on any platform.  Although none of the Paralympics athletes achieved the volume of followers that the likes of TeamGB Olympians such as Tom Daley achieved, there were some major household names made during the Paralympics – and a few more contenders for 2012’s ‘Sports Personality of the Year‘ to boot.

Looking a direct comparison between the Top 10 TeamGB and ParalympicsGB athletes we saw that the Top 10 TeamGB athletes (measured as those who ended the Games with the highest number of Twitter followers) saw an overall follower growth of 58%. However, the Top 10 ParalympicsGB athletes (who ended the Paralympics with the highest number of Twitter followers) experienced an overall growth of 235%. Great news for the visibilty and support showed for our Paralympians.

Tanya Goodin

Tanya Goodin

Founder of Tamar