24 February 2014 | Team Tamar

Which athletes triumphed at the Sochi Socialympics?

hot-athletesYesterday saw the closing ceremony of the XXIIth Winter Olympic Games over in Sochi. Whilst it’s only the first of many great sporting events coming up this year, the social ‘noise’ it generated during London 2012 has lead to a lot of interest in how the Sochi games would compare.

Just like we did during London 2012, here at Tamar we’ve been keeping a very close eye on how the exposure afforded to the athletes has affected their online influence and following. And just like the 2012 games, we’ve seen that it’s not just the Gold medal-winners who see a boost.

Unlike 2012 though, we started the games with a very different table. For starters, because of the relative team size we decided to look globally this time, when last time we just monitored Team GB. Secondly, the different mix of sporting disciplines means a very different mix of athletes – with the North American hockey players in particular seeing a massive dominance in the table before the games even started.

You can take a look at the Top 10 for the end of the games by clicking the image below – if you’ve been monitoring the table throughout the games, you’ll notice that the top 10 hardly changed.


Unsurprisingly, snowboarding mega-star Shaun White was in the top spot at the start, and he ended there as well. The rest of the top 10 is made up of Lolo Jones and 8 famous, mainly-North-American ice hockey players.

The real story comes when you look at which athletes saw the biggest percentage increase in their follower count. At London 2012, we saw some major names getting their big (sporting) break during the games, and their online community size often reflected this growth. Here’s the 10 biggest risers after Sochi 2014:

Rank Athlete Opening Ceremony Closing Ceremony Growth %
1 Ayumu Hirano, Japan 915 79,851 8,627%
2 Taku Hiraoka, Japan 1,203 31,299 2,502%
3 Eva Samkova, Czech Republic 346 4,907 1,318%
4 Lizzy Yarnold, Great Britain 4,268 51,793 1,114%
5 Chloe Trespeuch, France 61 730 1,097%
6 Michael Goodfellow, Great Britain 627 7,386 1,078%
7 Anna Sloan, Great Britain 2,069 21,746 951%
8 Claire Hamilton, Great Britain 846 7,320 765%
9 Vicki Adams, Great Britain 1,289 10,694 730%
10 Scott Andrews, Great Britain 828 6,740 714%

As you can see, our own Team GB athletes saw some massive growth during these games, with 6 of the top 10 biggest growth spots going to GB athletes.

It’s hardly suprising that we didn’t start with a huge presence in these games (as we did with London 2012) – not only is the team much smaller, but our historic performance at Winter Olympic games means there are very few ‘big name’ atheletes on Team GB’s winter roster – or should I saw WERE, since the situation post-games is very different.

Athletes like Lizzy Yarnold, Eve Muirhead and co can now justifiably claim to be Team GB superstars along with their summer-games companions, and not just because of the medals around their necks.

As well as the athletes’ social following, we’ve been tracking who the hottest athletes have been during the games, to find out who was being searched-for on non social channels. Here’s the Top 10, based on Google search volumes in February:

Rank   Athlete Name         Nationality         Sport or Event               Searches        
1. Bobby Brown USA Freestyle Skiing 18,100
2. James Woods Great Britain Freestyle Skiing 14,800
3. Dustin Brown USA Ice Hockey 12,100
4. Lolo Jones USA Bobsled 6,600
5. Shaun White USA Snowboarding 5,400
6. Chemmy Alcott Great Britain Alpine Skiing 4,400
7. Eve Muirhead Great Britain Curling 3,600
8. John Daly USA Skeleton 3,600
9. Jessica Smith Canada Speed Skating 2,900
10. Jenny Jones Great Britain Snowboarding 2,900

As you can see, the Top 10 based on search volumes is quite different to the social table, with Team GB represented alongside some of the famous North American names.

Unlike in 2012, a lot of the big Team GB names were not particularly well-known before the games – so the data we collected on them at the start of the games is quite reflective of that. The real story will come when we find out how these volumes change in the next month or two, when we will see which of the Games stars emerged as stars in their own right – and whether or not the boost in popularity they have seen during the games will stick around long-term.

However you look at the data, it’s clear to see that despite the growth and adoption of social and digital channels, the Winter Olympics still doesn’t have as wide an appeal as the Summer games – though if things continue as they have that might change in 2018.

How will this compare to the athletes and teams taking part in other sporting events this year – the footballers at the World Cup, or those Team GB athletes who triumphed in 2012 when the Commonwealth Games come around? We’re looking forward to finding out…

Team Tamar