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Rio 2016 – the Live Olympics

The Olympics is over, here is a look at the Games through the lens of social media.

London 2012 was billed the ‘Social Media Olympics’, but the 2016 Rio Games saw significantly higher levels of social media use. In 2012 there were 6.5m global mentions of #London2012 on Twitter, whereas for #Rio2016 there have been 29m mentions on Twitter and this number is still increasing.

As we did in 2012, MediaCom and MediaCom Sport worked with Brandwatch and Twitter to track Olympics social activity and in all we have analysed 60 million mentions across the period of the games. This data gives us some great insight and the thing that really stands out is the real-time, live nature of what has been happening.

Unexpected Twitter stars

In the UK, 42% of Twitter users had stayed up until the early hours to watch the Olympics coverage – with 72% not originally planning to do so. Indeed, for some events, such as Adam Peaty’s swimming gold, UK tweeting peaked at 3am! Adam Peaty’s grandmother was the star on social though.  In a series of proud tweets, Mavis Peaty (‘#OlympicNan’) tweeted good luck messages all ‘love Nan’ and shared with the world her thoughts on his kit, his world record and more – all with suitable emoji use too 🙂

#OlympicNan was not the only Twitter star in this Olympics. The excited, USA-supporting tweets of Leslie Jones (from SNL and Ghostbusters) saw her invited to Rio as a commentator for NBC, resulting in her posting a series of entertaining Twitter videos from Rio – whilst our Twitter data showed other stars generating huge engagement such as Malaysian singer Yuna supporting the Malaysian badminton team and Akshay Kumar celebrating the Indian weightlifting bronze of Sakshi Malik. Weightlifting also saw David Katoatau of Kiribati hit the headlines with the dance that he did after each lift as he aimed to highlight the threat that climate change poses to his island.

Live content on the rise

The smaller nations provided other stories too as 10 nations won their first ever Olympic gold medals – Fiji declared a national holiday after winning the Rugby 7’s and who will ever forget singer Ricky Martin and friends on Facebook Live as they watched TV and celebrated as tennis player Monica Puig won Puerto Rico’s first ever gold medal?!

Live continued to be a theme through the Games as people were continually live tweeting and creating live content. Snapchat claimed 50m views of Olympic highlights through deals with NBC and the BBC and Snapchat’s ‘Rio Story’ saw a blend of professional, athlete and user content curated into a constant stream of coverage, all augmented with various filters.  Usain Bolt showed behind the scenes from the athletics stadium tunnel, Zac Efron surprised Simone Biles, the Filipino divers were featured again (and they weren’t even in Rio!) and USA Today called Team USA Basketball ‘the greatest Snapchat team ever’ as the team constantly updated their followers throughout the games.  Similarly, Instagram’s new Stories feature was also used to deliver Games content with Getty Images and Sports Illustrated delivering regular images and video alongside the posts of athletes and the public too.

In China, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui became an overnight social sensation thanks to her post-race interview where she jokingly referenced her ‘primordial powers’ and her ‘short arms.’ As China took her to their hearts, Fu’s Weibo following increased from 100,000 followers to 6 million followers in less than a week and a live stream on Chinese live stream site Inke attracted 10.5 million viewers – with these viewers sending virtual gifts worth 100,000 yuan (approx. $15,000) during the stream, even though Fu begged them not to.

Facebook Live

The big live story was around Facebook Live though. Facebook are really pushing the ability to live stream content through their platform, signing up publishers, celebrities and sponsors too.  Michael Phelps had 530,000 mentions on Twitter when he won his 20th gold medal and then went on to generate 4 million views of his Facebook Live stream that discussed his retirement.  Publishers went to team houses to broadcast live footage, Coca-Cola worked with teen influencers on Facebook Live for their #ThatsGold campaign, Visa had fun on Facebook Live with its athlete brand ambassadors and DFS enjoyed success with their gold medal winning TeamGB ambassadors who were also featured prominently in live content from TeamGB house that was shared through social media each day.

Click here to watch Michael Phelp’s Facebook Live video

Whilst London 2012 may have been the ‘social media Olympics’, our daily data reports from Rio have highlighted the prominence of video and live content through the Rio 2016 Games. We have seen hashtags and topics vary by country (though everybody seems to talk about Usain Bolt), but whatever time of the day or night that people were watching, they were sharing content and commentary in real-time through social media.  The brands who enjoyed most success ran timely, relevant content and took advantage of the latest innovations to get their messages to their audiences.  Going forward live content is going to become ever more important and whether through partners and sponsorships, influencers or owned efforts, brands need to be thinking about how to integrate the new live opportunities into their content strategies and wider marketing programs.

Rio 2016 was truly the Live Olympics.

Total global mentions for the IOC Olympic Partners. Source: Brandwatch 5th August – 21st August 2016

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