Olympic Success Grows Athletes’ Brands

Winning Medals Boosts Social Media Profiles, Value

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Social Media
October 4, 2021
 min read

Among the only elements of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that seemed normal were the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals hanging around athletes’ necks after the completion of each competition. But when the camera zoomed out a bit to expose empty arenas, the modest celebrations were a stark reminder of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and how it affected an already-delayed international spectacle. Nevertheless, fans still followed the quadrennial event from afar. They were able to watch their favorite athletes on television, keep track of their events online, and connect on a closer level through the power of social media. This year’s Games highlighted the importance of social media and how athletes grow their personal brands.

Olympic Medalists Become Social Stars Overnight

Even casual fans knew several of the athletes to watch well before the Olympic Flame was lit during the Opening Ceremony. This year, the U.S. Olympic team was led by returning medalists including gymnast Simone Biles, swimmer Katie Ledecky, and track and field star Allyson Felix. They each entered the Games with relatively large social followings earned through consistent success on the world stage. But every four years, the Olympics turn a new era of young hopefuls into household names. Standing atop an Olympic podium is an unforgettable moment that creates opportunities and stardom that lasts a lifetime for some. In today’s global society, athletes have the opportunity to connect with fans far and wide through social media, and the notoriety that comes with earning an Olympic medal can significantly broaden their reach.

We took a deep look into the immediate impact of Olympic success by tracking U.S. Olympians throughout the Tokyo 2020 Games. Our analysis began a week before the competition commenced, as we took stock of each athlete’s following on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We then kept track of these counts on a daily basis until a full week after the Closing Ceremony to gain an understanding of how fans connected with their favorites. Finally, we compiled the data for every U.S. medalist to learn when they gained their followers, what that meant for their total engagements, and the value of their social growth, among other elements. 

Our report examined medalists who competed in individual events as well as team medalists, but we excluded athletes who only earned medals in a team competition. For example, USA Basketball and the U.S. Women’s National Team were included, but Kevin Durant and Megan Rapinoe were not. The analysis revealed significant growth for sensations such as Sunisa Lee, Caeleb Dressel, and Sydney McLaughlin. We used our valuation methodology to weigh and model their impressions, engagements, and reach to determine the total potential social value of each post.

During a fortnight filled with elation in the pool, on the track, and throughout arenas, the U.S. national anthem was played 39 times in Tokyo - one for every American who won Gold. Another 74 athletes earned a podium finish for a total of 113 U.S. medalists. MVP compiled the social data for each of these athletes to provide an accurate assessment of how winning at the Games translates to quantifiable value on social media, and we have made it available to you.

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