How Social Media Changed the Olympics

By: Jordyn Volk

I was born during the Atlanta Summer Games and the Olympics theme song has been in my head ever since. Now, almost 22 years later, my attention does not stay 100 percent on my TV screen like it did when I was a kid; it’s also on my Twitter feed. Participating in the online conversations during the Olympics can be just as entertaining as the events themselves. During the 2016 Summer Olympics, the hashtag #Rio2016 alone resulted in 187 million tweets that were viewed 75 billion times. The Olympics have stayed the same in many regards over the years, but the way people watch the games has changed forever with the rise of social media. Here are some of the biggest ways social media have changed the Olympics:

1. People are not actually watching the Olympics broadcast anymore

In the past, you either watched the Olympics live or you heard about what happened from a friend that did watch. Now, it doesn’t matter if you have a TV because live coverage is posted directly on social media. Between NBC videos and live posts, you can understand everything that’s happening without looking away from your phone. But, even though viewership is down, people are engaged with the games now more than ever because of social media.

2. SPOILER ALERT!

The dreaded spoiler becomes even worse during the Olympics. If you aren’t watching every event live (even if that means waking up at 3 a.m.), then you either have to give up social media or accept that you may know the medalists for an event you’re watching that night. Pyeongchang has not been as big of a worry because the 17 hour time difference from the Pacific Time Zone results in morning events being live during our primetime, but even then, you can’t avoid everything.

3. The athletes are seen as real people

It is day five of the Olympics and the internet has already had three new athlete obsessions. Social media ignites a new way to know the athletes that was not available to us before. We are able to connect with them outside of our television, whether it’s through relatable tweets or being able to hear more about their stories. We begin to feel as though we are truly part of Team USA.

4. Brands are part of the conversation

What brand isn’t talking about the Olympics? It’s one of those cultural moments that hits every part of the globe and it would be a bad decision to ignore the opportunities there. Though there are strict rules that apply to what non-Olympic sponsors can say, there are ways to be in the conversation. Not all brands can make tear-inducing advertisements like P&G, but when the country is focused on Team USA for 16 days, you have to find ways to stay relevant.

Photo credit: Andy Miah

Twitter: @jordynvolk
LinkedIn: Jordyn Volk

This Article Has 5 Comments
  1. Adrianna Grigorian says:

    Your first point is very relatable. I was looking forward to watching the snowboarding portion of the Olympics and I knew that not being able to wouldn’t be an issue. As soon as I went on Twitter or Facebook, I saw numerous videos, tweets, and posts about all the events. Even though this causes spoilers, I still find it to be pretty convenient. Unless you completely detach from all your devices, I think it is going to be inevitable that you read about current events happening.

  2. Kenden Blake says:

    Great post! The voice of the @NBColympics account is definitely making it a must-follow for this year’s games and usually more entertaining than the actual broadcast. I have found myself keeping up with the Olympics more on Twitter than anything else this year as well. I am interested to see if NBC will be willing to sell some of its live rights in the future to social media companies to gain higher viewership as TV continues to decline.

  3. Rita Herbstman says:

    Jordyn- your first sentence drew me in. I have been spoiled too many times during the Winter Olympics this year. However, the spoilers are convenient for certain events I wasn’t planning on watching. I agree, the athletes are seen as real people and it makes them relatable, however, we don’t realize how amazing each athlete is at their sport. They should put an average athlete next to them once to compare how great they are!

  4. Stacia says:

    Hey Andy! Fantastic blog post. I like the way you categorized the 3 distinct ways we are interacting with the games differently. This is definitely something I have not thought of before. Nice job keeping the content engaging. I wonder how technology will develop and how we will be interacting with the games in the coming years. VR?

  5. Tess Meyer says:

    Nice work, Jordyn! I love point number three, about the athletes being seen as really people. Going back to the 6 degrees of separation we learned about in the presentation, it is cool to think that we might actually have some connections to these “elite” people. Definitely a great way for them to use social media to enhance their personal brand!

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