With Friday’s opening ceremony, the 2012 Olympics finally got underway in an official capacity after months and months of hype and anticipation. Much of that anticipatory buzz, of course, came on social media. So which sports and athletes most excited the masses and what was popular where in the lead-up to London?
The most popular Olympian on Facebook is American basketball star Kobe Bryant with more than 13.5 million Likes. If soccer star David Beckham had been selected to represent Great Britain, however, his nearly 20 million Likes would make him 2012′s Mr. Popularity.
It’s also interesting to see which sports are most popular with which fans. According to Facebook’s data, swimming is the most mentioned sport among U.S. users, sailing among Brazilian users, horseback riding among German users and kayaking among Korean users. Soccer takes the cake in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Russian and Singapore.
he Olympics officially take over the world for the next two weeks with Friday’s opening ceremony in London, and Twitter just launched its dedicated event page aimed at tracking Olympics buzz on the social network and becoming a conversation hub for fans around the world.
Produced in partnership with NBC — the Games’ official broadcaster in the United States — the page at twitter.com/#Olympics uses a combination of human curation and algorithms to collect relevant tweets from fans, media and athletes. The page can also be viewed by non-Twitter users looking to follow along.
The dedicated hub makes sense: Twitter said in a blog post Thursday that more tweets are already being sent about the London Olympics each day than were sent during the entire 2008 Olympics in Beijing. More than two-thirds of American Olympians are on Twitter, according to the company, and the build-up to the 2012 Games has sparked 100 times more tweets than the lead-up to the 2008 Games and 10 times as many tweets as the lead-up to Vancouver 2010.
The 2012 Olympics in London are being touted by some as the world’s “first social Games.” While some question just how social they’ll actually be, there’s no doubt that networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will play an unprecedented role in how information is disseminated from London, and how the global sports conversation is driven during July and August.
Why the big shift? It’s simple: Four years is an eternity in Internet time and since the last Summer Olympics in 2008, social media has exploded.
Web use in general has grown rapidly, too. In 2008, there were about 1.5 billion Internet users globally, according to the International Telecommunications Union, making up about 23% of the world’s total population. By this summer’s games, that number will have swelled to about 2.3 billion users making up about a third of the world’s total population.
Among Olympic athletes, there may not be a more effective — or by-the-bootstraps — user of social media than runner Nick Symmonds.
How’s this for — as the phrase goes — “leveraging social media”? In January, Symmonds held an eBay auction for the rights to his left shoulder. Symmonds would apply a temporary tattoo of the winning individual or corporate bidder’s Twitter handle to his shoulder for every competition of the 2012 track and field season, including this summer’s London Olympics.
The marketing company Hanson Dodge Creative eventually shelled out $11,100 for Symmonds’ real estate offer, but he’s been forced to cover their handle with a piece of tape for many events and will have to do so in London as well.
Symmonds says he started the promotion in part to raise money and awareness of himself as an athlete heading into an Olympic year, but most of all to call attention to the sponsorship restrictions placed upon track athletes by many of the sport’s governing bodies.