The social Olympics: Hookit and SportsPro assess the digital aftermath of PyeongChang

The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games were lived more digitally than any before them. With the help of Hookit, our official data partner, SportsPro looks at some of the athletes, partners and moments that drove interest around the biggest sporting event of the year so far.

The social Olympics: Hookit and SportsPro assess the digital aftermath of PyeongChang

About this survey

Hookit tracked activity across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube from 7th February – two days before the opening ceremony – until 26th February, the day after the Olympic flame went out in PyeongChang.

A total of 2,919 athletes, 217 organisations and 95 partners were tracked. The performance of individual social posts was measured from the original links.

Which athletes drove the most interest during the Games?

Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn, two of the winter athletes with the biggest social media followings in the world, attracted considerable digital interest throughout PyeongChang, with Vonn producing the single best Olympic-related social media post of the Games – an Instagram video that prompted 3,173,555 interactions. White, meanwhile, had three Instagram videos in the top ten best-performing pieces of social content.

Some of the emerging stars of the Games delivered truly impressive numbers online, too. American snowboarder Chloe Kim and Korean speed-skater Yoongy Kwak were among those to see massive growth in their follower base, with halfpipe gold medallist Kim’s 934,658 total bump in followers bigger than that of any other Olympic star.

In total, the Olympic athletes tracked by Hookit picked up 14.7 million new followers across all platforms during PyeongChang 2018, with 42.9 per cent growth on Instagram, 19 per cent on Twitter and 5 per cent on Facebook.

65 per cent of athletes – 1,886 of them – posted at least once at the Games, with a total of 30,502 posts drawing 138.5 million interactions across all platforms. Instagram and Twitter were the most popular platforms among athletes, drawing 38 per cent and 37 per cent of all posts respectively, while uploads to Instagram drew 82 per cent of all interactions. YouTube, however, earned the highest average interactions per post with 17,533.

How popular were the Olympic Athletes from Russia?

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) was officially banned from PyeongChang 2018 – a belated response to revelations of state-backed doping at Sochi 2014 – but the country was allowed to send 169 competitors to PyeongChang as the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR). Those athletes posted 439 times on social media, recording a total of 3,284,672 interactions.

Figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva slumped to a surprise defeat in the women’s singles to 15-year-old compatriot Alina Zagitova but, in a Games where she took a second silver medal in the team event, she was still the most engaging Russian athlete. The 18-year-old, whose love for K-Pop and anime series Sailor Moon made her a likely favourite among fans in south-east Asia, recorded 1,102,092 interactions from her six social media posts, an average of 183,682 per post that was bettered by only a handful of other athletes at the Games.

The USA sent the biggest ever team to a winter Olympics, and its 246 athletes were the most prolific on the social platforms measured. They sent a total of 7,428 posts, which were interacted with 53,297,720 times over the two weeks.

How did the IOC’s new TOP sponsors perform?

Ecommerce and cloud computing giant Alibaba, which joined the TOP group of sponsors in January 2017, posted 354 times on the recorded channels during the Games, generating a total of 1,236,399 interactions. This included 458,505 likes, 19,971 comments and 4,716 shares.

As a Chinese company with a largely domestic consumer base, Alibaba’s primary points of contact with its audience are on national platforms like Weibo and WeChat and the Games represented a major opportunity to make a global push. Its 6 per cent rise in followers across the four platforms measured by Hookit was bigger than that of any partner, taking it to 59,863 Twitter followers, 581,863 Instagram followers and 6,016,035 Facebook likes.

Intel is the newest member of the TOP group, having signed its deal with the IOC last June. It made 321 posts across the course of the Games, recording 9,343,759 views and 9,706,413 interactions in total – more in that period than any PyeongChang sponsor other than Coca-Cola. On average, its content was engaged with more than another other partner, too, with 30,238 interactions per post.

A video on Facebook trailing the involvement of the Intel Falcon 8+ drone in South Korea was the top-performing Olympic-related post by a brand during the Games, with 1,635,375 total interactions.

PyeongChang 2018 was Toyota’s first Olympics since its global TOP sponsorship rights went live in 2017, but it found itself expecting the related Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia – domestic vehicle partners of the event – to take a considerable amount of attention. The Japanese company did little to activate its partnership on the ground but its social media content generally outperformed its rivals at Games-time, with 5,694,495 total views of its content and 6,007,904 total interactions, more than Hyundai’s and Kia’s channels combined. It also managed 20,575 interactions per post, compared with Hyundai’s 12,273 and Kia’s 15,145.

How did fans interact with the official accounts?

With the Olympic Channel digital content service operating for its first Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was looking to generate more social interaction than ever before. Its accounts were easily the most followed and engaged with of any official body involved in PyeongChang 2018. Three of the videos it posted to Facebook were among the ten best-performing social links during the Games.

As might be expected, the local organisers’ official PyeongChang 2018 accounts drew a big increase in audience as fans switched on to the action, with followers rising by a quarter. The Korean Sport & Olympic Committee saw similar growth.

Among the federations involved, most of which have far smaller followings than their star performers, it was the International Skating Union’s (ISU) figure skating accounts that got the most overall traction, with 897,116 interactions from 392 posts and a 10.2 per cent jump in followers. The International Ski Federation’s (FIS) Alpine accounts and the International Biathlon Union (IBU) averaged over 4,000 interactions per post, while curling’s quadrennial moment in the global spotlight sparked a 12.3 per cent rise in followers and the International Luge Federation’s social audience grew 22.3 per cent.

Twitter was the go-to medium among federation and national committees, accounting for 52 per cent of 33,875 posts, while 32 per cent of output went to Facebook and 15 per cent to Instagram. Of the 133.1 million total interactions with those posts, however, 51 per cent were on Facebook, 34 per cent on Instagram, and just 8 per cent on Twitter.