Research: “Digital channels paramount for Olympics engagement”

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The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are now 100 days away. Research from GWI reveals that – with global sporting events now being broadcast on multiple digital channels, from social media to streaming services – consumers across the world will keep up with the Games via multiple different ways.

  • US Millennials appear to be “all in” when it comes to following the Games. When asked how they plan to follow the Olympics, more than one-quarter (27 per cent) of Millennials in America said they would follow television network accounts on social media, significantly higher than any other age group in either country; just 12 percent of Millennials in the UK said the same.
  • Millennials in both countries are also more likely than any other generation to turn to digital channels to follow the Olympics: one-third (36 per cent) of Millennials in the US and 20 per cent of Millennials in the UK say they plan to stream live events online; 28 per cent of American Millennials and 21 per cent of Millennials in the UK plan to stream highlights online
  • More than one-quarter (27 per cent) of Millennials in America plan to follow athletes on social media, compared to 12 per cent of UK Millennials.
  • Interestingly though, US Millennials are the most likely out of both countries to read news/articles about the games (27 per cent).

“As the research suggests, digital channels will be paramount for fan engagement, and how that happens with the Olympics is likely to serve as both a test and inspiration for other sports, as the whole industry grapples with how to adapt to a post-Covid-19 world,” said GWI Vice President, Trends and Research, US, Virna Sekuj.

When asked about the extent to which they support having the Olympics take place, the response varied between the countries as well as the generations:

  • Nearly half (47 per cent) of US consumers polled said they support having the Olympics take place, compared to 34 per cent of those in the UK.
  • 55 percent of US Millennials surveyed said they support the Games taking place, compared to 40 per cent of Millennials in the UK; just 27 per cent of Baby Boomers in the UK support having the Olympics take place, compared to 45 per cent of their counterparts in America.

“The Olympics represent a really interesting opportunity to see how major sports will evolve as a result of the pandemic. We’ve seen plenty of leagues operate without fans in their stadiums, and to a pretty strong degree of success. But the Olympics are unique in being a global event of massive proportions, with perhaps only the FIFA World Cup being truly comparable. To see how the Games – as well as their sponsors – manage to activate without fans on the ground, fan zones in various countries, in-person experiences and hospitality – will be telling,” added Sekuj.

TV is still king for both countries when it comes to how people will follow the Games

  • More people in the UK plan to watch Olympic highlights (45 per cent) on TV than in the US (35 per cent), but 45 per cent of adults in both countries are planning to watch the live events on TV.
  • Nearly half (48 per cent) of Millennials surveyed in the UK said they will watch live events on TV, the highest category for this age group in the UK; more than half (51 per cent) of Millennials in the US will watch live events on TV.
  • But Baby Boomers are just as interested in watching the Games live on TV: 46 percent of Boomers in the UK and 52 per cent in the US will do so.

Americans are also more likely to support prioritizing vaccines for Olympic athletes than those in the UK:

  • Fifty-six per cent of consumers in the US support the idea of prioritizing vaccines for the athletes, compared to 38 per cent of those polled in the UK.
  • More than one-third (36 per cent) of Baby Boomers in America would fully support this idea compared to just 18 per cent of Baby Boomers in the UK; interestingly, Baby Boomers in both markets are the most likely to show full support for prioritising vaccines for athletes compared to other generations.
  • Just five per cent of US Millennials would not support this idea at all, compared to 14 per cent of Millennials in the UK.

Top Olympic Sports US and UK Consumers Are Most Interested In

When asked which sports they would be most interested in following, there were a few similarities, but it is clear that consumers’ interest in sports are heavily impacted by their country’s pastimes.  The top five in the US are swimming, gymnastics, basketball, football and volleyball (in that order) whilst the the top five in the UK are athletics, swimming, gymnastics, football and tennis.


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