Today’s post comes courtesy of Griffin Booth, Sports Career Consulting’s blog manager, and is a follow up to our post prior to the Summer Games discussing the potential “breakout” social media stars from London.
Back in June, before the Olympic games even began, we previewed athletes who might become stars within social media with a blog post. Now that the hype of the London Games has died down, it is a good time to reflect back and see which athletes were truly the “breakout” stars of the 2012 Olympics.
Social media has become a good indicator in determining an athlete’s popularity. Michael Phelps is a prominent example of an athlete who excelled in competition and made a name for himself. Phelps entered the games with nearly 180,000 followers on Twitter and had 5.2 million “likes” on Facebook, largely due to his success at the previous Olympic Games in Beijing. After his success in London and ending his Olympic legacy by becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, Phelps has soared to online fame. Phelps now has 1,404,960 followers on his Twitter account, an increase of more than 1,224,960 fans! Alex Morgan is another athlete who did not receive any national exposure until the US women’s soccer team played in the World Cup last year. In London, all Morgan did to her public reputation was secure a gold medal, headlined by her semi-final game-winner goal versus Canada, in a thrilling come-from-behind overtime victory. Morgan, like Phelps, now has reached over a million Twitter followers and has become a social media star as well.
Before the games began, we identified a few athletes with the potential to become the next social media stars. Here is a look at how our predictions fared…
Carmelita Jeter: Women’s Track and Field
Twitter followers: 37,434
Increase of 33,699 followers
Facebook likes: 21,513
Increase of 16,855 likes
Carmelita Jeter was easily one of the bright new stars on the women’s track scene. Called “the world fastest women”, Jeter went on to win three medals in the 2012 Olympic Games. While only winning silver in the 100m and bronze in the 200m, Jeter rebounded with an historic team performance in the Women’s 4X100 relay. Jeter anchored the team as Team USA shattered the world record by more than half a second on their way to Gold. Jeter’s social media following showed consistent growth throughout the games, and continues to grow, as she remains active on Twitter.
Jennifer Kessy and April Ross: Women’s Beach Volleyball
Twitter followers: 18,384 (Jennifer) & 16,301 (April)
Jennifer increase of 16,845 followers
April increase of 14,241followers
Facebook likes: 9,116 (Jennifer) & 18,537 (April) likes
Jennifer increase of 5,844 likes
April Increase of 14,199 likes
The increase in social media followers continued for both Jennifer Kessy and April Ross on their run to Silver in the Olympics. The American “underdog” duo made headlines as they reached the finals, only to face fellow American favorites Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. Despite losing to what is now the three time champs of the sport, Kessy and Ross made a name for themselves.
Jesse Williams: Men’s Track and Field
Twitter followers: 5,285
Increase of 3,593 followers
Facebook likes: 503
DECREASE of 381 likes
Williams suffered the biggest disappointment among our predictions for breakout social media stars. Williams qualified for the final round of the Men’s high jump, but failed to medal, placing 9th overall. His growth on twitter was the lowest of all athletes on our list, and he even lost “likes” on Facebook.
Jordyn Wieber: Women’s Gymnastics
Twitter followers: 496,080
Increase of 481,046 followers
Facebook likes: 365,448
Incraese of 353,444 likes
Despite the disappointment of not qualifying for the individual all-around finals, Wieber made Olympic history as part of the Women’s gymnastics team. Wieber put on a near flawless performance to help lead the US gymnastics team to a Gold medal, the first in 16 years. Wieber became a national star, along with the rest of the gymnastics team, which included fellow star Gabby Douglas. At only 16 years old, Wieber remains active on her Twitter account and is a prominent figure in how Olympic exposure can influence an athlete.
Missy Franklin: Women’s Swimming
Twitter followers: 389,632
Increase of 380,778 followers
Facebook likes: 36,033
Increase of 33,849
Missy Franklin came to conquer to London and leave behind a legacy that would impact her life forever. Both her Twitter and Facebook profiles experienced exponential growth after the 17-year old medaled 5 times, 4 of which were Gold. Despite offers of a reported nearly $2 million in endorsement offers, Missy’s big move after the Olympic games was committing to a college. Fittingly, she announced through her Twitter feed that she would attend Cal Berkley, where she will swim for the Golden Bears. For those unfamiliar with Franklin before London, they sure know her now.
Ryan Lochte: Men’s Swimming
Twitter followers: 1,043,634
Increase of 978,857
Facebook fans: 296,191
Increase of 207,475 Fans
Despite being somewhat of a household name before entering the London Olympics, Lochte wins the award for becoming the biggest social media star. His explosive growth on Twitter (gaining 978,857 new followers) shatters the competition among our list of potential breakout social media stars. Lochte won five medals, including Gold in the 400m individual medley, defeating heavy favorite (and teammate/rival) Michael Phelps. While Lochte has received some negative publicity, fans continue to want to hear more from the swimming star. After the Olympics, Lochte has been rumored to appear on the hit reality show “The Bachelor” as well as the possibility of participating in “Dancing with the Stars.” He continues to remain a prominent figure in social media which will serve fans well as Lochte plans to swim again in the 2016 Olympics.
Lolo Jones: Women’s Track and Field
Twitter followers: 329,626
Increase of 249,901
Facebook fans: 214,635
Increase of 181,763 fans
Jones was another household name entering into the Olympics, but continued her social media success. Jones’s performance wasn’t what she had hoped for, as she placed 4th in the 100m hurdles. Despite failing to medal, Jones’s personality and marketing savvy has kept her in the national spotlight. She continues to pick up endorsement deals, and after recently being named to the US Bobsled team, will appeal to even more potential sponsors in the future. Like many of the other athletes, she remains active with all of her fans on Twitter, further bolstering her appeal as a brand ambassador.
It is safe to say that social media is transforming how athletes are viewed. While these followers are fans first and foremost, the way athletes present both themselves and what they represent is revolutionizing marketing strategies. Nearly all of the athletes we evaluated throughout the Games have taken advantage of social media to help expand their personal brands, a trend that will without a doubt continue as social media platforms evolve. As for which athletes are next in line to become social media stars, we will just have to wait until the Winter Olympics to see who grabs the public’s attention.
Griffin Booth is in his first year as Sports Career Consulting’s Blog Manager. He is a recent Washington State University graduate where he majored in communications with an emphasis in broadcasting. Booth began his career as an intern with sports radio 950 KJR in Seattle where he was responsible for managing the show’s podcasts. He later gained experience as a news anchor, producer, and reporter for Cable 8 news in the greater Pullman area. In addition to his role with Sports Career Consulting, he is currently an intern with Washington State University’s Cougar Athletic Fund, helping to raise money for student-athlete scholarships. Born and raised in Seattle, Booth is a huge fan of all Seattle sports. For any questions, comments, or feedback please feel free to contact Griffin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @gbooth6.