Tokyo 2020: the power of social media and the Olympics

The Olympic Games The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

A brief study on the Olympic Games

The closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games took place on 8 August, an edition that has undoubtedly been marked by the current circumstances, but also by the weight of great moments and a large and active conversation on social networks.

Thanks to social listening, we can measure those topics that have generated more negative or positive sentiment, those that have generated more interactions and mentions and how the audience has generally perceived the Olympic Games and its highlights.

In this small general study, we have chosen to focus on the social network most focused on conversation, Twitter, to understand the real impact of many of the highlights of these Olympic Games. However, we have included general data from other networks in order to provide an overall picture.

A unique kind of Games

It is clear to everyone that the Games were a bit different. The pandemic has forced them to be held in 2021 instead of 2020, they have had no public, which entails losses for Japan, and yet they have been a games with a great presence in networks.

Tokyo 2020 was also the first edition to feature competitions such as karate, rock climbing and skateboarding, ushering in an era in which the host country can define some of the competitions and dispense with others.

Representation Matters

Visibility in the face of discrimination, LGTBIQ+, the importance of mental health, etc. was undoubtedly one of the strongest points of these games, generating a very high level of conversation but also of great quality, thanks to the debates provided.

The importance of talking about and raising awareness of these issues is incredibly well represented by the spike in conversation about mental health following the temporary withdrawal from the games of US favourite Simone Biles.

Pico de conversación de salud mental durante los juegos olímpicos

The conversation about mental health generated a number of mentions, both negative and positive, which had an impact on the media, who echoed how pressure affects the mental health not only of elite athletes, but also of professionals and especially, considering the current social and economic situation, and how it affects young people.

It is therefore remarkable that the term “mental health” is undoubtedly one of the most used terms at international level in relation to the Tokyo 2020 games. Moreover, in the graph below it is clear that 90% of the most used expressions are related to mental health and young women, especially young women of colour.

Top expressions most used during the Olympic Games - connected to trends

Top most used keywords during the Olympic Games – connected to trends

However, as mentioned above, mental health has not been the only key focus of these games. LGBT+ visibility was another of the most talked about, and celebrated, themes of the Tokyo games.

When it comes to the LGBTIQ+ community in the world of Olympic sports, one of the most prominent voices is undoubtedly Tom Daley, the British trampoline jumper who has always been outspoken about his sexuality and vocal about discrimination against the group.

His powerful statement “I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion ” has resonated strongly for all that it represents.

Tom Daley after winning the gold medal

Tom Daley after winning the gold medal

In this sense, there have also been negative voices, especially when talking about trans athletes. However, many others showed their support for the trans community in general and the more knowledgeable ones reminded the masses that one of the medical measurements taken at the games is testosterone level test.

In addition, there has been non-binary representation at these games, something that has also been criticised negatively by those who criticised transgender participation. However, what really stands out is the naturalness and positive visibility that this represents for millions of people.

Non-binary representation at the Olympics by Quinn, a member of the Canadian team.

Non-binary representation at the Olympics by Quinn, a member of the Canadian team.

The youngest Olympic Games

Tokyo 2020 has also been marked by the number of competitors under the age of 18. Particularly noteworthy is the recently added skateboarding competition, where the podiums have been occupied by some of the youngest athletes in history.

Rayssa Leal, Momiji Nishiya, Sky Brown, … There are many names of young athletes who have left their mark by their resilience, their sportsmanship, their professionalism and their camaraderie towards the representatives of other countries.

Rayssa Leal cuando se hizo viral y ahora, como competidora olímpica

Rayssa Leal cuando se hizo viral y ahora, como competidora olímpica (en translation)

Olympians, the new influencers

At the Olympic Games, contemporary fans are not only cheering on their country’s athletes, but also their influencers and social media stars. US Paralympic athlete Hunter Woodhall has 2.6 million followers on TikTok, US volleyball player April Ross is on the Cameo platform, and Tom Daley has documented his trip to Tokyo, where he just won a gold medal, for his 900,000 YouTube subscribers.

Many athletes have gained international fans thanks to being discovered globally during the games, gaining thousands of followers overnight.

Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing – all sports that resonate with a younger demographic – certainly helped drive traffic to TikTok. The women’s street skating podium winners were aged 13, 13 and 16, and the silver medallist, Brazil’s Rayssa Leal, has 3.4 million followers on TikTok, half of her 6.5 million followers on Instagram. 

Filipina skateboarder Margielyn Didal posted a photo alongside Tony Hawk, widely regarded as the greatest skateboarder of all time, in which she added to Hawk’s running joke that people often failed to identify him in public places. When his post was interpreted by many as Didal not being able to recognise Hawk, Tony himself had to explain that it was all a joke.

Erik Shoji, an American volleyball player, gained attention with food reviews on TikTok and tours from the athletes’ village, along with behind-the-scenes looks at the athlete’s experience. She didn’t take social media seriously until she opened a YouTube channel last year while battling COVID. 

Australian canoeist Jessica Fox, on the other hand, rather than becoming famous for winning gold in canoe slalom or bronze in kayak slalom, rose to fame by posting a video on TikTok of someone using a condom to repair the nose of her boat. 

Even the official Olympics profile has skyrocketed with more than three billion views of videos related to his #OlympicSpirit challenge. What’s more, the official TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Weibo accounts generated 3.7 billion interactions, reaching a combined total of 75 million followers.

Millennials, GenZ, visibility and good vibes

Another of the highlights is undoubtedly the good atmosphere, something that many have pointed out, the general good relationship between athletes, the gestures of solidarity, and the celebrations as friends of other people’s triumphs.

The decision to share the gold medal between Qatar and Italy in the men’s high jump, the American swimmers celebrating the gold medal and world record of South African Schoenmaker as their own. There are many displays of sportsmanship and genuine camaraderie to be found at these games.

Celebrating Schoenmaker's world record

Celebrating Schoenmaker’s world record

Popular culture and the favourite shows of many have also made their way into the competitions. It is certainly a point that shows that the new generations are not afraid to show their passions and give a fun touch to the competition.

Fans of “Avatar: the last airbender” were undoubtedly the most commented on, with the show having a very striking representation in both windsurfing and synchronised swimming, thanks to the representatives from both the Netherlands and the Mexican team.

Kiran Badloe decided to decorate his hair with the characteristic blue arrow of the airbenders, the wind masters from the animated series Avatar, showing that the wind was on his side in the competition. Indeed it was, considering he won the gold medal in the RS:X category.

Kiran Badloe and his airbender style

Kiran Badloe showing his airbender style on Instagram

Mexico’s synchronised swimming duo were not far behind, with swimmers Nuria Diosdado and Natalia Jimenez representing the four nations from the series in their costumes and routine, generating a huge buzz online.

Another popular moment was the Sailor Moon-inspired rhythmic gymnastics routine and costume of the Uzbekistan team.

The funniest trends

Not all the moments at the Olympics are what can be described as wholesome, there have been new and returning memes, such as the face of the trampoline jumpers, which is now a classic.

Within this, two points in particular have undoubtedly stood out, one that would explain the rise in followers of some of the athletes and another that shows why it is necessary to have empathy when talking about competition.

Of the first, we can highlight how different countries have found the appeal of some of their competitors, awakening their interest in other locations, neighbouring or distant, which will surely end up defining their future trips, as soon as they can become real.

One example is that of Spanish karateka Damian Quintero, who after his participation in the Olympics has reached 149,000 followers, filling his posts with comments in different languages. The athlete has aroused passions especially in Japan, gaining thousands of fans from that country.

A new japanese fan showin her enthusiasm about spanish athlete Damian Quintero

A new japanese fan showin her enthusiasm about spanish athlete Damian Quintero

On the other side is Novak Djokovic. The Serb was asked about the pressure when competing, something that many related to Simone Biles’ temporary absence from the games, and he responded that pressure is positive and that you have to learn to manage it… only to have an outburst of anger days later during the match in which he was playing for the bronze medal.

These unfortunate comments, in which he was referring to himself and not to the American, unleashed a barrage of memes on social networks.

One example of Djokovic memes

One example of Djokovic memes

But this was not the only popular meme, Australian coach Dean Boxall’s celebration also went viral, as well as many other moments, here are some of them:

Dean Boxall celebrating australian triumph

Dean Boxall celebrating australian triumph

 

Other of hte most popular topics and memes

Other of the most popular topics and memes

 

Another of the most popular memes, to say the only thing in which someone can identify with an Olympic athlete. In this case, myopia.

Another of the most popular memes, to say the only thing in which someone can identify with an Olympic athlete. In this case, myopia.

Data-driven research on the history of the Olympic Games

Do you want to know more about data research and trends through the study of data? Our colleagues at SHARE Creative, one of the agencies part of the Samy ecosystem, have created an interesting article based on data extracted from the history of the Olympic Games, where you can see a bit more about how we work with this kind of information.

You can take a look at it here. You can find out which countries have the most medals, in which sports a country clearly dominates, where the medallists with the most medals come from and much more, as an example of our data expertise.

Want to learn more about our work?

If you want to know more about how our innovation team works and why we are professionals in data and social listening you can contact us here.

 

Fuentes: Social Listening realizado a través de Synthesio, Market Insider, USA Today, Twitter, GimmeSport, The Star
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