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Social insights from the Olympics: inspirational tradition and modern innovation

Jen Brown

August 5, 2021  •  5 min read

I love tradition and I love sports, so it is no surprise to anyone who knows me well that I absolutely adore watching the Olympics. A magnificent, inspiring sporting occasion with such an incredible heritage: The first modern Olympics took place in 1896 in Athens, and featured 280 participants from 12 nations, competing in 43 events. Today, Japan will play host to over 11,326 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees involved at the Games.

And, I’m not alone. Even without spectators in the indoor stadiums, the buzz on digital channels is exponentially increasing, as millions of superfans like me cheer on their nation’s athletes on their favorite social media platforms.

Social listening at an Olympic scale

The popularity of the Olympics is reflected in social listening data in Sprinklr’s real-time insights dashboard. Over the last seven days, total mentions have steadily climbed to more than 9 million worldwide. As the Summer Games have unfolded, so have the gripping storylines. Whether it was two high jumpers from Qatar and Italy sharing Olympic gold, or a cycling team breaking a world record by 4 seconds, the eyes of the world are on the Tokyo Games.

But behind the big headlines are the macro and micro trends driven by social data — a unique snapshot of these incredible athletic endeavors and how the world perceives, shares, and talks about them on social media and other digital channels. Let’s take a look!

Tracking trends in real time

While I love tradition, I also embrace change. It’s hard to imagine a better example than the Olympics, which combine the tradition and prestige of the past with modern trends and sporting innovation.

At these summer games we have seen the introduction of karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing, baseball for men, and softball for women. In many cases, these newer events drove as much or more social traffic as the traditional ones.

For example, skateboarding was one of the most talked about sports, alongside swimming, when both were in action last week: over 700,000 mentions! That is incredible, isn’t it? The new sport-on-the-block is nearly as popular as a sport that was featured in the first modern games in 1896.

Sprinklr Presentation snapshot from July 28**.

But, that’s the thing about social data — wait a few days (or sometimes just a few minutes) and the trends will completely change. This week? It’s all about badminton, with more than 2 million mentions. Traditional sports like volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, and hockey continue to drive strong mentions among their fans, hovering around 500,000 each in our dashboard.

Or maybe you’re part of the small-but-mighty fanbase of events like rugby, equestrian, and surfing, which are proudly driving about 50,000 mentions this week. Dive in (pun intended) and take a deeper look at what’s trending this week.

Tracking trends by geographies

The social listening data surrounding the Olympics from different geographies is fascinating, too. Global data about a truly global sporting event that has me on the edge of my seat: Go TeamGB! 🙂

For example, the most mentioned sport in South America was skateboarding during the first week of the Tokyo Games, but now volleyball is dominating the mentions in that region. In Europe, football’s (soccer to my American friends) commanding lead has given way to a virtual tie between badminton and swimming. In Asia, it’s badminton and hockey leading the conversation. And, in the U.S., gymnastics, swimming, and athletics (aka track & field) are the top three.

Millions of data points, one shared experience

As an Olympics superfan, I have come to expect and accept the unexpected. Due to the sheer amount of disruption over the last 18 months, this is not a surprise. Athletes have been training in isolation, new athletes have emerged due to the one-year delay, and some did not make it to the games at all.

Fans and athletes alike have been a part of sharing these experiences on social media: Whether it is watching swimmers win gold from lane 8, or teams and athletes expected to win gold not take home a medal of any color, or an athlete failing at the first hurdle (no pun intended) because they could not compete at their best with their families thousands of miles away, watching from home.

Win, lose, or draw though, the Olympics are about perseverance, teamwork, and the sheer joy sporting occasions like this create. It is also about those very human experiences. Triumph and failure. Joy and sadness. Respect. Dignity. With real-time social listening data, we can get an even closer look at this unique shared experience: region by region, country by country, human by human.

If you want to learn more about how Sprinklr’s unified customer experience management (Unified-CXM) platform and Sprinklr Modern Research uses omni-channel listening, industry-leading AI, and data democratization to help your brand make customers happier, we’d love to talk to you.

Jen Brown is a Director of Marketing at Sprinklr. Jen has 20 years of experience delivering profitable product and service marketing programs, working both on the client side and the vendor side. She lives in the UK with her husband and two children.

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