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Which Team GB Athlete Takes the Gold in Social Media?

Paul Chaloner

Before the 2012 Olympic games began on 27 July with a spectacular and slightly quirky British opening ceremony, Fresh Egg’s social media team tracked Team GB on Twitter and Klout in an attempt to see the affect of a medal on their online popularity.

Naturally, a gold medal in any event returns more popularity and an increase in exposure, but it would seem that some athletes benefit more than others. Of course, some athletes were already massively popular, and indeed household names before the games began, but even these have received a major boost to their following during the Olympics.

With just a few days of the Olympics remaining, here is our interim report on the popularity of Team GB's extraordinary athletes.

Twitter followers: pre-Olympics

The following data was taken from Twitter as of 26 July:

The table above shows just how much more popular than any other athlete our very own Wimbledon hero, Andy Murray, was before the Olympics. Nothing surprising about that and indeed, nothing untoward in seeing the cyclists perform well on Twitter thanks to the most recent results in the Tour de France. Tom Daley also features highly, although this might have something to do with his popularity among the younger, female portion of Twitter.

It should also be noted just how swift the drop-off in followers is between the top 30. You’d need just 3,000 followers to feature among the top 30 most popular Team GB athletes before the games began; a truly tiny number. It should also be noted that neither sprinter, Dwain Chambers, nor cyclist, Jason Kenny, hold Twitter accounts.

Perhaps the other surprise is the lack of support for triple gold medalist, Ben Ainslee, with just 8,402 followers before the games.

Twitter followers: 7 August review

Here is how the top 30 looks on 7 August, with just a few days to go until the end of the Olympics:

The changes are dramatic. Before the Olympics, having more than 3,000 followers would have guaranteed a spot in the top 30 athletes list for Team GB. Just ten days later however, you’d need more than 15,229 to get in to the top 30.

Movers and shakers

The most notable climbers include Tom Daley, Jessica Ennis and Rebecca Adlington inside the top ten. It’s interesting that not all of these rises were down to performance. For example, Tom Daley rose to the top position after gaining more than 800,000 new followers during the early part of the Olympics on the back of a fourth place in the synchronised 10m platform diving event. This was mainly due to the incident with an internet troll, which led to the man’s arrest for making a death threat against the diver. Jessica Ennis's increase, however was almost solely due to her incredible performance taking gold in the heptathlon.

Less obvious perhaps is Rebecca Adlington, who took two bronze medals, yet moved up three places with more than 192,000 new followers.

Andy Murray still managed to add almost 100,000 new followers on the back of his double medal feat on Sunday, taking gold and silver in the tennis, while six time gold medal winner, Chris Hoy, actually dropped a place in the top ten despite adding more than 125,000 followers on the back of his double gold rides.

Outside the top ten, the most notable rises came from the mens' gymnastics with Louis Smith jumping up ten places and Kristian Thomas rising 13 to claim 15th place: a rise of more than 1,415%! The other three gymnasts all make the top 30 after not appearing before the Olympics.

Of all the athletes who won a medal, not a single person now has fewer followers than before the Olympics. In fact, every athlete who has competed for Team GB during the Olympics so far has seen an increase in followers on Twitter.

The figures are also slightly misleading for some athletes who haven’t competed or who did well on 7 August, as their follower stats weren’t updated when this piece went to press, so the Brownlee brothers for example don’t show the kind of rises we would normally expect to see, but will do so in the next few days. We will be running this again at the end of the Olympics and would expect their followers to have increased significantly by then.

Finally, judo golden-girl, Gemma Gibbons, takes the prize for the largest increase in followers going from just 494 pre-Olympics to 25,651: a rise of more than 5,090% as a result of claiming a silver medal for Team GB.

Which sporting events are most popular?

In terms of sports covered, no rower made the top 30 despite pulling in more medals than any other sport during the Olympics for Team GB so far. The closest is actually Zac Purchase who has 11,546 followers, leaving him in 33rd position.

Likewise, the equestrian team members suffer, with just a single person representing them in the top 30: Carl Hester. It should be pointed out however that not all athletes have a Twitter account and this seems most notable in equestrian, where nine athletes do not have an account. Rowing is also under-represented with nine athletes not having an account either before or during the Olympics.

The most represented sport in the top 30 is cycling, perhaps unsurprising as most riders already had established accounts and have taken more gold medals than any other sport. However, five of the top 11 athletes are cyclists of one form or another.

Overall, it's clear to see the Olympics as a whole has inspired a nation, with Team GB athletes having a total following of 3,026,730 pre-Olympics, rising to 5,691,777 by 7 August: a rise of more than 2.6 million new followers - an increase of 88.05%.

Top ten by circle graph

In our mock running track below, you can see the dramatic rise of Tom Daley to move slightly ahead of Andy Murray at the front of the pack and just how far behind the other athletes currently are. It also demonstrates the dramatic increases of each athlete. Prior to the Olympics, a place in the top ten most popular Team GB athletes could be gained by having more than 69,000 followers, but just ten days later during the Olympics, an athlete would need more than 117,000 to feature in top ten.

The Team GB online powerhouses

We've also tracked the Klout score of our Team GB athletes, which provides a measure of online influence. The following table displays the top 30 athletes from Team GB according to their Klout score. These scores were recorded on 26 July, the day before the opening ceremony:

It isn’t at all surprising to find Andy Murray, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish in the top three, particularly as all three had recently performed terrifically in their respective sports and it was within the last 90 days.

Perhaps mildly surprising is Tom Daley in fourth place, but he had a strong following before the Olympics and regularly engaged on Twitter with his fans.

Klout score: 7 August review

The following table shows the scores as recorded on 7 August and during the Olympics. Each time an athlete got a medal or was close to doing so, their mentions on Twitter went through the roof, directly affecting their Klout score. As a result, ALL athletes saw an increase in Klout score during the Olympics, with not a single athlete going down. Mark Cavendish was the closest to losing out, but even he rose by 2.92 points (a 3.7% increase).

The table, particularly in the top half, mirrors much of the change in the Twitter follower standing, leading us to believe that Klout score is heavily influenced by the amount of followers an account has. However, towards the bottom half of the table, some athletes have dropped positions despite significant rises in their Klout score, while others have risen. Christine Ohuruogu for example, despite a gritty silver medal and winning gold in the 400 metres in Beijing four years ago, languishes in 28th place.

Again, the gymnasts fair well and those who aren’t in the top 30 don’t yet have a Klout score (due to lack of use of the accounts or only holding them for a short time).

A score of 46.03 would have gotten a place in the top 30 Klout scores for Team GB prior to the Olympics, however the entry level score for the top 30 has risen to 55.64 just ten days later.

The new leader, Tom Daley, is almost ten points higher than the previous leader was prior to the Olympics.

The greatest improvements come from Greg Rutherford (up 12 in to the top ten), Lizzie Armitstead, Kristian Thomas and swimmer Michael Jamieson, all four of which were relatively unknown outside of their sports before the Olympics and all of them won medals.

The social media gold medal goes to...

Tom DaleyOverall, the undoubted king of social media in the Team GB team is Tom Daley. This is despite not winning a single medal during the Olympics and almost entirely due to the hate messages he received and responded to after failing to collect a medal in his opening dive session.

We'll continue to monitor the popularity of Team GB athletes right up to the Olympic closing ceremony, and will publish our complete report on Monday 13 August. This will include a full breakdown of all the statistics we have recorded during the Olympics.

Do you agree/disagree with the top ten? Is anyone missing you would have expected to be there? Do you think someone should be higher or lower? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Charles McCain



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