During the first full week of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, gymnastics was the top sport that Americans were searching for online, and by a comfortable margin. Data from Hitwise, a division of Connexity, found that 2.32% of all searches containing the words “Olympic” or “Olympics” during the week ending August 13, 2016 also included the word “gymnastics.” Swimming and soccer rounded out the top three sports which were mentioned in 1.59% and 1.4% of Olympic-related searches, respectively.
By comparison, across the pond in the United Kingdom, Hitwise data shows that British fans are most interested in tennis, cycling and rugby, sports that ranked considerably lower in interest here. Meanwhile, down under, Australians’ top three sports, based on search, are basketball, swimming and rugby.
While Olympic viewers often tune into multiple sports, there is strong evidence that fans are drawn much more heavily to one or another. For instance, in the United States, among those who searched for gymnastics, only 8% also searched for swimming and only 3% searched for soccer. In fact, an overlap analysis of searches around the five most searched for Olympic sports revealed that the maximum crossover was between swimming and gymnastics. As previously mentioned, 8% of gymnastics fans searched for swimming, but 10.5% of swimming fans also searched for gymnastics.
That left me wondering: how different are Americans who follow different Olympic sports? An analysis using our new AudienceView platform provided me with a basic demo breakdown of those searching online for information on the top five sports. (See table below.) Specifically, it revealed that basketball has the youngest online followers with a median age of 37; while gymnastics followers are the most senior with a median age of 41. Among the five top sports, all but gymnastics skewed more heavily male with men accounting for 60% of those searching for basketball and just 45% of those searching for gymnastics.
Roughly half of all sports followers have a college degree, but swimming and gymnastics take the gold in the race for an education. While soccer had the lowest level of those with a college degree, soccer followers are actually the most likely to be students currently. That’s something that likely also explains the fact that soccer followers have the lowest median household income of the five groups. Meanwhile, basketball fans take home the biggest purse with a median income of $83,700 a year.
Lifestyle differences and brand preferences
We can see even greater differences in the lifestyle and brand preferences of different sports fans. For instance, those searching for swimming are much more likely than average to order from TV shopping sites QVC.com and HSN.com. Meanwhile, soccer and basketball fans reveal they’re more than just spectators when it comes to sports through their increased visits to athletic apparel and sporting equipment sites like the Nike Store, Under Armour and REI.
While cheering Simone Biles on her way to five gold medals, gymnastics followers might be found sipping a Starbucks Frappuccino while browsing recipes on Yummly.com. Swimming fans, on the other hand, are more likely to be carb loading at The Olive Garden or Panera Bread. Over at SeriousEats.com, you’ll find above average concentrations of followers of Olympic soccer and volleyball, since both groups index well above average for visiting the site. Basketball fans, meanwhile, are the most likely to make a run for the border with visits to TacoBell.com among this group coming in at rates more than twice the national average.
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