Media & Entertainment

Expect Heightened (and Younger) Viewership of the Winter Olympics

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The Gist: We found a substantial increase in Americans who say they will closely follow the upcoming Winter Olympics compared to 2014 data.


Every four years the world gets to see the best of the best compete in a slew of cold weather sports. Comparing our 2018 data to how closely people said they would watch the Winter Olympics back in 2014, we’ve seen a substantial increase in how closely Americans say they will follow it at large.

In 2014, 41% of Americans over age 13 said they would closely follow the winter games. That number jumped to 52% in 2018. That’s a 25% increase.

Broken down by age

In 2014, 41% of Americans under 35 said they were closely following the Winter Olympics, and 46% in the 35 and older category.

2018, though? The results are in below, and they’re promising for advertisers. The under 35 group who say they’ll closely follow the winter games has made a jump to 59%. It’s worth noting that men are slightly more likely than women to say they’ll follow the Winter Olympics closely.

Insights on the close followers of the Winter Olympics:

We’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you more about these folks who will closely watch the Winter Olympics this year, so here you go:

  • Close Olympic watchers are more likely to like the NFL and MLB but more than twice as likely to be NHL fans. You know, ice, skating, sure
  • People who eat most often at casual and fast food restaurants are more likely to answer they’ll follow the winter games Somewhat closely
  • Gen Z loves the games: Under 18-year-olds are more likely to answer Very closely
  • People who regularly search for recipes online are more likely to answer Very closely
  • People who choose TV shows and movies based on social media influence are more likely to answer Very closely
  • Lastly, and we think this could be driving the growth of Olympic interest (more on that later), heavy social media users are less likely to answer Not at all closely

Getting Ceremonious

What about the opening ceremony? Do people care? You bet. 47% of Americans are likely to tune in for the big event to kick it all off.

How are people watching?

  • 57% of people tuning in for the Winter Olympics this year say they’ll do so via television
  • 13% will do so on a computer

Prime Time or Daytime–Exactly when will people watch?

The above data drew some interesting insights. In terms of age, 35-54-year-olds are more likely to answer “Just during primetime.” And when it comes to where people like to donate their money to a cause, educational charity donors are more likely to answer “Throughout the day.”

What is driving this growth in Winter Olympic Interest?

Expected viewership is up, and we don’t have a clear reason as to why, necessarily, but we do have some strong guesses. You could say Olympic athletes have been more front and center lately for many reasons. Certainly not limited to just these, but we thought of a few: USA gymnastics time in the spotlight via the Larry Nassar abuse cases, or the popularity of “I, Tonya”. But, our gut is the use of social media.

These young athletes are competing, and in some cases, have developed social personas via their social media feeds. People have an opportunity to know them on a more personal level. There is also heightened interest in certain figure skaters, like Adam Rippon, who is one of the first openly gay winter Olympians.

When we asked an engagement question (i.e., not collected with any rigor, but still weighted to U.S. Census figures) you’ll see that figure skating takes the cake as the favorite event:

Are you one of the 52% of Americans closely following the Olympians this winter? There’s certainly a rise in projected viewership; whether it has to do with a social media use among athletes or something else more global, we’ll be interested to see if this projected uptick continues with the next Summer Olympic games. We’ll get back to you on that one.

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