Every four years, there is a short period where almost everyone in the world is paying attention to the same thing: the Olympic Winter Games. For the past few decades, that has meant tuning into to the games on television, but numbers from 2014’s Winter Olympics in Sochi show that TV viewership is dropping. Instead, people are experiencing the Olympics via the internet, often while engaging with social media platforms. For Olympic stars, the rise of Instagram presents an opportunity to share their experiences and personalities with the world in a more authentic way.
For marketers, the sudden surge in popularity of the Olympic stars of 2018 provides a crop of new potential influencers for brand collaborations. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular athletes and see how they perform in their sport and on Instagram.
The official Olympics Instagram account has 1.8 million followers and had its largest growth phase during the Olympic Games in 2016. With the beginning of this year’s games, the account has gained a significant number of followers. It seems that audiences are engaging with sporting events over social media more and more. This trend is also evident in the account for this year’s Olympics, PyeongChang2018, which has 177,000 followers at the moment and an accelerating growth rate of 214.3 percent.
InfluencerDB’s media metrics of the official Olympics Instagram account
Just like the official channels, the accounts of individual athletes are seeing follower growth and increased engagement. Let’s turn to the Olympic stars that are creating the most buzz on their Instagram accounts.
1. Lindsey Vonn, Team USA, Alpine Skiing: @LINDSEYVONN
With four World Cup overall champion wins and an Olympic gold medal, Lindsey Vonn is skiing royalty. The American skier has won World Cup races in all five disciplines of alpine skiing, something only five other women have accomplished. She came away with a just bronze this year, and was disqualified in the combined alpine event after missing a gate early on. So while the 2018 Olympics were a bit of a bust for her, she still rules on social media.
With almost 1.4 million followers, she is one of the biggest Olympic influencers on Instagram. With an audience quality score of 84 percent (B+), she’s also popular with brands. Her partnerships include paper towel brand Bounty and sports brand Under Armour.
2. Shaun White, Team USA, Snowboarding: @SHAUNWHITE
Skate- and snowboard star Shaun White is probably the most famous snowboarder in the world. When he was only nine years old, White became friends with skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, then 26. Hawk coached White and turned him into a professional skateboarder. White has already won a gold medal at this year’s games. That brings his total to three, making him the greatest Olympian snowboarder worldwide.
His Instagram following has increased accordingly, at an incredible follower growth rate of 119.52 percent. However, his recent win was overshadowed when discussions about sexual misconduct accusations from 2016 came up again after White dismissed the allegations as “gossip” in an interview.
Brand partnerships of the social media star, who now has 1.2 million followers on Instagram, include headphone brand Beats by Dre.
3. Chloe Kim, Team USA, Snowboarding: @CHLOEKIMSNOW
Another snowboarder, Chloe Kim, made history at this year’s Olympic Winter Games when she became the youngest woman ever to win an Olympic medal in snowboarding. With her outstanding performance, the 17-year-old won the hearts of many new fans along with her gold medal.
She has already had a collaboration with cookie brand Oreo, and chances are good that the Californian will be an attractive target for even more marketers in the future.
4. Adam Rippon, Team USA, Figure Skating: @ADARIPP
Everybody has been talking about Adam Rippon. When he took home the bronze in the figure skating team event, he became the first openly gay, male U.S. athlete ever to win a medal in the Winter Olympics. His Instagram metrics on InfluencerDB are as strong as his performance.
His follower count rose from 36,000 in February 2017 to 486,000 today. With a quality grade of A- and an engagement of 29.2 percent, he has one of the best Instagram metrics of the Winter Olympians. Although the 28-year-old didn’t win any further medals, the buzz around him has continued due to his political feud with Mike Pence and his witty comments and tweets.
I was recently asked in an interview what its like to be a gay athlete in sports. I said that it’s exactly like being a straight athlete. Lots of hard work but usually done with better eyebrows.
— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) 28. Dezember 2017
5. Red Gerard, Team USA, Snowboarding: @REDGERARD
17-year-old Red Gerard was probably the biggest surprise at this year’s Winter Olympics. Competing in the Olympics for the first time, the snowboarder won gold and became the youngest male Olympic snowboard champion ever. But his win was preceded by quite a chaotic morning. The night before the event, Gerard stayed up late binge-watching the comedy series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” so he overslept the next day. When he finally woke up, he couldn’t find his jacket– an important piece of equipment for a snowboarder.
The rough start didn’t keep him from victory, and the audience loves his laid-back attitude. Gerard has one of the highest follower growths on Instagram and an excellent audience grade. His partnerships on Instagram include Mountain Dew, Ice Breakers, and Xfinity.
Red Gerard’s follower growth on Instagram
6. Marcel Hirscher, Team Austria, Alpine Skiing: @MARCEL__HIRSCHER
Marcel Hirscher began the Olympics as a favorite in the giant slalom event, but no one could have guessed how historic his performance would be. The Austrian alpine skier finished the event 1.27 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Henrik Kristoffersen. This margin is the largest victory margin since 1968. His fellow competitors and skiing stars all agree that Hirscher is the best skier in the world at the moment.
According to our research, he’s not only the best skier but also has the best audience quality in our list of Olympic stars on Instagram, with 99 percent. So far the 28-year old hasn’t had any partnerships on Instagram, but with his excellent metrics, brands should definitely consider him when planning their next influencer campaign.
InfluencerDB’s target group analysis of Marcel Hirscher’s Instagram account
7. Mirai Nagasu, Team USA, Figure Skating: @MIRAINAGASU
In the 2018 Olympics so far, no one has embodied the spirit of persistence in the face of obstacles more than Mirai Nagasu. The American figure skater almost gave up on the sport after she was passed over for a spot on the Olympic team in 2014. Luckily, she decided to keep going and ultimately became the first American woman– and the third woman ever– to land a triple axel.
The triple axel is considered the most difficult of the six recognized jumps in figure skating. The 24-year old has 165,000 followers on Instagram and has collaborated with the organic food line O Organics.
8. Laura Dahlmeier, Team Germany, Biathlon: @LAURA_DAHLMEIER
Laura Dahlmeier is the German superstar of this year’s Olympic Winter Games. Already, the 24-year-old biathlete has won two gold medals and one bronze, and experts are confident that there will be more to come. On Instagram, Dahlmeier has had constant follower growth since the beginning of 2017, reaching a follower count of 115,000.
Her followers are not only numerous, they are also engaged– her account has a 34.6 percent engagement score. While Dahlmeier doesn’t have any official partnerships yet, she could be an interesting collaborator for sports and fitness brands, especially in Germany.