With U.S.-based Olympics media coverage usually leaning heavily on American victories in popular sports like swimming, track and field, and gymnastics, it's easy for athletes from other countries or more obscure sports to get lost in the shuffle.
Sprout Social compiled a list of the 2016 Olympic athletes worthy of watching and engaging with on social media, including five not-so-famous athletes deserving of fan and brand attention. (A few well-known Team USA athletes, including Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Simone Biles, also made the list.)
"For people who are super well-known, like Michael Phelps, there's more of a machine around their overall brand, so for some of the lesser-known athletes, where it might be their first Olympics, it's maybe a little more interesting to look at their daily lives – there's a sense of newness to who they are and what they're doing, which is fun," said Andrew Caravella, VP of marketing at Sprout Social. "In some cases, the newer athletes are underdogs, and everyone always loves an underdog story."
Here's what makes these breakout Olympians worthy of following on social media, according to Sprout Social.
Nicola Adams, boxer, Great Britain
Adams is the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title, and she provides fans with insight into her training routine and personality on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. She also discusses her involvement with causes like the nonprofit organization Fight for Peace.
Ashley Lawrence, women's soccer, Canada
Lawrence, who finished sixth with the Canadian soccer team at the 2015 World Cup, has been chronicling her road to Rio with a lot of fun photos and team videos on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
Sjef van den Berg, archery, the Netherlands
After tieing my competition PB of 687 in the qualification, I won every match with 6-0 to win my 4th Lowlands Shootout this year. Looking forward to the last week of training before getting in the plane to Brazil! #archery #lowlands #feelingstrong #roadtorio #handboog #OpPapendal Photo:@niels.buitenhuis
Although van den Berg has a mere 591 Twitter followers, he still has a robust presence on both Twitter and Instagram, and he regularly responds to and engages with fans. He's also partnered with World Archery to appear in archery how-to videos for YouTube.
"Social provides a great opportunity for lesser-known sports like archery to get visibility. What's cool about him is that he actually responds to people. He's very approachable," Caravella said.
Lydia Ko, women's golf, New Zealand
Golf is making its first appearance as an Olympic sport since the 1904 Olympics, and Ko is one of the sport's rising stars. At 19, she was the youngest women's golfer to be named No. 1 in professional golf. She's also an avid traveler and foodie, as shown by her Instagram posts.
Nate Ebner, rugby, USA
Rugby also is making a comeback as an Olympic sport, having last appeared at the 1924 games. Ebner, currently an NFL player for the New England Patriots, presents an inside look at rugby's attempts to gain more attention and popularity in the U.S.
"He's taken the visibility he already had in the NFL and transferred it to another sport, which is cool. It shows the power of a social following transferring itself from one sport to another," Caravella said.