Rio 2016: Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Coca-Cola Dominated Social Chatter

Overall, Brandwatch tracked more than 23 million mentions of the Olympics, from Opening Ceremony through Closing Ceremony.

Two of the biggest stories throughout the 2016 Summer Olympic Games were the dominating performances of American swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

According to Brandwatch, they accounted for nearly one-half of athlete-based discussion on social media.

Data provided to SocialTimes by Brandwatch shows that, among top athletes at the Games, 25 percent of the social mentions were about Bolt and 24 percent about Phelps. American gymnast Simone Biles accounted for 11 percent of the social chatter.

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Overall, Brandwatch tracked more than 23 million mentions of the Olympics, from the Opening Ceremony (Aug. 5) through the Closing Ceremony (Aug. 21).

Here’s a look at the times when social conversation around the Olympics spiked, with swimmers Simone Manuel and Phelps driving the highest point (all times ET):

  1. 10 p.m. Aug. 11, more than 240,000 mentions: Manuel became the first woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming, while Phelps claimed a gold and a silver medal within the same hour.
  2. 9 p.m. Aug. 14, more than 236,000 mentions: Bolt won his third 100-meter gold medal.
  3. 9 p.m. Aug. 9, more than 203,000 mentions: Many mentions within this hour were focused on swimmers Phelps and Chad le Clos, both in the pool and the waiting room antics prior to the 200-meter butterfly race.
  4. 8 p.m. Aug. 5, more than 189,000 mentions: Opening Ceremony.
  5. 10 p.m. Aug. 13, more than 175,000 mentions: Phelps and his victory to accumulate 23 gold medals.

With all the talk of Phelps (and the bad publicity generated by teammate Ryan Lochte), you’d think that swimming would’ve been the most popular event talked about on social. Brandwatch found that soccer and gymnastics were the sports that had the most people buzzing online.

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Although the weeks and months leading up to the Olympics were fraught with news of corruption, contamination and shoddy venues, Brandwatch found that most of the social conversation during the Games had a positive tone.

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While the Olympics are landmark events for sports fans and athletes, it’s also one of the most-advertised events of the year. Brandwatch found that Coca-Cola and McDonald’s got the most social buzz for their dollar, as they were the most talked-about brands on social during the Games.

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Kellan Terry, Brandwatch’s senior public relations data analyst, offered his thoughts on how social media has changed the way people experience the Olympics:

The hour-by-hour mentions show that NBC was very aware of which events it would air during primetime time slots at night along the East Coast of the U.S. However, even though primetime saw the highest online mention peaks, viewership on television was down. Social media continued to roll through out each day and would, at times, spoil outcomes reserved for primetime syndication. Brands hoping to participate in the Olympic conversation need to monitor and participate socially throughout each day.

Readers: What was your favorite Olympic moment from Rio?

Justin Lafferty is the founder and CEO of On Base Marketing and the former editor of SocialTimes. Follow him on Twitter: @JLafferty21 and @OnBaseMarketing.