Social Media’s Effect on Winter’s Largest Sporting Event

March 1, 2018


Driven by technology, the world we live in is moving very quickly – and the things people were talking about four years ago are very old news. Similarly, what we’re talking about today will be replaced over the next four years. It’s difficult to even imagine what will have everyone talking in year 2022.

When it comes to cultural events, social has been a big disruptor. In what ways have you seen social impacting the winter’s largest sporting event? Here are a couple of things we’ve noticed and a couple of big questions we’re pondering:

Brands aren’t just competing with other brands, they’re competing with personalities and influencers.

We can’t talk about major cultural events without addressing memes. In so few words, memes often tell a humorously accurate story of a cultural moment. The thing is, brands (and especially big brands) have a lot of red tape to get through to post on social. Those winning the “meme game” are rarely brands – instead, it’s social influencers and personalities. These social media figures don’t have as much to lose as brands and can afford to take more risks (and can even suffer a few misses), yet they are very much competing with brands within social feeds. This makes us think – in what other ways are brands competing with these personalities and influencers? And are there learnings that could be applied to creating content for brands?

 Social gives us a first-person, behind-the-scenes perspective of the athletes.

Many of this year’s competing athletes fall into the category of the youngest living generation, Gen Z. This is a generation that struggles to remember a time before social media, so naturally, social is the first place they turn to share news and updates. Because of their willingness to share through social, viewers get access to a different side of a cultural moment. No longer are the biggest, most interesting stories told through segments like 60 Minutes  – they’re told through platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. In the 80s, we only saw the carefully curated story major networks told us about Mary Lou Retton. Today, Chloe Kim is in much more control of curating her own image and telling her own story.

Can social can have an impact on performance?

Social media offers many benefits for the athletes and – at the very least – is a way for them to stay connected to their fans. Still, many discussed feeling distracted by the attention on social. And similarly to going on “media diets,” (where athletes will decrease interaction with media) some like Canadian Gabrielle Daleman went on a social media diet in an effort to stay focused on her sport. (Never mind the fact that she abandoned her diet.) In a time when online bullying is so abundant – especially for public figures – is it possible for these athletes to really tune it out, or can social engagement actually interfere with their performances?

How else does social media have an effect on big, cultural events?