In this guest post, GlobalWebIndex's Felim McGrath shares his thoughts on the shift towards mobile for sports fans.

Many viewed London 2012 as the first true ‘Mobile Olympics’ but Rio will be a real sporting milestone for the smartphone. As recently as 2014, PCs and laptops had a 10 percentage-point lead over smartphones for personal ownership, but today, 92% of self-confessed Olympics fans own a smartphone. Such broad penetration means that this summer’s competition promises to be the smartphone’s time to shine.

In the most direct way, many will chose to engage with the Olympics through video on their phones. Despite the clear importance attached to watching sports live rather than on catch-up, 7 in 10 Olympics fans will watch sports coverage or highlights online. Given their larger screens and picture clarity, PCs, tablets and laptops remain the most popular means of watching online sports coverage but close to half will be watching on their mobiles. 

But even when they are sat in front of the TV, almost all Olympics fans are still engaged with their smartphones. 85% of say they use another device while watching TV. The clear trend is the rise of the smartphone as a dual-screening device – they are now being used by 62%, up by five percentage points since 2014. In contrast, laptops and PCs have both seen dips over the same period.

The majority of dual-screen actions are ‘informal’ in nature and not directly related to the content being watched. Just 14% of second-screeners say they share opinions and only 13% report interacting with the online content of a TV show. The fact that that small minorities are doing this still demonstrates the opportunity to integrate off-screen online activities with on-screen content, but social actions like chatting to friends and checking social networks dominate the second-screening trend. Clearly, many Olympics viewers are keen to connect with other fans and see reactions to the competition in real-time.

All of this means that smartphones need to be at the core of any brand’s approach to engaging Olympics fans. Whether watching Olympics coverage directly, or getting online while following the games on TV, mobiles will be central to Olympics fans’ interaction with the competition – and with brands.

GlobalWebindex - June 16 - The Rio Olympics is the Smartphone’s Time to Shine