The biggest sporting event of the summer is well underway in Rio. With a potential audience estimated at three billion viewers overall, the world looks to Brazil for three weeks in August to follow the 206 countries taking part in the 306 events in 28 different sports.

If 60% of U.S. residents (16-64 years old, connected to the Internet) claim to follow, watch on TV or online, which sports are they most passionate about? Who are these U.S. fans, and how do they view the event through the prism of social media? By analyzing their demographic profile, we can establish the 3 major keys to success in reaching and engaging:

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  1. By targeting the right population  

The Summer Olympic Games are the 2nd most popular sporting event overall in the United States, second only to the NFL (which 62% of survey respondents claim to follow).

Interest is split fairly evenly across gender (53% men and 47% women for the Olympics), while age distribution is balanced and slightly younger: 38% of fans of the Olympics are between 16 and 34 years, compared to 35% of NFL fans.

Not surprisingly, the biggest populations of Olympic fans coordinate with states that have the largest populations but also over index slightly in New York (106 index value).

  1. By optimizing your video content for social networks

U.S. fans of the Olympics are particularly active online and on social networks but interestingly spend 2 minutes less per day on social networks compared to the average American.

These fans have a higher presence on social platforms than the average user. They are present and active on Facebook (1.06x more than average), Twitter (1.06x) and Snapchat (1.08x), where they are major consumers of video (watching videos is among the top 3 interactions on each platform for these fans).

This affinity for video content is illustrated by the success of advertising on social networks. Under Armour’s spot (unofficial sponsor of the Olympic Games) featuring Michael Phelps has 10+ million views. This demonstrates that unofficial brands have their part to play and can surpass the official sponsors on social. According to a study by AdWeek , VISA is the only official sponsor of the Olympics which is in the top 5 brands with the most views (on content related to the Olympics).

  1. Publishing content according to their favorite sports

While it’s not an Olympic sport, it’s not surprising that football remains the most followed sport by this group: 89% say they follow football on TV, online, or live, and is 1.34x more than the average American.

In addition to football, U.S. Olympic fans also over index in affinity for basketball and soccer (which are Olympic events). While these are the most followed sports, viewers will still show their national pride by cheering on U.S. athletes in the pool and on the gymnastics mats.

When producing content, it’s essential to differentiate while tapping into the affinity that these fans have with the games. Video content seems to be most appropriate medium to resonate with the predominantly young fans of the Olympics. Keeping pulse on trending events and history making performances of the U.S. team will help inform content ideas that audiences care about.

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These insights can help brands build affinity with the fans of the Olympic Games. However, we know that brands must pay close attention to IOC restrictions on how the games are mentioned by non-official advertisers on social media. You can read in the guidelines that it’s forbidden to cite or to represent the word "Olympic" and all its derivatives, terms and graphics filed as a trademark. However, that hasn’t stopped brands from trying to be part of the conversation.

By Michael Greve (Senior Research & Insights Director)

* Source and Methodology: Global Web Index: 16-64 year olds in the U.S. connected to the Internet, declaring follow, watch on TV or online Olympics. Data collected in the second quarter 2016.