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Reflecting on the Evolution of Olympic Coverage in the Media

I know what you’re thinking, it’s October and the Olympics are long gone. Lochte’s night out, Bolt’s relaxed smile and Phelps’ medals record are all behind us. But media impressions data continues to stream in from Olympic coverage that showcases a redeveloping media landscape that advertisers like us always have on our minds. 

Every four years, I become enraptured in sports that on a normal day, I couldn’t care less about – diving, rowing, water polo, and the list goes on. Some that I don’t even really fully understand – steeplechase being one that I’d never even heard of until this year and had to Google (and still don’t understand.) And every four years I want to be an Olympian and wonder what it would be like to stand on that podium and hear the national anthem play.

In the most recent games, I was so enthralled with the athletes that I ended up following them all on social media to gain more insights into their lives behind the scenes. Everything from Simone Biles meeting Zac Efron, to the backstory of Kerri Walsh Jennings partnering with her former rival in hopes to win a fourth gold, to Michael Phelps breaking a more than 2,000-year-old Olympic record – I even follow his fiancé on Instagram to see what cute photos she posts of their baby. I do NOT follow Ryan Lochte.

This summer’s Olympics clearly demonstrated that stories outside of the gym, the pool and off the court have nearly surpassed the actual athletics. What used to be a television-only event has evolved into a social media frenzy, a double-edged sword for people like me who hate the spoilers, but love the backstory.  Just like skits from The Tonight Show or Carpool Karaoke collecting millions of views online, more people appeared to have watched a great deal of Olympic coverage on their own time. In fact, USA Today reported that “on Facebook, 227 million people interacted with 1.5 billion posts, while Twitter users sent 187 million tweets, yielding 75 billion impressions.” Meanwhile, NBC’s television broadcasts were awarded silver for audience generated.

Unfortunately, this all led to spoilers galore. Because most of the main events that were shown in primetime were not live, it was almost impossible not to stumble upon spoilers for major events, such as the women’s gymnastics team and individual golds. Although I’m just as guilty as the rest, I long for the days when we watched the Magnificent Seven compete and had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. Also, when did I become old enough to say “I long for the days”???



What does all this mean for the future of major event coverage? Will major television networks broadcast future Olympics live via social media, rather than rerun events hours later to capture a prime time audience that may already be keen to the results? Has our world become so small that the threat of time zone generated spoilers will force all content online for live viewing 24/7?

And finally, when did trampoline become an Olympic sport? Whaaaaaat?! 




Author Brandi Dawson has been a part of the Access account services team since 2013. Brandi develops and maintains relationships with clients and works with them to meet their goals through managing deadlines and budgets. Click here to learn more. 

Topics: Agency Life