Trends & Features

Olympic legacy

There’s no doubt that the UK engaged wholeheartedly with London 2012 – both sports fans and those who never normally followed sport in any way. But has enjoying the Games converted those non-sports followers into sports lovers for the long term?

Before the Olympics, the majority of the GB population (84 per cent) said they intended to follow the Games, according to the Sportscope monthly syndicated sports tracker run by Kantar Media.

This compares with the 40 per cent who follow football, ordinarily GB’s most followed sport. A significant proportion of those intending to follow the Games didn’t usually follow any sport at all – two-thirds of non-sports fans (16 per cent of the population as a whole) said they would follow it.

Levels of enthusiasm were high, with almost half the GB population giving their level of interest in the Olympics on a scale of 1-10 as 8 or above. This was the highest in Europe – evidence of the power of being the host nation. One in five non-sports fans claimed to have a high level of interest.

And we clearly acted on our intentions. The viewing figures show we engaged with the Olympics more eagerly than any other Games since the measurement of TV viewing figures began. A total of 24.5 million people in the UK watched the closing ceremony, for example. More people also watched coverage of the Olympics live than their usual TV viewing, including other sports – only three per cent of Olympics viewing was timeshifted (watched within seven days of live broadcast, on iPlayer for example).

National pride was particularly evident in Scotland, where the appearance of Andy Murray in the men’s singles tennis final against Roger Federer attracted a 60 per cent increase in viewing, compared with all Olympics coverage in the country.

The way people watched the Olympics, however, was markedly different to how they tend to follow other sports. Kantar Media analysed the BARB viewing data and found that 71 per cent of Olympics viewing was done in a group. This is higher than other recent high profile sporting events – 43 per cent watched the 2011 Rugby Union World Cup with friends and family, for example, and 59 per cent of all viewers of Euro 2012 viewed in a group. This highlights the celebratory, social nature of the Olympics experience – perhaps due to the excitement of being the host nation.

They also mainly followed the action on television – 80 per cent of the GB population watched on TV – whereas football, tennis and rugby fans will interact with the sport they love using a range of different channels, checking the score on their mobile device, for instance, if they can’t actually see the match.

Those who followed the Olympics accessed the Games through a lower number of touch points, on average, than other sports. 31 per cent of football fans watch football online via a PC, but only 19 per cent of Olympics followers in GB watched the Games in this way, for example.

Viewing of the Olympics via alternative touch points to TV ranged from watching on an internet enabled mobile device at eight per cent, to reading about it in newspapers and magazines at 26 per cent.

So non-sports fans were keen to see the Olympics, but their level of attachment was not particularly high – if they couldn’t be near a TV and missed something, they were happy to watch the highlights later.

This suggests the relationship between people being engaged by London 2012 and getting involved in sports on a long term basis was not as directly correlated as expected by those who hoped the Games would create a lasting legacy. The behaviour of ‘traditional’ sports fans and people who watched the Olympics was actually very different.

Despite the high levels of interest and the large numbers of non-sports fans in GB who followed the Games, only six per cent now say they have been encouraged to start participating, or to participate more, in sport post Olympics, and only 10 per cent intend to watch it more often on TV.

Half of non-sports fans do agree the Olympics showcased London at its best and 43 per cent believed the Games would have a lasting impact on sport. Yet their behaviour has not been fundamentally changed – they don’t intend to pay more attention to sport in future. Sports fans, however, are a lot more optimistic, with almost a third claiming the Games has encouraged them to start participating or to participate more in a sport.

The broad attraction of the Games, compared with other sports, was enormously captivating. Yet it doesn’t appear to have had the ‘sticking power’ to create long term sports fans from those who didn’t normally like sport.

People were pulled along by the excitement – it was an experience, an event to enjoy with family and friends – but non-sports fans have not remained engaged in sport now the Olympics is over. This suggests that to create an overall legacy of participation and take up from major sporting events like this requires integrated, sustained activity that goes beyond the event itself.

• Data on intentions and attitudes around the Olympics comes from Sportscope, Kantar Media’s syndicated research service that provides insights into the international sports market. Sportscope measures consumer consumption of sport, awareness and preferences within sport, attitudes towards recognised sponsorships, spend and purchasing patterns and sport participation rates across a number of international markets. This creates trends of key metrics across multiple sports, sponsorships and countries over time. The data in this article covers GB during August-September 2012 and is claimed rather than actual.

• Kantar Media’s InfoSys+ TAM (Television Audience Measurement) analysis software was used to analyse viewing data. All figures are fully consolidated (live + 7 day Playback) figures, according to BARB methodology. All Olympic programming data is based on analysis of BBC1, BBC2 and BBC3.

Picture credit (homepage): LOCOG

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