Networked Insights Note: This is the fourth report in a new series Networked Insights is developing about the Olympics. We will continue to monitor top stories and provide data and analysis throughout the PyeongChang games, and will round out our coverage with a research report answering the question: What is the impact of the Olympics?
Men may dominate the conversation, but women hold the glory.
Despite earning less per year, and garnering fewer athletic-focused sponsorships, female athletes dominated in Olympics’ audience engagement and in gold medals – both domestically and internationally. So, Networked Insights wanted to find out, should female athletes be earning more than they are, simply based on the increased audience interest and success they’re experiencing?
To answer this, Networked Insights quantified the emotions, sentiments, and volume of engagement for both male audiences and female audiences during the Olympics and benchmarked against the total conversation.
The findings were clear and finite: women ruled and it could mean better sponsorship opportunities for brands.
Men and women talked about women’s events more than they talked about men’s events, and the margins were significant.
In fact, nearly 60 percent of the conversation during women’s events was held by men. And the conversation was mostly positive. Networked Insights found that of the total conversations, 43 percent related to success and 40 percent were bursting with pride for the athletes and for the country.
As women got their turn to compete in the various Olympic events, more than half of the engaged audience was male and conversations were mostly positive, too, also focusing on the success and pride of the win and the value to the country.
Those numbers aren’t surprising since women have won 12 of the 23 U.S. medals, and five of the nine U.S. gold medals.
The most recent gold medal earned by women was in hockey. The nail-biting shootout in the U.S. versus Canada game uprooted a four-time winning streak and broke a 20-year record. The last time the U.S. beat Canada in women’s hockey was in 1998, the first year the event was introduced to the winter games.
Should audience engagement translate to salary?
The hockey win is especially thrilling for women because it comes after a hard fraught fight for female financial fairness. Just one year ago, women claimed that USA Hockey wasn’t paying them a living wage. Some also said they had to work multiple jobs in addition to training and competing, despite being on a nationally recognized team.
After asking for a $68,000 salary and the same treatment men receive like being able to bring a guest to competitions, flying business class and have disability insurance. Women boycotted, the league threatened to bring in replacement players and the feud continued to become uglier before ultimately relenting in favor of the athletes. The final agreement was never publicly disclosed.
Most concerning the feud is just how far the ugliness spread. The women’s arguments drew support from other major player associations like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. It was also at the same time the national women’s soccer team was fighting for their own financial equality.
The battle for financial fairness isn’t limited to hockey or soccer.
Women earn 77 percent of what men earn and it’s even more pronounced in other sports. Adelphi University found in 2014 that athletes in the WNBA earn 1.6 percent of a male athlete in the NBA. In golf, women earn 16.6 percent of what men earn and in tennis, women earn 54 percent of what men earn.
Bottom line, it was a fight that women won for the longevity of major associations. And now with engagement up, trampling men, should an increased salary be implemented across the board?
If more than half of the Olympics audience, which is male-dominated, is engaging with women’s events more than men’s sports, it raises an opportunity for brands to better align themselves with female Olympic athletes.
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