Olympians’ social media popularity doesn’t always align with mainstream media coverage, Streem data finds

The Australian Olympian taking the biggest social media profile to Tokyo is not one of our world-leading swimmers.

Nor is it Wimbledon champ Ash Barty, leading female footballer Sam Kerr or one of the many Boomers basketballers plying their trade in the NBA.

Instead, the title of Australia’s most prominent athlete on social media goes to skateboarder Shane O’Neill, according to research from media monitoring firm Streem who compared the Twitter and Instagram profiles of Australia’s Olympic team.

Despite appearing in just 49 distinct print and online media items in Australia in the past 12 months – compared to Barty’s 9300 – O’Neill is huge on Instagram, where he has amassed 1.4 million followers.

The list sees recently added Olympic sports such as skateboarding, surfing and BMX – which have traditionally struggled for mainstream media attention – come into their own.

Athletes performing regularly on the global stage had a distinct advantage. Eight basketballers, four surfers, three cyclists, two tennis players and one footballer made the cut, with swimmer Cameron McEvoy squeezing in at 20th after Alex De Minaur withdrew from Tokyo last week following a positive coronavirus test.

But they all fell behind skateboarding superstar O’Neill, whose videos of assorted tricks and stunts have attracted a huge audience.

The list contains six women and 14 men. The highest-ranked woman is surfer Sally Fitzgibbons, who is #3 overall.

A couple of notable omissions from Australia’s Olympics team – Ben Simmons (6.6m followers) or Nick Kyrgios (2.1m) – could have been number-one had they chosen to compete in Tokyo.

But even they would have been dwarfed by swimmer/musician (and one-time partner of Miley Cyrus) Cody Simpson, who failed to make the swim team despite a credible showing in the Olympic trials where he made the final for the 100m butterfly but finished last.  Simpson has more than 10 million fans across Twitter and Instagram.

Streem corporate affairs lead, Conal Hanna, said Instagram was the clear social network of choice for athletes.

“Instagram and Twitter are the two platforms that most athletes are using to engage with their fans, which is why we focused our analysis on them.

“Of the two, Instagram is considerably more popular, with the top 20 Olympians racking up 8.6m followers there, compared to 2.5m on Twitter.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.