Thursday, June 19, 2008

Phelps, Hamm Emerging as Most Talked-About Athletes Heading Into Beijing

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

The opening of the Beijing Olympic Games is just over six weeks away, and, in many sports, the selection of the competitors has yet to begin. But coverage of some athletes is already well under way. Michael Phelps, who won six gold medals at the Athens Games in 2004, is one of the names garnering a significant amount of coverage, according to analysis conducted on Dow Jones Insight. Phelps, who is shaping up as one of the “faces of the Games” in the U.S., was a popular topic in the social media (blogs and boards). During the period spanning May 17 to June 17, Phelps had 104 mentions, or 25% of total mentions of the top athletes being tracked . Phelps wasn’t as popular a target in the traditional media (print and online) on a percentage share basis, accounting for 19% of all mentions of the top 10 athletes, or 844 mentions.

Gymnast Paul Hamm garnered the most coverage in the traditional media, with 1,012 mentions, or 23%. Coverage of Hamm spiked during the period of May 19-25, after he broke his hand at the U.S. National Championship. Hamm, the all-around gold medalist in Athens, announced he will be unable to compete in the Olympic trials but has petitioned to be placed directly on the team. In contrast, Hamm received very little coverage in social media, with only 28 mentions, or 7%.

Based on their success in the Athens Games, Phelps and Hamm each head into the Beijing Games with significant sponsorship and endorsement deals already in place.

Despite the fact that the Olympic trials for track and field have yet to take place, sprinter Jeremy Wariner has received a significant amount of coverage in the social media; his 88 mentions were second to Phelps. He has also received some coverage in the traditional media, with 535 mentions, or 12%.

Among non-U.S. athletes being tracked, British marathoner Paula Radcliffe received the most coverage in the press and on blogs, with 727 and 75 mentions, respectively. Other non-U.S. athletes being tracked, including Chinese diver Guo Jingjing and Australian swimmers Leisel Jones and Cate Campbell, have received scant coverage in English-language sources.

[1] Dow Jones Insight is currently tracking media mentions of 12 athletes from various countries and sports selected because of their notoriety and sponsorship potential likely tied to their success in Beijing.

Methodology: Analysis includes 6,000 newspapers, wires, magazines, radio and TV transcripts; about 13,000 current-awareness news sites; 60,000 message boards and about two million blogs.

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