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SGMA Says The Olympics Do Impact Sports Participation

Date: 3/12/12

SILVER SPRING, MD – March 12, 2012 – Every four years, the world fixes its attention on the Summer Olympic Games.  This year’s edition in London will be no different.  While people love to watch the events on television, there is an interesting by product that occurs from all this exposure. 

People tend to show an increased interest in playing sports and being active after watching the Olympics Games on television…..on their computers or on their smartphones!  According to a recent study by SGMA Research, there is a positive correlation between extensive media coverage of the Olympics, especially when the Summer Games are held, and people showing an interest in being more active and taking an interest that year or the next.

An example of the Olympic influence on sports participation in the U.S. can be seen in the following activities which do have an Olympic affiliation:

2008 Participation 2009 Participation % Change
Table Tennis 17,201,000  19,301,000  12.2%
Triathlons 1,087,000   1,208,000 11.1%
Beach Volleyball 4,171,000    4,476,000   7.3%
Running 41,130,000  43,892,000  6.7%
Badminton 7,239,000 7,699,000   6.4%
Bicycling 38,114,000    40,140,000 5.3%


3,883,000   4,021,000


According to data from the most recent SGMA Study on Sports, Fitness and Recreational Activity Participation, from a spectator point of view, the Winter and Summer Olympic Games remain the two most popular spectator events for TV viewers of sports. 

“While some people may not be motivated to play a particular sport because of watching the Olympic Games, many people are encouraged to start exercising and getting in better physical shape because of the Olympic Games,” said Neil Schwartz of SGMA Research.  “In some cases, we see a straight line from Olympic coverage and increased sports participation and other times, it is not so direct.  The research clearly supports that analysis.”

According to SGMA Research, there were 16 fitness and exercise activities which experienced a boost in participation from 2008 to 2009.  They were high-impact aerobics, low-impact aerobics, step aerobics, cardio kickboxing, elliptical motion trainers, group stationary cycling, treadmills, rowing machines, stretching, yoga, barbells, dumbbells, hand weights, home gym exercise, resistance machines, and other exercise to music.  It just goes to show that increased visibility from athletic events like the Olympics can ‘raise all boats,’ so to speak, and not just benefit the sports that we watch on TV.

“It’s personally motivating to see people in such great physical shape who are excelling in athletic competition and having a good time,” commented Schwartz.  “The great athletes make it all look so easy which is what makes many of those sports very appealing to a newcomer.  We see these athletes on the field and in the pool and it motivates us to try and accomplish some of our individual athletic and fitness goals.”

“We expect strong interest in swimming in London with Ryan Lochte.  During the last Olympics, it was Michael Phelps’ quest for more gold medals which grabbed our attention.  We continue to see these sorts of efforts having a positive influence on swimming participation.  We also anticipate seeing interest in women’s soccer to grow, based on play by the U.S. Women’s soccer team, which almost won last summer’s Women’s World Cup,” said SGMA President Tom Cove.

The results of a recent study -- Sports Fandom in America -- by SGMA Research of 21 major sports leagues (amateur and professional) revealed various levels of popularity of each sport.  The 21 major fan-based sports were college basketball, college baseball, college football, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, international soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, NASCAR, NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL, Summer Olympics, Winter Olympics, PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, WWE, professional boxing, and X Games.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry. SGMA helps lead the sports and fitness industries by promoting favorable public policies, fostering participation through research, thought leadership, and product promotion. More information about SGMA membership, SGMA public policy platform, and SGMA’s National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at www.sgma.com.

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