The Olympic Games Play a Central Role in the Government’s Efforts to get more Teenagers Active – But is it Working?
Just prior to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 a survey was conducted by the Harris Interactive Youth Center of Excellence to gauge interest in the Olympic Games. The survey discovered that whilst adults and children were looking forward to the sporting spectacular teenagers weren’t buying into the excitement at all. Only 46% of 13-18 year olds expressed an interest in the Games and just 27% said they were very interested.
This seems surprising especially as many of the sponsors, including McDonald’s and Coca-cola specifically target teenage audiences.
Another interesting point raised by the survey related to the sports teenagers were choosing to watch. Generally boys were opting for team sports whilst girls were choosing to watch gymnastics, swimming and diving which are primarily solo events.
A similar survey was conducted just after the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. Rather than concentrating on TV viewings like the 2008 study, this time researchers considered all viewing platforms including TV, the internet and mobile devices. It discovered that 71% of high school students watched Olympic coverage.
The survey of 72,000 high school and college students discovered that High School teenagers watched the Olympics for just 7 out of 16 days on TV however they also followed proceedings for 5 days on the internet and a further 1 day on mobile devices. Meaning that they actually followed the Games for 13 days out of 16.
The survey, conducted by Ypulse, also asked youth to agree or disagree with a series of attitudinal statements regarding the Olympics, finding that more than three-quarters of youth disagreed either strongly (55%) or somewhat (23%) with the statement "I am turned off by seeing countries compete against each other," while more than two-thirds agreed either strongly (22%) or somewhat (46%) with the statement, "I like the sports that are played in the Winter Olympics."
On the negative side 38% of youths disagreed with the statement “I can relate to the Olympics athletes” and I think this may go some way to providing a clue as to how to turn youth back onto the Olympic Games on TV.
Coverage on the TV is limited to what are perceived to be the most popular sports. If a youth is choosing to view the Olympics on the internet and mobile devices then it is likely they are watching sports that don’t receive mainstream TV coverage.
One of the reasons London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games was because of their pledge for more youth involvement in sports, arts and culture. When Lord Coe unveiled the 2012 London Olympic logo he announced it was “ambitious, interactive and youth friendly" and went on to say “It is interactive and absolutely at the heart of what we need to do - engaging the attention of young people through new media and the virtual world they can get transported into….. It reaches out to young people in new and creative ways and uses the language that they understand and all the technology that is familiar to us."
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said “This is a truly innovative brand logo that graphically captures the essence of the London 2012 Olympic Games - namely to inspire young people around the world through sport and the Olympic values.”
I think the 2012 Olympic Games offer a truly unique opportunity to engage youth in activity but only if it is delivered in the right way. Just as we are seeing in school PE lessons, teenagers are increasingly turned off by traditional sports and instead want the excitement of skateboarding, snowboarding, and BMX racing. They want to watch sports they can associate with and activities they can try themselves. In addition girls are showing a disinterest in team sports in favour of individual pursuits such as gymnastics and diving.
We need to consider the wants, needs and desires of teenagers when we choose the viewing schedule and promotion of the 2012 Olympic Games but if we get it right we can revolutionise the way teenagers view sport and hook them into exciting activities and amazing opportunities to excel.
After spending her teenage years as an international athlete Maggie Ayre qualified as a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Adviser. For the last two years she has specialised in teenage girls working as a Fitness Coach for Teenage Girls. Recently Maggie has developed the 3G Program and she is currently looking for schools to take part in a pilot project in September 2011. More information about Maggie’s work with teenagers can be found at www.maggieayre.com or www.femalefitnessrevolution.com.