The Olympic Games - the UAE's second most popular sporting event
August 8th, 2016, YouGov

The Olympic Games - the UAE's second most popular sporting event

More than 2 in 5 residents interested in the leading international multi-sport event

This month, the eyes of the world will be focused on The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, with thousands of athletes from more than 200 different nations participating in a variety of sporting disciplines from 5th to 21st August.

The Olympic buzz will also be felt here in the UAE. As the nation takes its largest ever contingent of athletes to the prestigious event, fresh YouGov research shows that 42% UAE residents are interested in The Games, second only to the FIFA World Cup (54%). The ICC Cricket World Cup (38%) and Formula 1 (34%) are the third and fourth most popular sporting events in the UAE respectively.

Olympic interest does vary between the UAE’s different nationality groups. Western expats are by far the most interested in The Games (60%), making it their favourite sporting event. It is also popular amongst Asian expats (45%), but falls some way short of their interest in the ICC Cricket World Cup (56%). The UAE first participated in The Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles and won its first gold medal at Athens in 2004 - amongst the Emirati population, over a third (36%) are interested in The Games, with Arab expats the least interested (32%).

When observing consumer engagement with other global sporting tournaments and events, male UAE residents tend to be far more interested than female residents. However, The Olympics garner equal interest amongst both males and females. At the London 2012 Games, a record 44% of athletes were female and the Rio 2016 Games is expected to break that record again. Among women competing in the Rio Games, 18 year-old swimmer Nada Al-Bedwawi, the UAE’s flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony last week, is one of four female competitors from the UAE.

Amongst UAE residents who are interested in The Games, the most followed sport that features at the Olympics is football (53%). However, Olympic football appears in a different guise to the likes of the FIFA World Cup or various continental championships, as only three players aged over 23 can be selected. Unlike at London 2012, there will also be no participation from the UAE national football team in 2016. Tennis ranks second for the most followed sport (44%), followed by swimming (39%) and basketball (38%). A third follow athletics, which is also the most popular event at The Olympic Games globally.

The UAE’s Olympic fans most commonly follow sporting competitions via live TV coverage (60%) which will be jointly provided by BeIn Sports and OSN for Rio 2016. However, there is a clear interest in online and social media channels, with a large proportion using YouTube (50%), Facebook (48%) and online streaming (37%) to stay tuned in. Indeed, Facebook introduced a host of features for last week’s Opening Ceremony, including picture frames and country flag masks that can be added to people’s profiles, whilst users will see a special greeting atop their News Feeds leading them to a page with Olympic content including search results, conversations, events and live videos.

Commenting on the findings, Scott Booth, Head of Travel, Tourism and Leisure research at YouGov, says, "The Olympic Games is the most televised event around the world, and the UAE will be no exception with a large number of residents highly engaged with the sporting events The Games has to offer this year".

He adds, "From a sporting perspective, The Games generate feelings of pride, inspiration and patriotism and promote healthier lifestyles, as well as more active sports participation at grassroots level. From a commercial perspective, they generate high levels of TV viewership. Furthermore, an ever-increasing number of fans are following and discussing the event through online and social media platforms. For example, at London 2012, there were 15 million downloads of the official mobile app, 150 million Olympic related tweets and 100 million comments on Facebook. It will be crucial for those brands and media organisations looking to take advantage of consumer interest in the Olympic Games to have a strong online presence in order to engage with fans during Rio 2016".

Research conducted on the YouGov online panel amongst 7,457 respondents living in the UAE between 25 November 2015 and 4 August 2016. Data is broadly representative of the online adult population in the UAE.

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