By Laura Frank and Betsy Cameron Williams

London 2012 brought the world together, and Olympic fans cheered on their favorite countries and athletes through Facebook. Over the course of the Olympics, we saw more than 116 million posts and comments relating to the games, and athletes collectively added 12.2 million likes to their Pages on Facebook between the opening and closing ceremonies.

We took a deeper dive into our data to see what really resonated between Olympians and their fans on Facebook.

Page Growth

– More than 1M people liked Jamaican Usain Bolt’s Page during the games, bringing his total to more than 8.1M.

– More than 850K people liked Michael Phelps’ Page during the games, bringing his total to more than 6.3M.

Local favorites became world-renowned athletes throughout the Olympics with their spirit and perseverance – a couple of athletes from Great Britain led the way here…

Jessica Ennis saw an increase of 632%, bringing her to a total of 801K people connected to her Page – starting from just 108.7K.

Tom Daley saw an increase of 672%, bringing him to a total of 1M – starting from just 120K.

…and there were the athletes who went into the Games relatively unknown and became stars with their wins and presence on Facebook. Gymnasts take the gold medal here:

Jordyn Wieber started out with 33K people who had liked her Page – and won over the hearts of more than 288K more, bringing her to a total of 324K (+818%)

Marcel Nguyen won more than silver for Germany – he added 193K new people to his Page’s starting base of 7.5K – for a new total of more than 200K (+2524%)

Gabby Douglas wins the “Rising Star” award – adding more than 591K people to her starting base of a slightly over 14K on her Page – she’s now at more than 600K (+4045%)

Nicknames
Part of the fun of the Olympics is getting to know the athletes over the 17 days of competition – even their nicknames.

On July 31, the day Michael Phelps became the most-decorated Olympian, we saw an increase of more than 1200% in the volume of mentions containing his nickname, “Baltimore bullet.” Female fans led this charge, with a 2700% increase in mentions of the nickname – though men helped the cause with a 925% increase. And, perhaps not surprising, Phelps’ home-state Maryland showed pride in their medal-studded “Baltimore bullet,” with the largest increase across states all the states, at 2800%.

Fans of all ages across the country embraced Gabby Douglas’ nickname, “Flying Squirrel.” Across the board, there was an increase of almost 2000% in mentions on August 2, the day she was awarded the gold medal in the Individual All-Around gymnastics competition. Increases were split evenly across male and female users – starting around 800% for the youngest people on Facebook (aged 13-17); jumping well over 2000% for people in their 20s and 30s; and increasing steadily on up to almost a 3000% increase for some of our older audience. New Jersey, Texas, and Maryland were especially enamored of this term of endearment, showing the highest increase in usage.

Athlete Posts
During the Olympics, athletes provided fans with a plethora of behind-the-scenes look at their London Olympic experience. From what life was like inside the Olympic Village to hearing how the athletes unwound after hours, numerous Olympians shared personal photos from the games, thoughts on their performances and more on Facebook.

These posts were both thoughtful and inspiring and spurred comments from fans that ranged from congratulatory words to sympathetic thoughts. Here are a few posts that caught our eye:

Olympic Athletes

Olympic Athletes

Olympic Athletes

Olympic Athletes

Olympic Athletes

Olympic Athletes