Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn are longtime household names, but at the start of the Winter Games, the A-list athletes were the only two recognizable Olympians heading to PyeongChang, South Korea.
According to data conducted exclusively for Variety by Hub Research, athlete awareness surged through the Winter Olympics, resulting in a huge increase in awareness for many of the Olympians competing in the 2018 games, most notably Rippon and Kim, who both saw drastic increases in their audience awareness.
Hub conducted two separate online surveys — a pre-wave, ahead of the Winter Olympics’ kickoff on Feb. 9; and a second wave on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25, the day of the closing ceremonies. The surveys were tested through 1,004 consumers who said they had watched at least some of the Winter Games.
By the end of the Olympics, White and Vonn were still the most recognized athletes, but their awareness jumped even further after the Winter Games with White’s recognizability going from 53% to 61% and Vonn’s numbers getting a bump from 51% to 59%. (White’s awareness may have also increased, due to him being surrounded by a sexual harassment scandal when old allegations against the snowboarder resurfaced immediately following his gold medal win.)
Before the Olympics kicked off, Kim’s awareness was just 6% and by the end of the games, the snowboarder — who became known for her viral tweets about breakfast sandwiches and ice cream — had her awareness skyrocketed to 46%. After she won her gold medal for the women’s halfpipe, Kim sat down for a Jimmy Fallon interview, which likely helped her buzz factor.
Rippon — one of the two openly gay Olympians competing for Team USA, who constantly made headlines and garnered Hollywood fans for his comical tweets and outspoken support for the LGBTQ community — surged from 6% to 43% awareness.
Other Olympians who achieved star status with a significant rise in their awareness include figure skate Nathan Chen, alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, figure skating team Maia and Alex Shibutani, snowboarders Kelly Clark, Lindsey Jacobellis, Jamie Anderson, hockey players Amanda Kessel and Brianna Decker, freestyle skiers Maddie Bowman and Ashley Caldwell, plus speed skater JR Celski.
Hub Research also added some winning athletes to their post-Games survey who were not represented in the first survey, including Red Gerard, who ended up in eighth place overall after the Olympics, ahead of some athletes who were at the top of the list of pre-Games awareness. Per Hub’s data, Gerard’s heightened awareness is part due to him embarking on a U.S. media tour in between events.
Hub’s data also showed that the number of survey participants who had said they hadn’t heard of any of the athletes ahead of the Olympics dropped by half by the closing ceremony.