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:

Sport            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%
Gymnastics              3,883,000              4,021,000              3.6%

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) is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry.