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The Wieber Effect: Do Stumbles Drive More Chatter Than Success?

Last night, millions of Americans were transfixed by the gold-medal winning performance of the U.S women’s gymnastics team.  The “Fab Five,” as members of the media now fondly call them, made history by catapulting the U.S. to its first Olympic gold in women’s gymnastics since 1996. 

However, one look at the social media discussion shows that Americans (and the NBC announcers) were far more consumed by concern for Jordyn Wieber—the reigning world champion who was narrowly edged out of the women’s all-around final earlier this week—than cheering on the team or team members who did advance to the women’s all-around final. 


At around 11 p.m. last night when the events were airing, Wieber was the subject of at least 9,000 tweets, blog posts, and Facebook posts, compared to Raisman and Douglas who garnered about 3,300 and 2,500 respectively. Even today, Wieber continues to dominate.

Raisman and Douglas will both advance to tomorrow’s all-around final, giving the U.S. another plum shot to win gold.  Raisman brought the house down with a floor routine and Douglas overcame a months-long struggle on her balance beam routine to prevail, yet neither sparked much conversation in the blogosphere or Twitterverse.   

Wieber also trumped mentions of Team USA in relation to gymnastics by about 4,000 mentions.  

Overall, Wieber received about 46 percent share of voice for all discussion about U.S. women’s gymnastics and the athletes competing.

This data raises an interesting question: Do setbacks inspire the American public to chime in more than success stories?  And if not, why do you think discussion about Wieber overshadowed the tremendous performances other team members delivered last night?

The Olympic Blog Guest Post is courtesy of Michelle Hirsch, a member of the Schwartz MSL Research & Insights Group


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Mark McClennan

Mark McClennan

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

For the past 20 years, Mark has led teams working with innovative technology and healthcare clients for MSLGROUP. He is also the national chair-elect for PRSA.

Mark McClennan

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Comments (2)

  • Mhirsch

    You are right that it’s a truly human response to worry about a talented young woman when she’s a bit down on her luck.  It just surprised me a bit not to see more positive emphasis on the other gymnasts’ mind-boggling work and what’s to come for Team USA.

  • Davida Dinerman

    Great post. I have a suspicion that people had their eyes on Wieber due to her setback earlier in the Games. This next round tested her endurance and ability to bounce back. I also think it showed the value of teamwork. All stats aside, these young ladies are nothing short of amazing, and we should admire them for not only their athletic ability, but also their grace under pressure.


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