As so often happens in Olympic sports, especially swimming that is so much more visible during the Olympics than any other time, USA Swimming is reporting a big membership spike after the success that was the London Olympics.
Early figures show that there were 184,426 registered members in the first two months of the “membership year” (September and October), which is an 21.7% increase over the same two months last year. Though USA Swimming CEO Chuck Wielgus said in address to LSC leadership that he thought this was likely due in part to clubs and LSC’s registering athletes earlier, this is still an impressive increase as compared to the 9% for the whole year that USA Swimming budgeted for.
If this number holds, it would blow away USA Swimming’s post-Beijing growth of 11.2%: the previous annual record.
The overall television ratings in the United States for the London Olympics parallels this explosion in interesting in swimming. The New York Times reported after the first week of the Games, dominated by coverage of sports like swimming and gymnastics, that daytime viewership was up 27% over Beijing in 2012, as were late night viewership (+24%), and weekend viewership (+14%).
Especially notable, partially due to the likes of television mega-stars Missy Franklin and Gabby Douglas, viewership among the teenage girls demographic was up 54% as compared to Beijing. Though USA Swimming didn’t release a demographic breakdown for the increase, it’s likely that seeing coverage of high school students like Franklin and Lia Neal on a nightly basis drove up participation among teenage girls.
This is an important demographic for USA Swimming, and in terms of age/gender are the biggest capitalization opportunity for the organization. In 2011, the most recent year in which figures were available, females made up 57% of the membership, but their numbers plummeted at a much greater rate than did males after the 9-11 age group, where membership peaks.
Percentage increases for previous post-Olympic years:
- London 2012-2013: 21.6%*
- Beijing 2008-2009 11.2%
- Athens 2004-2005 7.2%
- Sydney 2000-2001 4.9%
- Atlanta 1995-1996 ~8%
- Barcelona 1992-1993 10.1%