Rio: Inspiring Golden Opportunities

Posted by Manda Pawelczyk on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 @ 08:10 AM

The 2016 Summer Olympics have come to an end and will be remembered as the event with awe-inspiring stories of hard work, dedication, amazing feats and chasing your dreams. During the past 16 days of the Olympics, the lessons learned span all ages, but perhaps the group with the most to gain is our youth. But did they tune in? In the first half of 2016, only 44% of youth (37% of kids, 48% of tweens, and 49% of teens) said they were interested in watching the Summer Olympics.Those numbers increased significantly as the Rio Olympics actually got under way. According to participants in our August 2016 YouthBeat survey, 65% of youth (58% of kids, 74% of tweens, and 62% of teens) said they want to watch the Summer Olympics. 

Not only were youth tuning into the excitement of the event, but the stars of Rio are already having an impact on them. While athletes like Lebron James and Michael Jordan usually dominate youth’s list of favorite athletes, in our August survey medalists such Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, and Simone Biles have made their way to the top of the list.  Olympic swimmers Katie Ledecky, Lily King, and Missy Franklin also got mentions as did soccer star, Alex Morgan, and volleyball player, Kerri Walsh Jennings. And already 11% of the mentions name a member of the gold medal winning gymnastics team, the Final Five (Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, or Madison Kocian). 

The Olympics leave many youth feeling hopeful that they too could someday capture a medal of their own.  When asked what they want to be when they grow up, being an athlete is the second most popular career boys aspire to. For girls it is tenth. But the concentration of strong and successful women athletes being showcased on TV screens and in the news during the Olympics may leave more girls with athletic dreams of their own. That is what the United States Olympic Committee and the U.S. summer sport national governing bodies are hoping for. While 54% of youth participate in a sport, only 13% do it at an elite or highly competitive level.* The NBC Gold Map hopes to use the platform of the Olympics and the inspiring stories of its athletes to encourage youth to start their own journey in an Olympic sport, whether for fun or competitively. The website stands as a great resource for youth to learn more about each Olympic sport and how they can get involved. Here at YouthBeat, we believe anything that encourages kids, tweens, and teens to try new opportunities and chase their dreams is a worthy endeavor. 

 *According to YouthBeat data from January to June 2016.

Tags: olympics, kids, youth research, kids tweens teens, kids tweens teens market research, athletes

Miley Cyrus’ Haircut and What it Says about Youth Right Now

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Sep 14, 2012 @ 01:39 PM

56386418When it comes to trend spotting, sometimes it makes sense to head right to the top…of the head. When we say “80’s” music, shoulder pads, or neon jelly bracelets may come to mind, but almost undoubtedly you think about hair. Big bangs, tight curls, macho Mohawks, creative colors. They all serve a more symbolic purpose than it may seem. It’s not uncommon to hear a cohort characterized by the way they wore their locks – bobs, pompadours, bee hives, feathered locks, afros, and “poofs” – or a star to transcend because of their hair – Farrah, Dorothy Hamil, Mr. T, “Rachel,” Vanilla Ice, Snooki, and, of course, the Bieb.

And, if you want to understand a cohort’s connection to convention or to read into their beliefs and values, you may want to pay attention to the changing look and length of youth’s locks!

Like Samson, girls know that hair holds power. So, what does it say that Miley Cyrus just got rid of hers? Is she too young to remember what happened when Felicity lost her trademark tresses? Is Miley’s bright blonde shade and punked-up style a personal statement, PR move, or, possibly, a ploy to just fit in? We think it could be all three.

Of course, Miley might be engaged in a very age-appropriate search for identity, and she just happens to be doing it under the spotlight (see our blog post about the first time Miley started to explore). It’s possible that she’s trying to shock us to ensure that she stays on our minds. But, could it also be that Miley’s look is part of a bigger statement being made by many youths right now?

It was just a few months ago that Katniss’ feminine braids – which created an intriguing contrast with her powerful persona – dominated fashion. Taylor Swift, with her twirly tresses, dominated our list of top musicians. Stars stopped hiding their use of extensions and started showing off the ways they made their hair longer with ease.

Now it seems hair has flipped with even Willow Smith foregoing whipping her hair back and forth for a shorter look.  Miley’s move may be more about asserting her independence from the haters who question why this 19-year-old needs to get engaged to finance Liam Hemsworth, who, ironically, shared the screen with Katniss’ braids in The Hunger Games. Rihanna recently donned a daringly short do as she courted controversy by embracing her ex, Chris Brown. Perhaps, like getting over an ex, getting a haircut just helps you get over hurtful words and the scrutiny of the public and the press.

Or perhaps this look is about a bigger trend? It seems that 2012 is the year of girls empowerment: from the Fab 5 of Olympics fame and survivalist stars like Katniss, to the empowered sounds of Selena Gomez, Pink, Beyonce and Rihanna. Girl power isn’t new but what may be new is what it looks like right now. It’s a trend we’ll be watching, but right now it seems most characterized by:

  • Substance over style. Power gained through ideas or talents, not through press.
  • Physical strength, along with feminine fortitude.
  • Savvy over sass. Think less sassy sayings on their backsides and more smarts about managing their career, image or relationships with authenticity.
And focus over frolic. We don’t see Lindsay on this list. We don’t see scandalous celebs making their presence known. Instead, girls’ re-empowered might be a reclaiming of girl power by real girls – even if they are still famous ones.

Tags: Social Issues, girls, kids tweens teens, Miley Cyrus, olympics

What Winning Looks Like For Kids, Tweens and Teens

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Aug 16, 2012 @ 02:34 PM

In our final mini-poll on the 2012 Olympics, we asked our KidzEyes and TeensEyes panelists to tell us who their favorite Olympic team was. Not surprisingly, 39% of teens and 41% of kids selected the fab five – the women’s gymnastics team – as the one they most wanted to watch. These girls put on a show throughout the games. Not only did they exhibit death-defying feats, but they also brought drama to spare!

  • Jordyn Wieber, the world champ and expected all-around competition victor failed to qualify for the finals.gty womens soccer mr 120809 wg
  • 16 year-old Gabby Douglas brought home the gold (the first African American girl to do so)
  • Aly Raisman’s parents mimed her whole routine from the stands, warranting an award of their own!

But along with the highlights, came some moments that made us cringe. Moments after Aly Raisman qualified for the all-around competition finals, she assured an interviewer that she never doubted that she would make the cut. But she did this within shouting distance of her teammate and friend, Wieber, whose Olympic dreams were shattered with Raisman’s rise. Yes, Raisman exhuded confidence, but what about empathy? McKayla Maroney took her silver medal with a very public smirk, not with the grace of a girl who won second place in a worldwide competition. And Gabby Douglas, when asked, on the Today Show, about how life would change, talked about how she was “trending on Twitter” and how everyone in the world knows who she is. What happened to, “I’m still the same old girl…”?

How this team handled victory and defeat invites the question: how important does good sportsmanship matter to kids, tweens and teens today? And what role does humility play in youth’s definition of winning?

In fairness, other Olympic athletes offered an alternative approach…

Sticking with the girls, we saw Missy Franklin (a 17-year old high school senior) who broke down after seeing her parents post-race, noting how appreciative she was to have their support. The women’s world soccer team (who undeniably have mojo to spare!) embraced their rivals, the Japanese women. They traded in trash-talk for a different kind of discourse. Megan Rapinoe noted, “They snatched our dream last year. And still we have that respect for them.”Girls around the world learned a valuable lesson -- play hard, but maintain perspective off the field.

But does the way that kids, tweens and teens define winning really matter for marketers? Absolutely. A few years ago, I received questions over the course of two weeks from three different clients who wanted to know what “winning” looked like for kids, tweens and teens.

  • Do they want to see an athlete’s win as the result of hard work?
  • Should you show them enduring the toughest training session, or simply show them with the trophy?
  • Is the best face of your brand the one who wins with flair or with focus?
And of course, ask a tween boy about their best sports moment, and you’ll hear about homeruns, not practice sessions. But, generally, when we ask this generation (often dismissed as fame-seeking and self-promoting) which celebrities they love and why they love them, we often hear them talk about character alongside championships. Granted, without a win, they wouldn’t likely make it on kids’, tweens’ and teens’ radars! But, when they talk about actors and actresses, or musicians they love, they often talk about how they do good things for others, or how they haven’t forgotten where they came from. The American Idol contestants who rise to the top are often equal parts exciting performance and appreciation for the opportunity. And, similarly, we predict that the athletes who will endure in the minds of youth will be those who are a little less arrogant and a bit more authentic. Because at the end of the day, youth want their winners with a healthy dose of humility, and they’re willing to stick with the second place finisher if they can stand-up even when they’re not on the podium.

Tags: play, Sports, TV, culture, youth media, olympics

Are kids and tweens interested in the Olympics?

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Aug 03, 2012 @ 11:47 AM

The Olympics are seemingly custom-made for a kid audience: A celebration of amateurs…A field-day of fantastic proportions…A rendezvous of people from remote places…And a chance to see some of their favorite, but often under-broadcast sports performed on screen (soccer, gymnastics and swimming to name a few). Even kid favorites LeBron James (tied for second favorite athlete among 6-12 year olds) and Kobe Bryant (undisputed favorite among 6-12 year olds) make an appearance.

This year’s games not only take place in the land of boy bands like The Wanted and boy wonder Harry Potter, but both of these pop culture icons have already played a role in the torch relay and opening ceremonies, respectively (not to mention that the American women’s gymnastics team’s favorite boy band, One Direction, is rumored to be playing at the closing ceremonies).

On the other hand, this generation doesn’t relate to “appointment viewing” in the same way as previous cohorts. The “amateur” athlete might not be as relatable as he or she was in the past (can we really cheer for LeBron like he’s an underdog?). And when results are broadcast hours before an exciting race, is it still worth watching?


We conducted a poll of 100 kids and tweens ages 6 to 12 from our KidzEyes panel, and the results reminded us that the Olympics still matter to today’s youth. We asked if they were or were planning to watch the Olympics “a lot,” “a little”, “or “not at all”, and over half told us they planned to gander at these gold-seekers as much as possible!

Perhaps the true test of the Olympics’ salience will come in the next few years. Will Lochte replace LeBron as top sport among kids? Will gymnastics phenom Gabby Douglas – who might be relatable in age, but otherworldy in terms of talent – sustain her popularity among youth for the next four years? We’ll keep watching – alongside kids.

Tags: Sports, kids tweens teens, youth media, olympics