No. 10 Rio Paralympics capture world’s imagination on social media

Reaching 1.3 billion, with more than 71 million video views, the IPC's social media strategy reached new heighs at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. 22 Dec 2016

The IPC’s digital media strategy for the Rio 2016 Paralympics engaged more than 1.3 billion people. Through a mixture of engaging and interactive content, fans were brought closer than ever before to one of the world’s biggest sport events.

This is why the IPC’s digital success is at No. 10 in the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2016.

The plan for Rio was simple – educate, engage and entertain.

Utilising 25 digital media channels, three-full staff and multiple dedicated volunteers implemented a campaign in six languages that raised the profile of each Paralympic sport and the awareness of leading international athletes.

“Our success was primarily down to the Paralympians encapsulating the human spirit and capturing the imagination,” said IPC Digital Media Senior Manager Natalia Dannenberg-Spreier.

“This was only possible however thanks to a team of hard-working, highly gifted volunteers. It’s truly humbling to see what is possible when you combine passion with talent.”


The education phase started with six months to go until the Games. Short educational A-Z videos explaining each of the 22 Paralympic sports were produced and shared on social media and with broadcasters. Infographics aimed to give a deeper explanation of the sports as well as the equipment and techniques used by athletes.

#ThrowbackThursday clips aimed to engage audiences in the excitement of the Games, whilst the first digital torch relay raised awareness internationally. Fans lit up an interactive map with tweets of #ParalympicFlame and their messages were included in the Opening Ceremony.

Several Paralympic firsts included a Google doodle, Facebook cultural moment and Twitter emoji hashtags.

To spur on ticket sales, the IPC and London 2012’s former marketing director Greg Nugent launched #filltheseats, a global crowdfunding campaign which raised USD 450,000 to send 15,000 school kids to the Games.


During the Paralympics 700 hours of live coverage was broadcast on 15 channels on, YouTube and Facebook. Dailymotion also used the livestream, allowing news partners to embed it. Live results, photos and infographics were also available across all channels.

Fans were able to interact with athletes through Twitter and Facebook Q&As, and the Samsung Paralympic Bloggers, consisting of 30 Paralympians, gave a unique insight into the life of an athlete. They created behind-the-scenes vlogs which were shared on their social media and with broadcasters.

In addition, real-time video clips were posted to Twitter, including Moments of the Day, Wow Moments and world records. Daily highlights and 360 videos were produced for Facebook, and fan content was shown on Instawalls inside stadia. A Snapchat live story achieved more than 7 million views worldwide.

“The video strategy was complex,” said Dannenberg-Spreier. “Due to contracts with broadcaster we had to geo-block some platforms in up to 80 territories and had to work within these restrictions to engage as many fans as possible with Paralympic content.

“Sports fans are increasingly expecting to be able to watch live and see highlights on social media, wherever they are in the world,” she added.


During 11 days of sporting action a record 469 million people were reached. With 1.5 million engagements and more than 71 million video views across all platforms, the IPC accounts had more than twice the number of engagements (likes, comments, shares) and almost 13 times the number of video views compared to London 2012.

“The IPC’s strategy was drive and engage with social conversations about the Paralympics,” said Dannenberg-Spreier. “We aimed to be at the heart of conversation on social media by ensuring fans did not miss a moment of the action and allowing them to engage with leading Paralympians.”

Viral moments included Deepa Malik becoming India’s first woman to win a medal, the top four Paralympians in the 1,500 T12 running faster than the Olympic gold medallist, Iran’s Siamand Rahman breaking the world record with his 305kg lift and the Netherlands’ Kelly van Zon’s amazing table tennis shot.

Wider engagement

The 2016 Olympic Sports Ranking by Burson-Marsteller and TSE Consulting ranked Paralympic accounts in the top 10 out of 35 sport accounts, including for Facebook page likes, Twitter followers, best connected Twitter accounts, most active on Twitter and most viewed YouTube channel.

But the success of the Paralympics on social media was not just confined to IPC social handles.

In total, there were 2.5 million tweets about the Paralympics totalling 1.1 billion impressions during the Games alone.

This year’s No. 1 photo on the Reuters Instagram account was a picture of Canadian women's wheelchair basketball player Jamey Jewells kissing her husband and fellow wheelchair basketball player Adam Lancia after her playoff match against China.

On Facebook, top posts included Usain Bolt paying tribute to Terezinha Guilhermina and India’s Prime Minister congratulating the team on winning the country’s first Paralympic gold.