Post-Tokyo 2020 study shows Australia’s Paralympians are more popular than ever

Tokyo 2020 performances help Australian Paralympians' bond with fans reach all-time high 22 Apr 2022
Photos of Australian Paralympians from Tokyo 2020 are projected on the Sydney Opera House at nighttime
Photos of Australian Paralympians light up the Sydney Opera House on the closing day of Tokyo 2020
ⒸDon Arnold / Getty Images
By Paralympics Australia and IPC

The Australian Paralympic Team has recorded the highest ever score for emotional connection of any Australian sports team, according to True North Research’s 2021 BenchMark findings into the emotional connection of sport and sponsors.  

Exceptionally high ratings on trust, pride and respect catapulted the Australian Paralympic team to the top of the table for national teams after a blockbuster year as global sport made its return.  

Paralympics Australia CEO Catherine Clark said it was clear the athleticism, conduct and strong team culture displayed during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games campaign captured the hearts and minds of the Australian sport audience.

“These findings by True North reflect the pride and admiration that Australians feel towards our nation’s Para athletes,” Clark said.

“The sporting industry is highly competitive, but at the heart of what we all love about sport is how it makes us feel, how it lifts us, inspires us and connects us. Watching our Paralympians in their pursuit of excellence, hearing their stories and sharing in the ups and downs, it’s almost magnetic. They really are incredible human beings as well as amazing high-performance athletes.”

Tokyo 2020 saw record levels of viewership among Australian audiences as well as record engagement with the national team and support for Paralympics Australia's virtual seat fundraising initiative.

"Whether it was Dylan Alcott in the tennis, swimming great Ellie Cole, athletics star Madi de Rozario, wheelchair rugby legend Ryley Batt - or so many others - it was humbling to see the outpouring of pride from millions of Australians about the way our incredible Paralympians went about representing the country," Clark said.

True North’s BenchMark study rates teams and leagues on more than 80 metrics, including the five core values of "emotional connection". The Australian Paralympic team was ranked first for respect, trust and pride. The team was also ranked second for enjoyment and bond.  

The Australian Paralympic team achieved a total BenchMark EC Score of 219 among all those familiar with the team. The second placed team was the Australian Olympic team with 213.

Overall, the study evaluated 19 of Australia’s national and state teams. Teams from Australia’s largest leagues were also evaluated, including AFL, NRL, Super Netball and Super Rugby teams. 

The Australian Paralympic and Olympic teams were the only ones to achieve a BenchMark EC Score of over 200. Both teams' emotional connection scores were significantly higher than the third placed team (185).  

Madison de Rozario celebrates becoming the first Australian woman to win a Paralympic marathon @Alex Davidson / Getty Images

Drilling down into the 20 BenchMark attributes looked at by this research, within the ‘sporting behaviour and performance’ attributes, the Australian Paralympic team scored the highest for resilience, sportsmanship and discipline. It also ranked highest for team culture, inclusivity, taking an authentic stand on important issues, and second for encouraging grassroots participation, fan experience and giving back to the community.

“Throughout the history of the Australian Paralympic movement we’ve strived to give all Australians a source of inspiration, pride and connection. I believe the Paralympic Movement inspires and engages Australians, with or without an impairment, to be the best versions of themselves,” Clark said.

“The research shows we are engaging both baby boomers and millennials and I think it’s because the stories of adversity, the authenticity - the ’realness’- of our athletes and how they chase their dreams, these are things we can all connect with.  

“Our job is strengthening that bond to grow the positive impact of the Paralympic team on our communities. With the Brisbane 2032 Games on the horizon and some of the most inspiring sporting heroes you will ever find, including the current Australian of the Year, our dream of a more inclusive Australia, where people with or without a disability can achieve their potential, is burning brightly.”