Athletes wishing to cash in on their Olympics success could find their popularity on Twitter is more important than a gold medal around their necks.

Sports and sponsorship agencies agree that the size of an athlete's following on Twitter, Facebook and other social media has become key to securing lucrative and lasting endorsement deals now the Games are over.

M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment identified Tom Daley as the Team GB Olympian with the biggest earning potential - even though he missed out on a gold, finishing with a bronze in the 10m platform dive.

The sports agency evaluated traffic across digital media and found that of the top ten Team GB athletes in terms of social media mentions, 57 per cent of those mentions related to the 18-year-old diver.


Sponsorship now typically involves social media promotion.

Before the Games even began, Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man, posted messages about his sponsors, including a picture of a fridge full of Gatorade energy drinks.

The Jamaican superstar has 8million Facebook followers and saw his number of Twitter followers leap from 620,000 to 1.6million following his triple gold-winning Games.

SponsorHub, a company which brokers sponsorship deals, said Bolt and Michael Phelps, the American swimmer who became the most decorated Olympian of all time during the Games, could now earn more than $NZD 58 million a year in endorsement packages if they can remain in the spotlight.

Tom Daley went from around 300,000 Twitter followers to 1.5million as of yesterday, while Jessica Ennis, who won the heptathlon, increased her number of Facebook fans five-fold following her gold success, to 778,000. Yesterday the total stood at 794,697.

Figures from social media analysts Wildfire also showed distance runner and double gold medallist Mo Farah has more than doubled his Twitter followers, from 117,338 to 387,981 yesterday.

A spokesman for the M&C Saatchi sports agency said social media gave unprecedented insight into the popularity of athletes without the need to undertake expensive and time-consuming research.