[Cross posted from the Google Mobile Ads Blog]

At the 2012 Olympics we’re seeing new records set everyday, not only in athletic performance, but also in global search behavior.  It's clear that these are the first multi-screen Olympics, as users are engaging across TV, computers, smartphones and tablets, often at the same time!

And as users watch TV, or watch their laptops at work, they're searching for information about athletes, sports, events and records -  on their tablets and smartphones. In fact, at some moments during the Games, there have been more searches performed on tablets and smartphones than on computers.  We’ve seen large spikes in global mobile search volume during recent major sporting events, like the Super Bowl, and the Olympics certainly continued this trend - in its first week, Olympics related searches on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) grew by 10x from the previous week.

Mobile devices vault ahead

We’ve crunched some data from the past week, and the opening ceremony is a great illustration of how mobile devices have taken center stage. Fans turned to their smartphones and tablets to find more information about the incredible feats and celebrities that they saw on screen.

Below is one such example where searches for Paul McCartney surge in line with his performance of Hey Jude at the end of the opening ceremony. Whether watching the Olympics at home on TV or on a desktop livestream, or at a bar with friends, users  searched on one screen for things they saw happening on another screen. Comparing searches by device type, smartphone searches surged, and in the US, viewers were searching almost as much on their tablets as on their computers for Paul McCartney.

Global searches for Paul McCartney during local broadcasts of the Olympics opening ceremony (based on PST)

Mobile is global

The infographic below gives a snapshot of the percentage of total searches that occurred on smartphones and tablets during the first two days of the Games, for Olympics-related searches.

(click here to download infographic)

We see these trends in many multi-screen events (such as the Super Bowl, Oscars, and Eurovision) but the Olympics represents an even more pronounced trend and one we can see happening at a global level.

European countries showed especially high mobile search volume with most countries having one-third or more of their Olympics-related searches occurring on a tablet or smartphone. In some European countries this number was substantially higher - in the UK, 46% of Olympics searches happened on mobile.  In Asia, South Korea (36%) and Australia (45%) saw mobile search volume spikes, while Japan (55%) was at the front of the pack.

Surf, sand, towels...and tablets

As we examined global Olympics search share we noticed an interesting pattern emerge from island nations. On many of the islands that serve as popular tourist destinations, tablet search share was almost equal to smartphone, or in some cases even exceeded it. This is different from most other countries where smartphone search share is typically significantly higher than tablet.

A possible explanation? Large numbers of tablet-toting tourists on summer vacation. Tablets have emerged as an important way of staying informed and connected for travelers, as well as for finding local information.

Olympics Mobile and Tablet Search Share by Device for Several Island Nations

Olympic fever is a global phenomenon, and mobile searches are letting everyone get immediate information, in real time, about what’s happening moment by moment. We hope to have more insights into how people are using their mobile devices during the Games!

Posted by: Dai Pham & Adam Grunewald, Google Mobile Ads Marketing