Thursday, May 24, 2012

Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones may be the hottest athlete on Twitter right now. Her witty, self-effacing humor has charmed media and fans alike.

Oh, and the attractive, single 29-year-old is also a virgin.

She discussed why she doesn’t want to have sex until marriage with HBO’s Real Sports earlier this week. The interview — in which she called her extended abstinence “harder than training for the Olympics” — has further fueled Jones’ social media superstardom. Since May 20, her number of Twitter followers has jumped by about 20,000 — a nearly 40% increase.

As an athlete without the instant global recognition of someone like Phelps or Bolt, Jones’ social media savvy and engagement with fans is a smart play that raises her appeal to fans and marketers who otherwise might be only vaguely aware of her.

This summer’s games are being hyped as the most social Olympics ever, and the International Olympic Committee has made social engagement a high priority. Earlier this week, the IOC launched Foursquare check-ins, and last month unveiled an Olympics Athletes’ Hub to connect fans with verified athlete Facebook and Twitter feeds as well as additional digital content.

Some stringent restrictions on what fans and athletes are allowed to post from where during the event, however, has some worried the Olympics won’t end up being so social.