Inside NBC Sports’ Snapchat plans for the Kentucky Derby

For the first time this year, Snapchat will be integral to NBC Sports’ exclusive coverage of the Kentucky Derby.

Lyndsay Signor, senior director of social media for NBC Sports, told Digiday that starting today, her team will be on site snapping everything from the barns to fashion events to the actual horse racing via NBC Sports’ Snapchat account. Meanwhile, the network will be experimenting with Live Stories in collaboration with racecourse Churchill Downs to mesh branded content with user-generated content on Derby day.

“Fans may not be able to see our broadcast on TV, so we want to use Snapchat and other social media platforms to drive buzz around our sporting events, reach new people and give our existing fans more content,” said Signor.

The Snapchat initiative will be overseen by NBC Sports’ social media team of 15 people who are dedicated to creating and publishing on social, including video, editorial and research. NBC Sports declined to discuss the ad spend on Snapchat due to company policy, but online reports suggest that a Live Story feed can cost somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000.

NBC Sports is new to Snapchat; it didn’t have a presence on the platform until NHL Winter Classic in December. At the time, NBC Sports snapped “a day in the life” with NHL analyst Jeremy Reonick and showed scenes from “Fan Fest” at the 2016 NHL Winter Classic Spectator Plaza and the game between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. “Our snaps garnered millions of views during the Bridgestone Winter Classic,” said Signor. “Since every event is different and it’s the first time that we will produce content around horse racing on Snapchat, we are not sure how our fans will react. But I think Live Stories can help us reach more viewers nationally,” said Signor.

As part of its overall social media plan, NBC Sports will also install GoPro cameras around Churchill Downs to capture the excitement, so fans can stream horse racing feeds via the @NBCSN Twitter and Periscope accounts. Meanwhile, NBC’s auto racing analyst Rutledge Wood will act as a social media correspondent to document the pageantry of the Derby and interview celebrities on the red carpet via Facebook Live on Saturday.

And, of course, Olympic figure skater and designer Johnny Weir will debut his Derby-style hat for the championship. Weir will be wearing a tweet-powered brooch on his lapel in a horse shape. As more Twitter conversation (hashtag #WatchMeNeighNeigh) around his hat is generated, the faster the horse will gallop and illuminate. The brooch is designed and engineered by agency Viget.

Beyond the Kentucky Derby, Signor told Digiday that NBC will collaborate with Snapchat on daily Live Stories to distribute athletes’ stories and their triumphs during the Rio Olympics. The TV network will also partner with BuzzFeed to create a dedicated Discover channel on Snapchat, where the publisher will curate short video clips and behind-the-scenes content during the game.

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