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Not Your Normal Day at the Track

Millions Follow the 2022 Kentucky Derby on Television, Social

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Social Media
May 19, 2022
June 21, 2022
 min read

The Kentucky Derby’s annual pageantry is unparalleled. On the first Saturday of every May, thousands of fans dress up in pastel colors, colossal hats, and high-dollar shoes that are bound to be muddy by day’s end to gather, gamble, and socialize in Louisville, Kentucky, for the greatest two minutes in sports. But while thousands imbibe mint juleps and soak up the atmosphere of Churchill Downs on race day, millions more throughout the country follow the action on television and social media. Coverage of this year’s Kentucky Derby on NBC began at 2:30 p.m. EST and included hours’ worth of celebrity interviews, fashion highlights, betting advice, and stories about the horses, jockeys, and owners before the thoroughbreds bolted out of the starting gates roughly four-and-a-half hours later. We used MVP’s broadcast platform to identify viewership trends during the five-hour broadcast and complemented our results with social insights regarding value generated by race-related posts throughout the weekend. Our examination revealed 14.84 million viewers tuned in to watch the 2022 Kentucky Derby, whose top presenting sponsors eventually struck it rich from social exposure.

Viewers Up

Over the years, the Kentucky Derby has become more than just a race. While the dramatic conclusion of the event occurs at just after 7 p.m. EST every year, the rest of the day features a who’s-who of celebrities from the worlds of sports, entertainment, music, and even politics. As a result, the Kentucky Derby broadcast attracts an array of viewers who may otherwise be uninterested in a sporting spectacle. NBC delivered continuous coverage of all the sights and sounds at Churchill Downs from 2:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. EST. Its program began with 3.2 million tuned to the network for the open and steadily gained viewers throughout the afternoon. Shortly after the horses were called from the barns to the paddock – roughly 40 minutes prior to race time – viewership surpassed 7 million on NBC. And the rise continued until the race finished, peaking at 10.29 million concurrent viewers. For an eight-minute stretch from 7:01 p.m. until 7:09 p.m. EST, no fewer than 10.03 million households were watching NBC’s coverage. A relatively steep decline followed Rich Strike’s historic upset victory, but 7.52 million remained through the program’s sign-off.

Kentucky Takes Center Stage

While horse racing is mostly a niche sport, the Kentucky Derby is nothing short of a mainstream event. And although many who watch the race have likely never been to Louisville, much less Churchill Downs, that does not hinder audiences tuning in from all over the country. New York City is home to the third leg of horse racing’s triple crown – the Belmont Stakes – and is a region known to have a passion for the sport. Such zeal was affirmed by the 1.03 million viewers tuning in from its designated market area – 71.4% more than viewers tuning in from Los Angeles, which finished second in our DMA rankings. Philadelphia was the only other market to exceed 500,000 viewers, with 531,942 throughout the broadcast. The Dallas-Fort Worth and Tampa-St. Petersburg markets rounded out the top five, with 477,035 and 390,226 viewers, respectively. Viewers in the race’s local market, Louisville, numbered 209,865 to secure 14th place in our DMA rankings list.

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Facebook Wins, Twitter Places, IG Shows

In addition to tracking viewership trends throughout the day, we used MVP’s social platform to monitor relevant keywords and mentions associated with the race as well as its winning horse and jockey – Rich Strike and Sonny Leon – across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube on May 7 and 8. We identified 1,850 total posts generating $3.76M worth of post value, $450,903 of which drove brand value for partners and sponsors. Among the four platforms, Facebook amassed the highest total post value – $1.73M – and average post value, $3,945. It was followed in our total post value rankings by Twitter at $1.36M and Instagram at $528.9K. YouTube managed to earn $98.8K in post value on content featuring the Kentucky Derby. However, the hierarchy shifted slightly in our brand value assessment. Twitter led the way with $159.6K in brand value generated, ahead of Facebook’s $142.9K, Instagram’s $109.1K, and YouTube’s $79.9K. Despite its third-place result in our value measurements, Instagram earned the most engagements, 2.62 million, and the highest engagement rate, 1.37%. Finally, Facebook topped our impressions rankings with 96.05 million – 47.7% of the total across all four platforms for the weekend.

Presenting Sponsors Set Social Pace

As an extension of our Kentucky Derby social media overview, we dove deeper to discover which brands benefited the most from their associations with the race and NBC. Of the Kentucky Derby’s presenting sponsors, none performed better online than White Claw Hard Seltzer. From only four posts featuring the beverage company alongside the historic race, White Claw earned $102,028 in brand value thanks to 102K engagements and 7.2 million impressions. Premium bourbon brand Woodford Reserve was the presenting sponsor to be showcased most often on social media, but it lacked some of the prominence White Claw received, and ultimately finished second among non-media entities in brand value generated with $38,778. Longines received the third-most brand value among official sponsors with $16,313, but its total was surpassed by Progressive Insurance – which sponsored 10 of the race’s jockeys, including Sonny Leon – WWE Raw, and the NHL. The trio of brands received $22,550, $20,203, and $20,054, respectively, in social brand value.

And They’re Off to the Preakness

Big hats and bourbon ruled the afternoon at the Kentucky Derby before 80-1 longshot Rich Strike earned a jewel for his crown by overcoming a field of 19 other thoroughbreds to cross the line first and deliver a climactic ending to race day. And although the three-year-old is skipping this weekend’s Preakness Stakes to prepare for the Belmont, media outlets and race sponsors will have additional opportunities to generate value during Saturday’s race in Baltimore. Stay connected with MVP for further horse racing insights as the season continues.

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