How Brands and Publishers Saddle Up For the Kentucky Derby

By Lauren Orsini · May 03, 2019

How Brands and Publishers Saddle Up For the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby may be a horse race that lasts only a couple of minutes, but the hype around it can last for weeks. As spectators carefully consider their bets, mix refreshing mint juleps, or choose the perfect Derby hat, there’s plenty of excitement to spare.

It’s no surprise that brands and media publishers are getting in on the fun as well. The Derby is an annual event that millions of Americans enjoy following, perfect for some positive publicity. Here are some of the brands and publishers celebrating the Kentucky Derby most visibly.

Related Read: 5 Brands and Publishers Capitalizing on the Game of Thrones Finale Frenzy

Tasty: Kentucky Derby Bourbon-Pecan Cheesecake

Lots of people anticipate the Kentucky Derby, but few actually make the trip to Churchill Downs. Instead, they’re hosting Derby parties in their own living rooms.

Tasty, Buzzfeed’s bespoke cooking brand, capitalized on this trend with a delicious cheesecake recipe that utilizes Kentucky bourbon as a key ingredient. Their prediction paid off; with more than 7M views, this recipe video was the most-watched piece of Kentucky Derby content of this past year.

Apparently filmed in portrait mode on a phone camera, this simple video shows that publishers don’t need to have the most sophisticated setup in order to create viral content. Better yet, Tasty changed the name of the video after the Kentucky Derby was over to simply “Pecan Pie Cheesecake” in order to give it staying power long beyond the main event.

Takeaway: DIY content that allows viewers to bring a trending event into their own homes can do numbers. Plus, never underestimate the power of yummy-looking baking on screen.

NBC Sports: 2018 Kentucky Derby Alpaca Race

It’s not only gambling enthusiasts who anticipate the Kentucky Derby. Any time there are horses involved, you’re sure to garner the attention of animal lovers of all sorts. So when a Kentucky alpaca farmer decided to do a trial run of the Kentucky Derby using her fleecy, stubby-legged charges, NBC Sports made sure to be there with a camera.

The result? A goofy, chaotic alpaca dash that’s more like a parody of the Derby than a prediction. But with nearly 5M views since May 2018, this silly race was actually viewed more times than the footage of the Kentucky Derby itself!

It’s a reminder that since the Kentucky Derby is an entertainment event at heart, that’s the same tone publishers ought to follow with their Derby-related content. There’s nothing educational or even slightly informative about this alpaca race, but we dare you not to watch the entire fluffy extravaganza.

Takeaway: There’s a reason cat videos have taken off online: people are drawn to content that features cute animals. Essentially, video doesn’t need to be about a hard-hitting subject to be popular; sometimes, the combination of entertainment and cuteness is more than enough.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Puppies Predict the 2018 Kentucky Derby

Once again, cute animals take the day when it comes to Kentucky Derby content. Just like the alpaca video, this Tonight Show clip stars fifteen golden retriever puppies, each representing a Derby horse, as they inelegantly gallop toward a giant trough of tasty kibble. This race is even shorter than the Derby itself but still has the live audience aww-ing with puppy love.

There are a few factors at work to make this video one of the three that is more popular than the actual Kentucky Derby video. Part of the reason it climbed to two million views between May 2018 and April 2019 is that, as thoroughly analyzed above, people love animal content.

Another consideration, however, is that this video is part of a content series. The Tonight Show has been running “Puppy Predictors,” unscientific puppy trials of popular sporting events, for years. Now, their audience knows to anticipate this feature just as much as the Derby.

Takeaway: If your brand lands on a popular concept (and cute animals are always a great guess), why not make it a series to retain an audience over time? Grouping them all into a playlist is a great way to guarantee repeat views on your channel.

Audible: “Selfies are hard with hooves.”

One of the quirks of the Kentucky Derby is that each racehorse is sure to have an unusual name. In 2018, audiobook publisher and perennial podcast advertiser Audible lucked out when one of the competing horses turned out to literally have the same name as their brand. The company quickly recognized this gift (horse) and got to work creating a commercial.

Audible’s commercial features Audible the horse as compared to Audible the company. While Audible the horse isn’t great at social media, “his” attempt at a selfie feeds into our human impulse to coo at animals acting like people.

If the cuteness factor isn’t enough, Audible also tied the horse’s win to a free download of the racehorse-related bestseller American Pharoah. These elements combined led to 904,000 views in the past calendar year.

Takeaway: Sometimes an event advertises your product or service without you even trying! Brands ought to scan the names of Derby participants to see if there’s a tie-in between a horse’s name and a product — or even a feeling — that they’re trying to advertise.

Be ahead of the curve in
the age of video.