Every year, on the first Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby brings together horse racing fans and non-fans alike to watch the fastest two minutes in sports.

The event, now in its 142nd iteration, started well before televisions were in people’s homes. Though each year only a limited number of people can experience the grandeur of the Derby at the historic Churchill Downs, TV has extended the event into homes across the world to make it a significant annual social occasion.

Households filled with mint juleps, extravagant headwear, and southern fashion, demonstrate the effort we are willing to exert to participate in shared experiences. Social media furthers the experience by eliminating the geographic boundaries for live events.

For brands, shared media experiences are important because they are a chance to capture audiences when emotions are heightened and stirring consumers’ emotions pays off for advertisers.

Yum! Brands has held the role of title sponsor of the Kentucky Derby for 11 years running, but social data has the power to reveal other brands that would make for good sponsors.

Our proprietary 4C Affinities determine the strength of connection for over 1.5 billion social media users across 250,000 interest categories and 50,000 brands. 4C Affinities revealed that people that interact with Tractor Supply Company Land Rover are highly interested in the Kentucky Derby. In true derby fashion, two Kentucky bourbons also made the list of top sponsor candidates.


On Derby day, over half a million social media engagements were generated. Reflecting the buoyant spirits of the event, 81% of the social media engagements were positive. The two-minute race and Nyquist’s cool victory generated 70,791 social media engagements.


Yum! Brands saw a strong response to its title sponsorship. KFC saw a 289% lift in social media engagements. Additionally, people interacting with the Kentucky Derby on social were 6.4x more likely to engage with KFC than average.


Taco Bell, another Yum! Brands restaurant, generated a 90% social media engagement lift and Derby fans were 3.4x more likely to engage with Taco Bell across Facebook and Twitter.

NBC Sports achieved strong results for the network from being the broadcast sponsor. The network achieved a 109% social media engagement lift and 2466 Social Index Score.

Sentient Jet was the surprise standout of the derby. The private jet charter earned 4,404 social media engagements, up 4,110% from its average, and it recorded the highest Social Index Score of 2,550. No doubt Sentient Jet’s sponsorship of derby-winner Nyquist played a role as well as some prime placement in post race interviews from Nyquist’s trainer and owner.

As brands seek to build authentic connections with consumers, identifying most relevant sponsorship opportunities and new ways to engage consumers will only grow in importance. Shared media experiences, which have the power to heighten consumers’ emotions and transform into traditions, will be a key component of these brand activations enabling sponsors to endure well beyond the fastest two minutes in sports.