NBC Sports

Kentucky Derby Social Brooch

  • NBC Sports
  • Challenge

    Create a digital accessory for Johnny Weir that could not only be the source of attention, but also capture and measure the social chatter it creates.

  • Solution

    A custom "Social Brooch" that features a galloping and illuminating horse that responds to Twitter activity surrounding the Kentucky Derby.

  • Results

    In its first year, over 17.9M viewers witnessed more than 4K tweets, including 155 per minute at key moments, through the tiny but powerful brooch that glowed and galloped during a power-packed four-hour network event. Because of the success, it's back and better than ever for this year's event!

At the Kentucky Derby, Johnny Weir gets attention. Lots of it. The NBC on-air personality has a style all his own, and his yearly derby fashion — especially his accessories — has become its own talked-about event. But what if his ensemble gave others attention? Could it capture those responses in real-time? These were the questions we posed to NBC Sports as we created the first-ever Twitter-powered brooch for the annual Run for the Roses. It was such a hit that we took things up a notch in 2018, adding over 300 decorative jewels and optimizing the underlying software and engineering components.

  • DesignA Brooch With Moves

    After collaborating with NBC Sports and Johnny, we landed on an idea for a horse-shaped brooch with animated legs that galloped. To design the gallop, we combined moving the legs with a slight head bob.

    Justin Sinichko Building a Magical Brooch for the Kentucky Derby, NBC, and Johnny Weir
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  • 3D ModelingQuick Iterations

    Using Fusion 360, we shaped the horse and worked out key motion paths for the legs, head, and tail. Each component of the model was designed so it could be altered later. We accomplished this using parametric modeling paired with rapid prototyping technologies to facilitate quick design iterations.

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  • PrototypingMany Iterations

    We developed 10 different design iterations before finalizing our model. This included two major motor changes to help reduce noise, and a number of linkage explorations. The most recent iteration provided the opportunity to create a completely custom PCB design — check out the teardown of this year's iteration.

    NBC Kentucky Derby Brooch Teardown
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  • EngineeringPowering the Brooch

    For the first event, we built an electronics module that clipped to Johnny’s waist for the brooch to handle both power management and networking. And because this was broadcast TV, we built backups to ensure that no matter what, we had viable solutions to nearly any issue ready to go. Learning from our first iteration, we were able to completely rethink these components, bringing the electronics module on board, and reducing the size of the battery pack, number of cables, and making the brooch itself thinner.

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  • Social EngagementWatch Me Neigh Neigh

    The brooch came to life when viewers tweeted with the hashtag #WatchMeNeighNeigh. The brooch was an integral part of NBC Sports’s social strategy for the Kentucky Derby and performed flawlessly. Millions of viewers had the opportunity to see and interact with the brooch. With over 40 media outlets covering the piece including Verge and USA Today, the Brooch quickly became an attention-worthy conversation piece on race day — so much so that it's back for this year's event, and this year it has it's own Twitter handle.

    Johnny's Magical Horse on Twitter
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  • 4,000+

    #WatchMeNeighNeigh tweets sent to Johnny’s brooch throughout its first broadcast

Summary

Over 17.9 million viewers witnessed more than 4,000 #WatchMeNeighNeigh tweets power Johnny Weir’s brooch on-air during the Kentucky Derby. The brooch glowed and galloped flawlessly, delightfully bringing fashion and tech and horses together for the four-hour network event.

How do you say
Viget, anyway?