Georgia Halston
Georgia Halston
Social Media Manager

Live Social Media – The First Crabbie’s Grand National

Social media has a unique way of capturing the true spirit of live events, especially sporting events, which have been at the centre of some of the biggest global conversations in history and social media has been the catalyst.

Many brands have succeeded in grasping fleeting, impromptu moments when all the world is watching (cue another reference to the Oreo Super Bowl tweet) and for a three-day festival jammed full of those golden ephemeral instants, a bulletproof plan was launched to ensure every drop of Grand National fever was soaked up through social.

2014 saw the first ever Crabbie’s Grand National and with Ponderosa Group being at the heart of the brand we had a unique opportunity to smash out an integrated on and offline campaign.

The whole of Aintree was dressed by Ponderosa meaning social media platforms and calls to action were engrained in all things print, creating a seamless on and offline experience for consumers.

Aintree Crabbie's Ponderosa

There’s a lot that goes into a live social campaign, from months of planning, to content strategies, to the big day (or three in our case!).

In terms of strategy of a live social campaign, there is far more work that goes into the planning stage than the actual event.

Twitter’s diagram helps to plan different content types and it can be used for any platform:

Crabbies Grand National Ponderosa

Image via Twitter


The Crabbie's Grand National Trophy Ponderosa

Everyday content is the bread and butter of any social campaign and for the Grand National it meant strategically seeding more and more content relating to the event as the date crept closer in the diary.

There were some major dates in the timeline that had to be covered such as the date tickets went on sale in the summer of 2013 and countdown milestones such as ‘Six months to go’ etc. And of course the unveiling of the diamond encrusted Crabbie’s Grand National trophy.


Closer to the time, the vast majority of our social content was Grand National orientated, content included:

  • The Crabbie’s Grand National Guide – The Guide was a hub of content that contained everything a user could ever need when it comes to the National. It was hosted on the Crabbie’s site but was iframed into a Facebook app. Content included betting infographics, history of the race, a sweepstake kit and vast databases of places in Liverpool to eat, stay, drink and get pampered (the placement of which galvanised our relationship with many local businesses and subsequent cross promotion on social).
    There were also link outs to various resources such as where to buy tickets, where to buy Crabbie’s (using the existing Crabbie’s Finder, a prominent feature on both the Crabbie’s site and the Crabbie’s mobile app) a link to Channel4’s television coverage of the event.
    Another great feature to the Guide was a Fashion Blogger competition where amateur fashion bloggers were offered the chance to go to Ladies Day.
  • On-pack promotion – Since 2014 was the first ever Grand National where the winner received the prize of £1m, Crabbie’s decided to match the amount in an on-pack promotion for their consumers.
    Social support and seeding of this competition was vital to ensure all engaged Crabbie’s consumers were aware of the competition and were actively entering.
    Crabbie's Million Pound Competition
  • Scheduled Content – There was a lot of content we were able to schedule onto our social channels in advance, especially content that wasn’t likely to change. Scheduling in advance helped us out a lot over the three days of live posting and is fundamental to any live social strategy. Content included:

    • Race times
    • Drink Aware content
    • Get home safely content

    Crabbie's Ladies DayCrabbie's Drink ResponsiblyCrabbies Get Home Safely

  • Social Competitions – In the run up to the National we executed a total of seven social media competitions spanning Facebook, Twitter and Instagram culminating in the final competition on the 28th of March which was hosted on Twitter and saw a different user win a pair of Grand National tickets every 15minutes:

Crabbie's Prize Time
This competition particularly saw a dramatic swell in social media following and engagement for the brand.
All of this content, outreach, competitions and activity we had done in preparation for the live campaign were vital in the cultivation of a social audience that was not only at the peak of engagement with the brand but saw Crabbie’s as being synonymous with Grand National, preparing them for what was to come…

When it comes to live social media and events coverage, there are firstly the rudimentary requirements:

  • Smart phone, laptop and tablet (yes all three and they have to be good quality)
  • Chargers for all three even two of each, just in case!
  • Data – the last thing you want is for your data allowance to stop you posting

Referring back to the Twitter diagram there were two main types of content that we had to stick to over the three days of The Crabbie’s Grand National:


We had to be ready for anything with the Grand National and there was a lot of potential for things to go wrong. We not only had to be ready to amend content that was scheduled but we had to have a fully prepared disaster plan that worked in line with the Aintree and Jockey Club.

During the festival we also had to make sure we were being reactive with content being shared by other integral Twitter accounts:

One of the biggest jobs, was ensuring we were being reactive with content being produced by consumers and fans. We had to be constantly monitoring mention of the festival and the brand across all platforms. The platform with the most mention of the Grand National was Twitter with over 200,000 tweets mentioning the event

With that in mind, we used Tweetdeck to constantly monitor the terms

  • Crabbie’s
  • #CrabbiesTime
  • Crabbie’s Grand National
  • Grand National

Every one of these mentions is a potential opportunity to converse with users who are interested in the festival, not to mention gaining insight into the general sentiment of the consumer towards the first Crabbie’s sponsored Grand National. All of the content created in the run up to the Grand National, especially the deluge of information being hosted on the Guide, came into it’s own at this point and we were able to seed all the branded information we had in response to user’s queries Other reactive activity included working very closely with The Jockey Club and Aintree Twitter accounts and the people behind them, when it came to posting the names of the winning jockeys for each race for example; we had to wait for the official sign off from these accounts. We also followed the activity of Beauty Bazaar and the content they were seeding from their beauty SOS tent onsite. We had developed a strong relationship with them from one of our Instagram competitions in the lead up to the festival. There was of course Channel4 and Channel4 Racing to keep an eye on, where again relationships had blossomed.


Live content is the final piece of the puzzle and enabled us to really capture everything that made the whole event special. When you are posting live there are a few golden rules you really need to stick to:

  • Remember what content you have already scheduled in and avoid posting at the same time
  • Really look at the images you are about to post, this is even more important for an alcohol brand where there are stringent rules on the type of image you can use
  • Consider your copy, don’t just post throw away comments, you should be as diligent and discerning when posting live as you are when you are sat at your desk
  • Check (and double check) spelling
  • Use hashtags
  • Tag all accounts referenced in your tweet/post/Instagram etc.

The social media team scoured the whole of the Aintree over the three-day period and managed to capture all of the magic. Here are some of our favourite live posts:

When we hooked up with the potential £1m winners from the on-pack promotion

When we caught up with the winner of our Fashion at the Races blogger competition at the Beauty Bazaar tent

When one of the first Crabbie’s trophies of the festival was presented

When the winner of the LiverpoolOne Ladies Day Best Dressed competition was named

To the final hurdle…

Leighton Apell Crabbie's Ponderosa

All live events are different and should be treated with a bespoke social media strategy but there are some lessons that apply to all social coverage:

  • You can never plan too much
  • Create content you can seed in a live environment
  • Have social assets prepared for all outcomes, you may not use them but it’s better than having to ask your digital creative team to comp you something in five minutes
  • Schedule in advance. There are always some elements of your campaign that can be scheduled. But always be aware of potential changes in scheduled content
  • Be diligent with your messaging and the images you post
  • Create relationships with other users and constantly outreach
  • Watch your battery life/data allowance
  • Have fun!

If you’re running a live event and need help with your social coverage strategy, get in touch

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