Inside NBC’s Olympics Bet On Pop Culture In Paris, With Help From Snoop Dogg And Cardi B

With more than 11 million expected to attend the two-week Summer Games that start July 26, NBC — which holds the broadcasting rights to the Olympics through 2032 — wants to attract more viewers by bringing Olympic stories to life with popular and diverse personalities. Pictured: Snoop Dogg will serve as a primetime NBC correspondent at the Games. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — NBC is inserting some pop culture flavor into the world’s biggest sports spectacle: From Megan Thee Stallion dancing with dressage horses at the Palace of Versailles to Peyton Manning riding a giant baguette blimp over the Eiffel Tower, the network has strategically partnered with several big names to build anticipation for the Paris Olympics.

Enlisting a plethora of entertainers and non-Olympic athletes is designed to entice viewers after the network — and longtime Olympics broadcaster in the U.S. — drew lackluster ratings for the last Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, and the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Held amid the coronavirus pandemic, those Games proceeded with muted fanfare and few announcers on-site.

But with over 11 million expected to attend the two-week Summer Games that start July 26, NBC — which holds the broadcasting rights to the Olympics through 2032 — wants to attract more viewers by bringing Olympic stories to life with popular and diverse personalities.

“We speak to a broader audience,” said Snoop Dogg, who has been brought on as a primetime NBC correspondent for Paris. The ultra-smooth rapper had become a fan favorite during the Tokyo Games, when he and Kevin Hart did in-studio commentary for Peacock.

Snoop Dogg will be on the ground in Paris by late July, exploring the city’s landmarks and attending competitions and events. He’s already had casual on-video interviews with a few Olympians about their respective sports, including women’s basketball player A’ja Wilson, gymnast Sunisa Lee, skateboarder Jagger Eaton and beach volleyball players Sara Hughes and Kelly Cheng.

“We have different perspectives and different views,” Snoop Dogg said of the recruited entertainers. “The world that we live in right now, it is appropriate for me to give our side of the story, because we’ve always been a great voice and a great instrument. But we’ve never been the conductor. Now I get to play the role of conductor.”

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After the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021, NBC created a new playbook to increase excitement for this summer’s coverage. Network researchers found that people between the ages of 26-40 wanted an Olympics that infuses more pop culture into the everyday conversation.

Singer Kelly Clarkson and NFL legend Peyton Manning will join sportscaster Mike Tirico in Paris as hosts of the opening ceremony along the Seine, held for the first time outside a stadium setting. Comedian Leslie Jones will contribute to on-air and social media coverage. Podcaster Alex Cooper of “Call Her Daddy” fame will host live, interactive watch parties in Paris called “Watch with Alex Cooper,” a Peacock program where she’ll appear in a picture-in-picture view sharing her insights and answering questions from fans in real time.

“I’m not a former Olympian, but they sort of convinced me that we are just celebrating these athletes and a little bit about what drives them,” said Manning, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl winner. He’s also the co-host of the ESPN-produced “Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli” with his brother and fellow former NFL quarterback Eli Manning.

Hart returns too, collaborating with Kenan Thompson on an eight-episode commentary series offering comical recaps of the best and most unexpected Olympic moments.

“It’s under the umbrella of sports, but it’s really a cultural celebration,” said Tirico, who will host his fourth opening ceremony of the Olympics. He will team up with Jimmy Fallon along with past Olympians Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir for NBC’s closing ceremony coverage.

Tirico said integrating more pop culture elements into the coverage was a “grand slam” idea.

“If we bring a little cross-section of America together to give you a flavor of the games and do it under one tent, it’ll keep you around for 17 nights,” he said. “That’s our plan. Our goal. We’re so glad that we’ve got people like Snoop, Peyton, Kelly and to help us do it.”

Along with Megan Thee Stallion and Manning’s commercials, several other promotional spots have already aired on NBC: Rapper Cardi B appeared in a promo, getting her nails done with track star Sha’Carri Richardson. Actor Lily Collins reprised her “Emily in Paris” role to pitch executives a new wardrobe idea for sprinter Noah Lyles. Paris Hilton helped reveal the Olympics logo. Dolly Parton collaborated with the network on a video for her cover of “We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You,” which has been used to promote coverage.

“We wanted to be a part of the cultural zeitgeist,” said Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production. “We wanted to make sure that it feels like more than just a sporting event. It’s really an entertainment and pop culture event that is centered around athletes stories.”

So far, the commercials have generated strong numbers. According to NBC, Collins’ promo spot drew more than 30 million viewers on the network’s platforms. Megan Thee Stallion’s ad garnered 12 million views, while Snoop Dogg pulled in just under 10 million through their social media channels.

“We tried to remain very true to our audiences and the placement of the content,” said Jennifer Storms, NBC’s chief marketing officer of Entertainment and Sports. “We’re working together on the talent and how they have a continuous storyline before the Olympics and through the Olympics.”

Storms wants to bring Olympians’ stories to the forefront through popular voices. Expect stories from singer John Legend about gymnast Simone Biles, WWE star Cody Rhodes on wrestler David Taylor and “Chicago Fire” actor Eamonn Walker on Lyles, she said.

“That translates to telling the story around an athlete that America might not know yet,” Storms said. “So the talent are critical to catching people’s attention.”

Manning hopes to make an influential mark. He’s looking forward to delving into the backstories of Olympians such as Biles and swimmer Katie Ledecky.

“Maybe athlete to athlete,” Manning said, “they will share some information that maybe they just wouldn’t tell anybody.”


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