NBC and Refinery29 Promote Female Empowerment Through ‘On Her Turf’

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Photo Credit: On Her Turf

Before it was a multi-platform venture, On Her Turf was an Instagram account with a mission.

It was the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, and NBC Sports was committed to better showcasing women in the Games. Enter On Her Turf, a partnership with Refinery29 that shared stories of female Olympians in hopes of inspiring women around the world.

“The intention, initially, was that the Olympics are such an awesome promotional platform, so there was no better time to launch something, and we were not short on female-focused storylines for the Olympics,” said Lyndsay Signor, vice president of consumer engagement at NBC Sports.

Team USA women made history that year, taking home more medals than the men for the first time in two decades. In that moment, Signor and her team realized the endless potential for On Her Turf.

“We knew [PyeongChang] was a great place to start, but we also knew it wasn’t just an Olympic-focused initiative,” she said. “From there, we were looking at all sports, not just the ones NBC carries.”

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One year later, NBC Sports and Refinery29 have built On Her Turf into a multimedia platform. Beyond the Instagram account, On Her Turf features a podcast hosted by Kathryn Tappen, a video series and experiential activations including an On Her Turf section of the NBC Sports Sunday Night Football bus.

“It’s sort of that whole idea of, ‘If you can see her, you can be her,” said Signor. “It’s a cross-platform mantra, and it’s about being your best self on and off the field… We’re sticking with that mantra across everything and highlighting women in and around sports.”

The short-form video series, titled “Football is Female,” has been particularly successful for the On Her Turf brand. It showcased everyone from players to media to front office personnel — and, as Signor learned, there is no shortage of future storytelling opportunities in that space.

“We ran out of time more than running out of stories to highlight these women,” Signor said. “We didn’t even scratch the surface… For football, in particular, the storylines are not limited.”

On Her Turf remains a collaborative effort between NBC Sports and Refinery29, with content creators and communications managers on both sides. The partnership has been mutually beneficial. For Refinery29, a company that takes the approach of broader female empowerment, working with NBC Sports offers a pathway toward new relationships in the sports world.  

“At Refinery29, our goal is to highlight the role sports play for women and partnering with NBC Sports gives us the ability to extend deeper into the space,” said Refinery29’s chief content officer, Amy Emmerich. “Not only do we acquire access to powerful female athletes, but also to female sports fans and top female executives and personalities at the leagues themselves.”

Meanwhile, Signor believes NBC Sports has been aided by Refinery29’s appeal among a demographic NBC Sports has been targeting.

“Refinery29 has a masterful way of talking to young women, so in creating a sports, female-focused vertical, there was no one better to partner with,” Signor echoed. “They talk in an authentic way to young women, and we want to talk to the younger generation, and for this particular brand, women were the focal point. Refinery29 has been a great partner in helping us, because they’re not necessarily sports experts, but we’re not necessarily millennial, woman experts, either.”

As the two organizations have come together to combine their different skill sets, they’ve been able to create targeted, cohesive content for the On Her Turf platform.

“We’re asking, ‘What do future sports fans look like, and how are they consuming media and sports content?’ and that’s something we think about on the marketing and social side,” Signor said. “We both brought our expertise to the table, so it’s for people who are sports fans and not sports fans, and the woman who wants to wake up and crush the day, and that’s where we landed.”

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Emmerich said On Her Turf has grown more than 1400 percent since its launch. The Instagram account has nearly 27 thousand followers, and in December, the channel’s video success was at an all-time high with 310 thousand views and 345 percent engagement. That upward trajectory has both companies eyeing breakthroughs in new areas, too, with Signor pointing to the World cup and Kentucky Derby as events that will be heavily featured by On Her Turf. That will put them on track to reach a special milestone in 2020.

“With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, it comes full circle,” she added. “There are even more female storylines for the summer Olympics for On Her Turf to be a huge part of that journey.”

On Her Turf is about more than sports, though. For Emmerich and Signor, the brand fulfills a greater purpose—one that has the power to make a real impact on women in all facets of life.

Women are multifaceted with a wide breadth of interests and perspectives, which is why disrupting traditional spaces is so important to us,” Emmerich said. “We hope that by elevating underrepresented voices, we can change how women are represented in media and advertising.”