How the UFC Makes Snapchat Stories Go Viral

Mike Metzler

July 27, 2016

This blog was originally posted on
Conviva Acquired Delmondo in November of 2018 and has become Conviva Social Insights.

Many Snapchatters can attribute their large Snapchat following to one viral moment or video that sends their story skyrocketing. Take Jennifer Levinson for example. She gained nearly 100,000 Snapchat followers after Buzzfeed did a video about how she Snapchats her boyfriend sleepwalking (it’s hilarious, you can watch it here).

These moments seem to happen all the time at UFC tentpole events, with their Snapchat content reaching millions of viewers each week across platforms. As the man behind the camera for our client the UFC’s Snapchat it’s my job to find these opportunities and fit them into the story I’m trying to tell.

I was lucky enough to head to Vegas during International Fight Week for UFC 200 to produce vertical video and lead takeovers. We covered a full week of activities including the UFC Fan Expo, three fights and along the way we created content for the official Snapchat Live story…literally living, breathing, eating Snapchat 24/7.

So what did I do when I saw Justin Timberlake and Tom Brady joking around before the Main Card at UFC 200?  I politely asked for a picture and they graciously obliged.


The picture was immediately shared with team and sent to Snapchat for inclusion into the UFC200 Global Live story where it would be seen by millions of people. Then Shanda Maloney, Director of Digital Marketing for the UFC, shared the image from her personal Twitter where it was picked up within moments by and overnight it was also picked up and shared by the Patriots Facebook, and a few radio stations and sports blogs.

At this point we’re thinking that this is a job well done, that’s good content that by now has been seen millions of times. So you can imagine we were surprised to see people still talking about it 2 days later. And not just a few people, like hundreds of thousands of people. That’s when we found this Instagram post:

good times with good friends thanks for the invite and the hat @justintimberlake #tb12 #ufc200

A photo posted by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

That’s right, before we could even catch our breath Julian Edelman, the star receiver for the Patriots, had photoshopped himself (and his hat) into my Snap and it was going viral. Only this time it was like throwing gasoline on a fire and all we could do is sit back and roast a marshmallow. Here are a few of the publishers who picked it up:

Then of course in true Patriots bromance fashion, Ron Gronkowski jumped in and added his own comment on the post firing up another round of articles.

In total the photo has now been seen tens of millions of times across the web, but spotting those moments doesn’t come without planning. Here’s how the UFC ensures they’re ready to spot those moments.

Four Questions To Ask Yourself Every Week

Going into an event like UFC200 there are many things we talk about ahead of time specifically for Snapchat.

  1. Who are the designated people on the UFC Social Team who will be Snapping according to our content schedule – it’s a true team effort.
  2. Where are the places they’ll be snapping from – Are we inside the arena? UFC Fan Expo? The fighter’s locker room?
  3. What points we want to communicate on Snapchat – for example driving tune-in, promoting PPV purchases, downloading UFC Mobile Apps, garnering more contest participation and informing fans of in-person public meet-ups
  4. What possibilities for viral content do we have based on the week’s pop culture and sporting events and the confirmed celebrity attendees?

That’s just when we’re onsite. UFC’s approach for creating potential viral content can start weeks ahead of time:

Our UFC Social Team establishes relationships with athletes and celebrities and we invite them to events.  We’ve done this with the Pittsburgh Steelers (Antonio Brown for example), Niall Horan (One Direction), Gordon Ramsay, Nick Jonas, Lil Jon and more. From there, we communicate up front with them and ask if they want to be involved by way of a Snapchat takeover. We know who is on our celebrity guest list, where they are seated  and we can go to their seats to set up a photo or video Snap.  

Once we’ve captured something cool, we’ll usually cross promote it on other platforms with celebrity shots and let fans know to see more on UFC Snapchat.

Why do we take such great lengths to plan all of this out…just on Snapchat?

“What we have found is that content begins on Snapchat but spreads outwards to more open social platforms where consumers have typically larger networks,” said our CEO Nick Cicero recently to Adweek. “Once content leaves Snapchat, we have access to a lot more data about content performance and the audiences of the people who feel so compelled to start new discussions across social.”

Being a mobile only platform where you can’t just retweet, or reshape there’s a scarcity factor, or limited time window meaning you have to hear about it from someone else to see it. This is why the millions of views on UFC Snapchat content is so powerful when we review the analytics with our clients each month. We want to set up those moments as often as we can to keep the discussion bouncing around social.

In the end, the whole thing is surreal when I think about how many people saw that picture, but at the end of the day, I’m not surprised.  We had a strategy in place to capture snaps like this and a plan to distribute it.  If you’re a brand on Snapchat I would encourage you to take some time before Snapchatting your next event or story and do a little dreaming.

Ask yourself, best case scenario, if you could have ANY picture or video into today’s Snapchat story what would it be?

Who knows, you might end up capturing a picture of the two coolest dudes on planet earth and then have one of those dude’s teammates photoshop himself in to the picture and then have another of their teammates make fun of him for it.

I mean, it could happen right?