Shortly after Jenna Smoot, consumer engagement coordinator for NBC Sports, wrapped up an exhausting month of work on the 2016 Summer Olympics from NBC’s offices in Stamford, Connecticut, her mind raced ahead two years to when the network would hold broadcasting rights to Super Bowl LII before rolling right into the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. The mere thought of all the work that would be required to pull off such a broadcasting feat, Smoot said recently, was laughable.
That time has since arrived for Smoot, who worked the Super Bowl this past Sunday, hopped on a 14-hour flight from Minneapolis to South Korea on Monday and has spent the last few days making final preparations ahead of the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Friday. The entire experience has been chaotic, the 2010 Strasburg High School graduate said, but in the best way.
“It’s fun and it’s rewarding work and mostly for us we’re excited to bring these events to life,” the 25-year-old Smoot, the daughter of former longtime Strasburg baseball coach Jeff Smoot and his wife, Libby, said in a phone call from PyeongChang on Tuesday night. “We’re thankful that we get to tell these stories and I think that’s really the best part about the Super Bowl and the Olympics.”
Smoot and her colleagues are in the home stretch of what she said has been a full year of preparation for February 2018, as she and others on NBC’s consumer engagement team worked to develop marketing plans for both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics during that span.
As consumer engagement coordinator, Smoot said she works closely with NBC’s social media and production teams to distribute the network’s messaging to its audience. For the 2017 NFL season, NBC’s message was “Road to the Super Bowl,” she said.
All year long Smoot worked to find “unique partnerships” inside and outside of the NBC Universal umbrella, she said, and during the NFL season she worked with teams across the league who were scheduled to appear on NBC’s weekly broadcast of Sunday Night Football. That effort culminated in last Sunday’s Super Bowl LII matchup between Philadelphia and New England.
“From a professional perspective, a lot of things that our marketing team produced and worked on, as well as our social (media) team, that all came to life in our pregame show that started at 1 (p.m.) and led up until kick (at 6:30 p.m.),” Smoot said. “So seeing that all integrated in a Super Bowl Sunday pregame show was very, very cool for us.”
Smoot was on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium as Philadelphia sealed its 41-33 victory over the Patriots and as the confetti began to fall, she said, a sense of accomplishment washed over her. Seeing firsthand the players celebrate their own achievements, she added, was something “I did not ever imagine that I would ever get to be a part of.”
“It was really incredible. I mean these are men that work their whole lives for moments like that, especially for a city like Philadelphia, who I think it meant so much for that city and those players knew how much it meant to that city,” Smoot said. “It’s just relations and it’s people truly that have dedicated their entire lives to one sport. I think to see it on their faces at the very end is a very cool experience and a little overwhelming, I’m sure, for a lot of people, and myself included.”
Still riding her own sense of pride and accomplishment after the Super Bowl, Smoot boarded a plane for South Korea to move immediately into the next major sporting event.
Smoot said she spent the first couple days in PyeongChang getting settled into her role, becoming acclimated with the International Broadcasting Center – where she will work for much of the next month – and the various Olympic venues and figuring out the best and easiest way to communicate to people on the East Coast through a 14-hour time difference.
Once the Games begin, Smoot said she’d be responsible for helping manage a social media “nook” where athletes will visit during the course of interviews with various media outlets and film video or “fun social media pieces” that will then be pushed out to NBC’s social media accounts.
“It’s very cool to get to see all these athletes after they’ve accomplished the most important thing in the world to them and all of their hard work has sort of (paid off). They won a medal and that’s amazing,” Smoot said. “It’s really cool to get to work with them afterwards and see how excited they are, and sort of get to bring that on our social media accounts and show people.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics are scheduled to run from Friday through Feb. 25 (figure skating and freestyle skiing events aired on NBC on Thursday night), and Smoot said she can expect many 15- and 16-hour work days ahead.
“It is a grind. I can’t lie, it’s a grind. It’s a lot of long days but at NBC I think we put so much value on getting to broadcast the Olympics and it is really, really something that our company prides itself in, and because of that everyone here is just so excited and so ready to get this thing going,” said Smoot, adding that the enthusiasm is contagious.
“I know it’s gonna be long, long hours but … it really is fun. We all just love our jobs and it gives us an opportunity to really put it all together and bring it into everyone’s homes.”