Why the VMAs' Biggest Winners Are Toyota, Burger King and Other Partners

Paramount Brand Studio created more than 200 custom creative assets for MTV's awards show

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Update: According to preliminary Nielsen ratings, the 2023 VMAs reached 865,000 viewers on MTV. That’s up 37% from the previous year, bringing even more eyeballs to brand partners. Simulcast data is still to come.


Even before the VMAs kick off tonight, partners such as Toyota, Burger King and more are looking like the big winners.

Unlike the Emmy Awards, which are delayed due to the writers and actors strikes, the VMAs are going off without a hitch today, and partners are dedicating more inventory to long-form custom creative TV advertising than ever, according to Paramount.

For this year’s event, the Paramount Brand Studio team created more than 200 custom creative assets, which will be delivered in collaboration with agency and brand partners across screens, social platforms, and influencer and consumer touch points, including retail and dining. There are 30 new and returning brands this year as well as 22 main show units that were converted into branded content, according to Dario Spina, CMO of Paramount Brand Studio.

“This year there was an editorial focus on delivering a live, multi-faceted programming experience that places fans in the middle of everything,” Spina told Adweek. “We are providing even more content for fans to enjoy and engage with one of pop culture’s biggest nights on every social platform—from short-form stories with talent and behind-the-scenes footage of artist rehearsals to offering fans the chance to control what they see from different vantage points throughout the show.”

The show is bringing in new tech to give audiences access from multiple co-viewing livestream options, with a POV model that shifts from fly-on-the-wall angles to closer views, all while advertisers have the chance to get involved.

Spina said Doritos and Toyota are along for the ride for the co-viewing experience, with Doritos serving as a returning partner for the Extended Play Stage. The stage features in-show VMAs performances while encouraging fans to try other angles using social media, scanning a QR code to access the livestreams and see backstage.

Meanwhile, Toyota is back for a fifth year as a partner and first-time sponsor of the Video Vanguard Award, with this year’s honor going to Shakira. The company is showcasing its all-new Toyota Prius and celebrating the award through a 90-second, in-show creative.

After first partnering with the VMAs in 2019, Burger King will return as the presenting partner for Video of the Year. This year, the company collaborated with DJ Steve Aoki, a former Adweek cover star, for a reimagined version of the brand’s “Whopper Whopper” jingle and a music video that will premiere during the VMAs. The music video is being teased on a Times Square billboard, with social content also coming from Burger King’s and Aoki’s social media accounts.

To further promote the remix, Burger King has partnered with 10 dance influencers who will post sponsored content featuring special choreography following the awards show. The company is also hosting a “Whopper Whopper Remix Photo Opper” activation at the official VMAs Block Party with photo ops and giving 50 fans the chance to win a special prize pack with VMA swag.

The Mars company, another returning partner, is bringing M&M’s to the VMAs, with the brand partnering to present the viewer-selected Song of the Summer award. As part of the partnership, the company worked closely with Paramount Brand Studio and artist Stephen Sanchez on a custom performance.

The company is also bringing Orbit Gum as a returning sponsor for Last Looks mirror, the first stop on the pink carpet for celebs. Throughout the night, talent and MTV will push out their Last Looks content courtesy of the brand. The partnership will be supported with integration into MTV digital series Phone Raiders, a 30-second linear promo, a thematic red carpet hit and a custom Snapchat lens.

“From instilling confidence as attendees get red carpet ready and delivering the evening’s best Last Looks with Orbit Gum to celebrating the ways that music unites people, with M&M’S sponsoring the viewer-selected Song of Summer award and a special performance by artist Stephen Sanchez, we are ecstatic to be playing a role in this cultural event that’s sure to be a night to remember,” said Gabrielle Wesley, CMO at Mars Wrigley North America.

In addition, Bacardi, a first-time VMAs partner—as well as the first spirits partner—is paying tribute to 50 years of hip-hop with an experiential Bacardi Vintage pop-up shop, including a limited-edition VMAs bottle and signature cocktails, a consumer sweepstakes and a 60-second custom creative that remixes iconic tracks saluting Bacardi over the decades, featuring Don Toliver and DJ Premier.

The spot is set to kick off the VMAs.

“We’re honored to be the first-ever spirits partner of the MTV VMAs, especially during the 50th anniversary of hip-hop,” said Lisa Pfenning, vp, Americas of Bacardi Rum. “Bacardi has long been embedded in hip-hop culture, inspiring some of the most memorable lyrics, movements and music video moments from artists that have defined multiple generations.”

According to Spina, the partnerships are all about placing brands in the VMAs’ best pop culture moments.

“Partners really are part of making cultural moments, and we’re here to help fast track, create and curate that experience for them. And for consumers, our north star is building out activations and executions that add value to the show and feel like seamless, organic extensions to the show experience,” Spina said. “It’s going to be an incredible night of entertainment and music.”

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