MAY 13, 2022
By Nicole Bitette
Paramount partnered with Pepsi and TikTok to launch ‘Becoming A Popstar’ on MTV.
When PepsiCo and TikTok wanted to create a music competition reality series, they found a perfect partner in Paramount, as we have the original music channel, MTV, and an in-house branded content studio, Velocity.
Pepsi, TikTok, and Velocity worked together to create Becoming A Popstar — the first original long-form TV series MTV has created in partnership with a brand. Hosted by Joe Jonas, Becky G, and Sean Bankhead, it aired weekly on linear television for five episodes starting on March 24. Beyond co-creation, the team also leveraged the full scale of our Paramount ecosystem to promote the series, share content, and engage fans, including distribution on MTV.com, the MTV app, and promotion across dedicated social profiles and channel promos.
“Pepsi briefed us on the initial concept, with TikTok already as a partner, and said, ‘We're going out to a few key partners in the industry that could help us produce and distribute this show,’” says Kerry Deming, VP of Convergent Ad Sales for Paramount. “Paramount was the only company that they briefed for both. We have the creative chops to produce a show and come up with a really strong creative take. We also have relevant platforms to distribute and promote it as well, enabling us to grab the attention of fans and get them engaged.”
Building A Series From Scratch
Pepsi knew what it wanted from the start of the process: a reality competition series that leveraged the brand’s legacy ties to music with a new and relevant take on a music competition. Pepsi partnered with TikTok to take advantage of the social platform’s virality, as rising talent and musicians use TikTok to develop their audience. The TV series would spotlight eight up-and-coming artists originally discovered on TikTok who would be judged to see if they had what it takes to become the next pop star. Contestants were tasked with creating both an original song and original music video, which set it apart from other music competition series. The winner, Samy Hawk, will star in their own Pepsi commercial, which is set to premiere on television during the MTV VMAs. Pepsi will provide funding and resources to help take their career to the next level.
In a new and innovative approach to the co-production model, Pepsi, TikTok, and Paramount’s Velocity each had an equal stake in the production decision-making, as well as in the financial investment. Velocity leveraged Jesse Collins Entertainment — a full-service television and film production company behind major live events like the BET Awards, Grammys, 2021 Oscars, and more — along with MTV’s Bruce Gilmer, President of Music/Music Talent Program Events, Paramount, to produce the series.
PepsiCo has a longstanding history of partnership with Velocity, spending a total of $91M across the portfolio via the Upfront and more. It’s produced many unique, bespoke campaigns for the brand, including the YouTube series Match Me If You Can.
“Each project we do with Pepsi is always a little outside of the box, but this project took things to the next level,” says Cristina Evans, VP of Activation, Velocity, Paramount. “The scale of the program, the way that it was distributed, and the way that the creative came together really sets it apart. Typically in our marketing programs we look to find synergies with a partner’s message and existing IP, in this case, we were tasked with building custom IP from scratch.”
Promotion to support the five linear episodes included editorial promotion across Paramount’s platforms, off-channel promotion, and on-campus promotions through Pepsi. TikTok voting was integrated into each episode with a fan favorite prize rewarded through a weekly 30-minute TikTok Live. There was also coverage on late-night shows, the Today Show, Entertainment Tonight, and entertainment publications.
High Impact Through Linear and Digital
The series drove more than $10M in incremental media revenue for the brand partners—with almost half of that investment going towards digital and social platforms to drive social conversation and engagement around this new show, says Evans.
Becoming A Popstar rivaled other reality competition series in terms of social engagement. The show’s hashtag generated 84.6M usages on TikTok during the 5 episode run. Becoming A Popstar also grew its linear audience from premiere to finale 52% on Live +7 for P18-49, and 67% on P2+. Pepsi and TikTok purchased EyeQ as a part of their digital investments to unlock this partnership to further its social reach. Additionally, Velocity leveraged our influence casting arm to source a host already popular on the platform (@bruontheradio) for the weekly TikTok Lives. This was the first time TikTok has done a custom marketing and partnership with Paramount and the first time they contributed a considerable spend with Paramount on digital — close to $1M, according to Deming.>
“To create maximum impact and scale, you need to be able to pull levers across the full linear and digital ecosystem,” she adds. “The fact that Paramount can do that is really exciting for our partners.”