Despite a recent slide in ratings in live TV events, top-billed award shows are still an important part of brands' TV marketing efforts, with many eager to return to some of the in-person elements of awards shows that were put on pause amid the pandemic.
This weekend's MTV Video Music Awards will see brands like Wrigley's Extra Gum and MolsonCoors connect with consumers on the ground of the music awards show.
“We see that there is an appetite to re-enter live music,” says Sarah Long, chief marketing officer at Mars Wrigley North America, noting that doing so safely is the theme underscoring all of the brand’s VMA activations. Extra has partnered with the annual MTV award show for the past five years.
Extra Gum will host a pre-VMAs concert that will take place at Terminal 5 in New York City. The concert, which leans into Extra's “Fresh Start” campaign from Energy BBDO that debuted earlier this year, was co-created with ViacomCBS’s in-house creative shop Velocity, and features an in-show partnership with headliner Troye Sivan.
Coors will also host a stage event outside the Braclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the VMAs, which will feature performances from nominated artists.
ViacomCBS says it sold out of ad inventory in the VMAs earlier than any other year in recent memory. "A month prior to the show, we were literally down to very, very few units,” says Karen Phillips, exec VP, convergent ad sales, ViacomCBS. Phillips has had a hand in selling airtime during the VMAs for the past 25 years.
That uptick in advertiser interest is consistent with a trend that has defined much of the TV industry this year: demand outpacing supply.
From reports of networks turning away brands’ ad dollars during this summer’s upfront season to NBCUniversal being all but sold out of high-priced Super Bowl LVI inventory months ahead of the February 2022 game, marketers are still looking for the reach of TV, even if fewer people are watching in traditional ways.
With the upcoming VMAs, many sponsors—several of which are long-time advertisers in the ViacomCBS-owned award show—are making a concerted effort to do more to engage with audiences than just air a commercial.
Over the past two years the VMAs have become “about the lead-in to the show, about the real-time during the show, and about the days following the show,” says Phillips.
“It’s much more exciting than just a 30-second spot,” she continues, adding that the 2021 VMAs brought in more revenue than the ceremony has in the past five years.