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Special Project

Special Project
From the 13th Annual Shorty Awards

Honda Backstage - JoJo

Entered in Branded Content


Since the inception of the Honda Backstage program, the objective has been to develop an emotional connection between Honda and Millennials/Gen Z consumers through the shared passion of music and discovery. The primary goal has been to maximize viewership, earned media, and positive brand sentiment (specifically recognition, favorability and brand fit amongst millennials). The following were the three fundamental “pillars” of the storytelling in the program:

  1. The music narrative which is specifically about creating a ‘stage’ for breakout artists to share their story of ascension, driving awareness

  2. Celebrating the artists’ imagination and determination to be great

  3. Driving engagement by enabling artist discovery and creating value for music fans through share-worthy content with Honda as the brand that made it possible

With the most recent season, we wanted to take the current series ethos and enhance it with new stories that show the audience a side to artists that felt more intimate and unexpected, reminding them of both the imagination and determination that drives musicians (rather than simply introducing audiences to new artists). This, in conjunction with the three pillars that our program has always been built on, is why JoJo was one of this season’s artists. She embodied and shared the perfect story to tell for the evolution of our program. 

Strategy and Execution

Since the Honda Backstage program has been around for a number of seasons, the development process is more challenging, because it needs to both differentiate itself from other seasons, but also stay true to the original intention of the program. We wanted to promote Honda Backstage as a modern consumer entertainment program that connects with today’s stars unfiltered, in an intimate and authentic setting, but with a unique twist.

We started with a comprehensive look at the program to understand the strengths and weaknesses of previous iterations. We then took it further by looking at the story of music in culture as a whole, to honestly identify gaps in the way that consumers think about pop artists throughout their careers.

The reality of contemporary music is that the algorithms that feed our fandom also tend to make it easier for us to move on from artists that we once loved and lost touch with. Like many things in life, novelty can take the place of loyalty, and we thought it was important to take this cultural tension, and highlight it in a way that reminded the audience that while it’s hard to break as a musician, it’s sometimes even harder to sustain a moment or break through for a second time.

We wanted to tell a different kind of story of resilience to reconnect with our original program manifesto, so we partnered with JoJo to tell her story with a whole new suite of in-depth storytelling mechanics. JoJo’s narrative was perfect for this in-depth approach to this resonant continuation of the program. Her backstory of being a child star who struggled through bad business relationships and complex personal challenges, but whose determination helped her come out the other side and reimagine her career, became a compelling episode within the Honda Backstage program that helped the artist share her story.

The breadth of assets and specifically the longer form episode allowed us to refine our distribution approach to offer maximum audience value, continued scale, viewership,v and positive sentiment. Additionally, we put the full weight of the UPROXX PR team behind the launch for further engagement and earned support from outlets like E!, USA Today, People, and Entertainment Tonight. Because JoJo is part of Warner Music Group, we also capitalized on her in-market activity as well as the access to her YouTube channel for even further program alignment and reach (her YouTube reaches nearly 900K subscribers)] . 

Ultimately, we found a story and main character in JoJo that didn’t just resonant with the overall goals of the evolution of Honda Backstage, but was important to  music culture and consumption in our digital age. By using everything from social cutdowns, YouTube long-form videos, and the Warner YouTube inventory, we could tell her story anywhere that music was being heard. We could remind audiences of both Honda’s encouraging and positive message, and also the story behind what their favorite artists do to perfect and future proof their craft, no matter what happens.


In the week following the initial release, our longform feature on JoJo saw the strongest overall results of any episode of the season. We not only saw an astoundingly positive audience response to the episode, but organic traction across the industry as well with articles and pickups across some of the most critically important outlets in music and culture. JoJo’s episode was the most viewed of the season by far, with 21% more views than the average episode this season. Her episode was also the most viewed across ALL assets created and saw 30% more views than the average across the other artists. JoJo’s episode saw the most engagements, with 118% more engagements than the average. Her episode was also the most watched this season on YouTube, with 277% more hours than the average. Ultimately, this proved to us that not only was JoJo as relevant as ever, but our strategy worked, the world wanted to see and hear a resolution to the tension we had identified. People care about the artists they love and fandom extends beyond the stage and into the personal lives of the musicians they admire. People love JoJo because she’s a human, and by platforming this very human story of struggle and triumph through the complicated rollercoaster of fame and creativity, Honda proved that it’s a brand for the people and the stories behind them.


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