The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 13th Annual Shorty Awards

Texas-sized Graduation Celebration

Finalist in YouTube Partnership


At H-E-B, we sell groceries, but we're here to make the lives of Texans better every day. We saw a dip in sales of typical graduation items (cakes, party trays) early in the pandemic, but instead of focusing on how to solve the business problem, we focused on how to solve the human problem. Hundreds of thousands of high school and college seniors would soon be graduating with no real celebration, and that was something we thought at we could solve this. With all of our relationships, we rounded up a few dozen famous celebrities to give a "speech", and then worked with Texas native Maren Morris to provide a unique, one-of-a-kind, live concert sending off the graduates. H-E-B doesn't sell graduation items, but we make customers for life. Our goal was to make the lives of our customers better, even if just for a moment - and to drive positive perception of our brand during a difficult time.

The objective of our livestream was to celebrate graduates - in order to do that, we'd need to get views of the event, both the live stream and the ceremony after (minus the one-night-only musical performance). We had goals for the live event (get 10k live viewers), post-event (reach 1/10th of our market, or 1M Texans) and overall brand perception.

Strategy and Execution

We wanted to hold an online, virtual graduation celebration to make this year's graduates feel like they didn't have to miss out on this huge moment in their career  - with "speeches" from Texan celebs, wishing the class of 2020 well, and a musical performance at the end that would make the graduates feel extra special.

How to do that? Create a YouTube live event that couldn't be missed, where our teams would bring all these celebrities together for one night - including a once-in-a-lifetime performance from country star Maren Morris. The core idea behind our effort was to further our brand's "Texans Helping Texans" campaign and provide a beacon of hope for graduates during a time of uncertainty. Graduates wanted to feel celebrated and like their accomplishments had a ceremony to culminate them in - and in 2020, those ceremonies weren't happening on their own, so we needed to create one live and on YouTube. We had a few weeks to figure out how to create, livestream, and promote an event that was very far from selling groceries... but we knew the payoff for our Texas grads was worth it.

In order to get more Texans to tune in, we had to publicize this event as much as possible and as quick as possible. We worked with YouTube's internal creative team to create ads for Google platforms and a custom Masthead to create attractive content, and then purchased a masthead takeover for highest visibility and exposure. The custom masthead guaranteed more eyeballs, and Maren's involvement guaranteed the interest! We also pitched this YouTube live on traditional meeting, meriting mentions on news shows across Texas, and a digital marketing campaign that drove viewers to our channel. All of the celebrity partners who provided videos also agreed to post about the ceremony, generating excitement and hype across their social channels and driving customers to watch LIVE on YouTube.

In order to get more viewers to the live, the YouTube Masthead helped us target anyone living in Texas. Our In-stream and Discovery ads gained awareness and exposure, and got people to RSVP to the event. Day of, the YouTube Live provided a way for us to engage live with our customers, thanking them for joining, celebrating their milestones and making their lives better.



The merit of the creative concept to hold the graduation, along with H-E-B's longstanding relationship with celebrity Texans, meant that H-E-B was able to secure more than 30 stars to contribute their well-wishes to Texan seniors - including Jerry Jones, Walker Texas Ranger himself Chuck Norris and Texas' favorite senior citizen Kay McConaughey.

We saw more than 2M views of our Texas-sized graduation celebration - and had thousands join us live for Maren's concert with overwhelming positive sentiment and appreciation from customers and partners (H-E-B employees). 

The celebration ended with a scrolling list of all H-E-B employees set to graduate that year and to top it off, H-E-B ran a social media contest for Seniors, giving away $100,000 in VISA gift cards as our last graduation gift. 


Video for Texas-sized Graduation Celebration

Entrant Company / Organization Name

H-E-B, YouTube Brand Unit


Entry Credits