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Special Project

Special Project
From the 14th Annual Shorty Awards

The Power of Storytelling with LeVar Burton & tonies

Entered in Multi-Platform Partnership


To celebrate the release of the LeVar Burton Tonie (a small storytelling figurine that comes to life with audio when placed on a Toniebox), Brains on Fire worked with Burton and the team at tonies to produce content that would also be a part of a more comprehensive brand advocacy campaign. The goals would be to announce and successfully launch his Tonie while building brand awareness for the tonies US operations, which is a product that launched in late 2020 after establishing itself in Germany. This content would be used to reach families with little-to-no awareness of the Toniebox while establishing its clear benefits around building childhood literacy skills and imagination with screen-free entertainment.

Those benefits would become clear with a brand ambassador in Burton who authentically represents the importance of childhood literacy to millions around the world.

Additionally, we would be able to use this announcement to continue the company’s outreach to educators across the country who also share that connection to Burton’s work, building an interest for them in bringing the the Tonie experience into their classrooms.

Strategy and Execution

For the Tonie figurine itself, LeVar Burton's award-winning children's book, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, was recorded by Burton himself. Burton and tonies also developed original content for his Tonie, which include activities and lessons on emotional learning and literacy, storytelling and an "audio field trip" for imagination building. All of this was announced across social media in a paid advertising campaign using key video content targeting a clearly defined audience of parents with children in the tonies demographic of three-to-six years old.

We also built a Tonies for Teachers Starter Kit built around the Burton Tonie and other products. This kit allowed us to introduce the brand to teachers across digital ads and lead them to a dedicated product offering for their classrooms, all with a discount through

LeVar built his career around his love of stories and nurturing that love for school-age children everywhere. He also believes in the power of the Toniebox to spark creativity and imagination for families across the country. Building off this authentic expression of the brand values, we created a campaign that lived across social media channels, including Burton’s, and reached new audiences by reminding them about the importance of storytelling in childhood.


Throughout the fall of 2021, the LeVar Burton videos drove some of the highest engagement for our digital paid advertisements. It hit our goals of driving new customers through our primary audience of families with young children. It also built our pipeline with leads for schools across the US interested in partnering with tonies to bring the Toniebox into their classrooms. Burton continues to be the ideal advocate for our brand and products. We're excited to continue that partnership in 2022 with in-person activations at schools and libraries where we'll continue reaching new families right where they are and introduce them to the wonder of tonies.


Video for The Power of Storytelling with LeVar Burton & tonies

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Brains On Fire, Inc., tonies