Some brands are able to get their names inserted into TV titles via a sponsorship, but only a few are big enough to become the subject of a show themselves.
Lego joins that group tonight, as Fox debuts the reality competition series Lego Masters, in which teams of builder duos compete in elaborate brick-building challenges to win a $100,000 prize and the title of “Lego Masters.”
It’s Fox’s second series built around a popular brand—music game show Beat Shazam was renewed for Season 4 just last week—though the Lego Masters format is already a hit in Britain and Australia.
Fox heavily promoted the new series during Sunday’s Super Bowl, as the network looked to keep viewers tuned in beyond the game and secure its first season win in the adults 18-49 demo in eight years.
Unlike most other brands, Lego has a universality that made it an ideal fit for its own TV series. “I don’t think there’s a person in America who hasn’t at one point built something out of Lego, which you really can’t say about any other toy,” said Rob Wade, Fox Entertainment’s president of alternative entertainment and specials.
Lego has been “great partners” with Fox, Wade added. “I think they see the value to their brand. It’s a great opportunity for people to see that building Lego is not only fun but also quite artistic and quite aspirational,” he said.
The brand is “incredibly involved” in Lego Masters, from designing the build challenges to providing experts, said executive producer Jill Wilfert, who heads up inbound licensing and entertainment for The Lego Group. The show’s two judges, Jamie Berard and Amy Corbett, are both lead designers for Lego, and host Will Arnett voices Lego Batman in the Lego theatrical films.
“What we love about the show is it really showcases the power and the creativity of the Lego brick itself,” Wilfert said. With Lego, “you have to put something into it to get something out of it. And I think the show does such a beautiful job really demonstrating that and bringing that to life.”
Showrunner and executive producer Anthony Dominici said much of his collaboration with Lego while making the show “was about, this is a really fun idea and how do we make it bigger? How do we make our builds bigger? We really wanted to celebrate what they stand for and what they’re all about.”
Lego expects Lego Masters will give the brand a major engagement boost among U.S. viewers, which has already happened during the other iterations of the show. “When people were watching the show in Australia, you could see Google search went way up, as people were searching for Lego,” Wilfert said.
But while Lego is leveraging its social media channels and Lego stores to capitalize on that increased brand interest, it wants Lego Masters to stand on its own. “We don’t make the content just to sell product,” Wilfert said. “We really want to make sure that the content in and of itself is valuable [and] engaging.”
Building Lego Masters
Karen Smith, CEO of Tuesday’s Child, the U.K. production company that created Lego Masters, was inspired to make the show after seeing a popular documentary about Lego called The Secret World of Lego that aired on Britain’s Channel 4 in 2015.
“We realized it had broad family appeal, because Lego has touched everybody,” Smith said. “So we said to ourselves, ‘Could we take what Lego is about and create essentially a talent competition out of it that would appeal to a broad audience?’”
It took her company a year and a half to win over Lego, which had been unimpressed by several previous pitches for TV shows from other entities.