How MrBeast changed the face of celebrity-YouTuber collaborations – Insider

Tee Rasheed
8 Min Read

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From grand sets to big explosions, all unfolding at a dizzying pace, many of MrBeast’s YouTube videos can feel like a Hollywood movie. Especially thanks to the occasional sprinkle of star power — billionaire and “Shark Tank” personality Mark Cuban and former “SNL” comedian Pete Davidson are among those who have recently been given cameos by the biggest YouTube creator in the world.
These famous figures are often featured alongside the YouTuber, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, doing something largely incongruous with what their audiences know them for. Former host of “The Tonight Show” Jay Leno, who we’re used to seeing behind a talk show desk, drove Donaldson around in his $20 million car; Miranda Cosgrove,  known for her role on the Nickelodeon children’s show “iCarly,” guessed the prices of expensive art alongside the YouTuber and his group of friends in a $30 million house the crew was exploring. 
Donaldson’s employment of celebrity features is a departure from YouTube tradition — his special guests are never the main characters of the videos. They often appear for just a few minutes before the video moves on to another segment or another guest star is featured. 
It represents a shift in the way celebrity power is being leveraged in the creator space, keeping Donaldson and his brand at the center of attention. 
Mainstream celebrities notably entered the YouTube world in the early to mid-2010s, as creators were increasingly achieving celebrity status themselves.
Still, these collaborations typically held the celebrity as the main attraction of the video, often featuring a thumbnail where the celebrity’s face could be prominently seen, and their name in the title, as a surefire way to draw attention.
Often, these collaborations also involved promoting the celebrity’s work. YouTuber Caspar Lee’s interviews with Chris Pratt and Cara Delevingne in 2015 and 2016 featured short promotions of their current film projects in captions under the videos, and YouTuber Lilly Singh did something similar when she collaborated with Dwayne Johnson in a 2017 video
A post shared by MrBeast (@mrbeast)
By contrast, Donaldson’s videos put himself and his brand at the center, limiting high-profile guests to brief cameo-style appearances. 
Celebrities have galavanted with Donaldson and his group of friends while they explored expensive yachts, houses, and cars in his videos. But their faces rarely appear in the thumbnail art, which more often focuses on the flashy objects and Donaldson himself, serving to reinforce his already prominent reputation as a YouTuber with ridiculous amounts of money at his disposal. 
Conversations and introductions of his celebrity guests are not a main feature either, but they appear to be entertaining additions to the already over-the-top grandeur of the setting and drama in his content. In fact, in his most recent video, Donaldson expended far more words advertising his chocolate brand Feastables, in a segment where he paid for planes to write “Deez Nutz” in the sky to promote his chocolate bar of the same name, than he did introducing award-winning singer Justin Timberlake shortly afterward. 
According to Sarah Saffari, CEO of the influencer marketing company InfluencerNexus, one reason why celebrities might be agreeing to small-scale partnerships with Donaldson which don’t involve any direct promotion of their work is because it helps them stay relevant, particularly to younger audiences. 
Saffari pointed out that appearing on his channel, which has 200 million subscribers, provides huge exposure to the celebrity, more so than even television appearances would give them. The video Leno briefly appears in with MrBeast, posted on the YouTuber’s channel in September, has received a staggering 153 million views — that’s more than the estimated 113 million viewers of the 2023 Super Bowl, and significantly more than the 14.6 million live viewers who tuned in to Jay Leno’s last episode as host of “The Tonight Show” in 2014, according to Nielson Media Research as reported by Reuters at the time.
On top of the exposure, the casual feel of the collaborations — including celebrities in challenges rather than sitting down for a structured format, for example — helps to humanize the stars, allowing their personality to be put on display, Saffari said. Fans who watched Donaldson’s most recent video would have seen Mark Cuban cracking a joke about heated toilet seats, which they might not typically see on “Shark Tank,” where Cuban is one of the investors on the panel. 
But it’s not just the celebrities who are benefitting.
According to Saffari, the casual feel of the content also helps Donaldson’s image, adding credibility to his reputation. Not only is he able to benefit from having famous faces on his channel, but the fun activities he does with them in a casual setting creates a feeling that Donaldson and the celebrity are on equal ground, like friends hanging out, she said.
“They’re just doing really fun, silly, stupid things that people find funny and entertaining and good to watch, and it doesn’t at all feel or seem formal. And because it eliminates that formality, it feels really nice and fun to watch for the audience, and they’re like, wow, these two are friends. And that also builds a level of credibility,” she said. 
Saffari told Insider it seems that celebrity appearances in the media — including on influencers’ platforms — are “getting in some ways more and more casual over time.” However, what is truly unique to the way they appear on Donaldson’s channel, she said, is that Donaldson isn’t putting celebrities on a pedestal by making them the center of focus in his videos.
By putting himself on “equal ground” with celebrities, Donaldson seems to have played an ultimate power move in the creator space, as he hasn’t made room for celebrity promo or relied on famous faces and names to be the main attraction. 
In Donaldson’s internet universe, he is the ultimate star, and the famous figures who’ve taken on roles alongside him are merely side characters.
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.
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