My first thought when seeing the gaming video below was “what a great use of personal style to make sponsored content”. In the video, artist counter656 creates a stop-motion battle between Thor and Iron Man, with a nice little finish at the end including Spiderman.
He did everything you would expect if you were one of his fans and everything you’d hope for if you paid for this ad. He’s paying the bills with sponsored content, yet still delivering the same top-notch quality his stop-motion videos fans have come to expect. After watching the video, I read the comments, and wondered if sponsored content can ever really flourish on YouTube. It should be able to, when done right.
Sponsored Video Content: Options for Creators
With the current model in place for online video there are two main options, or at least a mix of the two, that creators must utilize in order to support their content. Creators can either live off of ads, sponsored content and the like, or they can survive off of the generosity of their fans. Without at least one of these two approaches, any creator who isn’t independently wealthy will eventually starve or realize they are just funding a hobby and find another line of work.
In all reality, a mix of the both is preferred by many creators because it not only tends to satisfy the fans more often, but it allows the creator to maximize the size of their audience and total revenue. But how do you make the most of sponsorship? Here are my top 5 tips:
#1 Negotiate the Terms of the Sponsorship Deal
It all begins with you. Don’t just blindly accept the terms proposed to you by a company or ad agency. Think of the values important to you, your content and your viewers so as to avoid doing something they would consider a betrayal or “selling out”. You can’t please everyone, but negotiating to protect your brand is never wrong. It’s ok to turn down sponsored content if you feel it won’t be mutually beneficial.
#2 Remain Authentic to the Style That Made YOU Successful
Don’t try and deviate too far from your core content for sponsored content. Not only will your viewers be less likely to watch, those that do may leave or worse.
#3 Believe in the Product(s) You are Sponsoring
Make sure you are doing the sponsored content because it is something you believe in or would use yourself. Viewers can see right through fake emotions, so being genuine in your endorsement is key. Jessica Hatch, a successful creator who has carried a lot of sponsored content on her YouTube channel GoneToTheSnowDogs has the following advice for endorsement-led videos:
When doing a sponsored video, you really don’t want it to feel like a commercial. You want it to be genuine. I will only do sponsored videos with companies and products that I actually use, companies that I believe in. I think people have to remember, that your #Pawdience trusts you, and if you push products on them that you don’t use and you don’t support, they can see that.
#4 Blend the Sponsored Content In
Although rules are getting stricter on whether or not ads can be camouflaged, the fact of the matter is it’s still fair game. Until the rules are tougher and more strictly enforced, use this to your advantage. If you can still get paid for the advertisement and your viewers are none the wiser, it’s a win-win situation. Just be sure you aren’t misleading or deceiving your valued audience or it could come back to haunt you. A scorned audience is never worth the price of an ad campaign.
#5 Pace the Advertisement Within the Content
If it feels like an ad, viewers will often click off. Retention is highest at the start of a video, so the further in the video you can place the ad, the better your retention will be. If you keep hitting the viewers over and over with an ad hammer, they will notice and they will take offense.
Branded Collaborations on YouTube: Aim for True Authenticity
The comments from counter656’s video (below) are a perfect example of why sponsored content is so difficult to get right on YouTube. Perhaps the most coveted thing on YouTube is a true, genuine fan who not only loves what you do, but supports it by sharing it and influencing others to also be a fan. Assuming these commenters are indeed unsubscribing from this creator simply because of this ad, you can see why it is completely counter to a successful channel to run sponsored content, even when they integrate it with their usual style and substance.
This may just be reality and the cost of doing business for video creators, but in a socially driven business, what the people say IS important. In fact, I’d argue it is equally as important as the work being personally satisfying for the creator, they go hand in hand.
Perhaps the video in question was too obvious with the ad, but I for one think he did it the right way. There is a fine line to be walked when making sponsored content, but for some it is a necessary evil to survive and viewers should respect it or support the artists themselves.