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Take the money and publish? The dedicated sponsor conundrum
It's one hell of a tightrope, this one...
There are two types of sponsor partnerships on YouTube. The first is what’s known as the ‘integration’. Typically lasting between 60 to 90 seconds, this ad read is designed to slip effortlessly into a related video.
Most of my sponsored videos are undertaken in this manner. After the intro, I’ll introduce a product from a brand that is sponsoring the video you’re watching. If the video is about the iPhone, it might be an iPhone case. If it’s a Mac-related video, the sponsor integration might feature some security software.
These integrations, when done correctly, can be incredibly beneficial for the brand, the audience, and yours truly. They’re also likely to turn into long-lasting partnerships.
The second type of sponsor partnership is the dedicated video. And this is where everything can go horribly wrong.
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A dedicated sponsor is one that fills an entire video. They’ll come in one of three flavours - reviews, demonstrations, or a video whose topic is directly linked to the sponsored product, which features throughout the video itself.
I’ve experimented with all three, and they either work brilliantly or sink without a trace. Despite this, dedicated sponsors can be incredibly lucrative. The fees are often two or three times that of a sponsor integration - sometimes a lot more. The reason for this is quite simple; the brand wants exclusive access to the creator’s audience, which is prime-time coverage and extremely valuable. Therefore, the marketing dollars often flow naturally towards that kind of partnership.
Truth be told, dedicated sponsors are vanity projects. A brand will pay more just to see its name in lights in the video title, and to have the content devoted entirely towards its product. The relatively small audience this reaches compared to sponsor integrations (which typically benefit from being placed within high-ticket video subjects) is often irrelevant.
I’ve never quite understood this. Having come from a marketing background, if I were transported back to that position, I would invest far more of the marketing budget into sponsor integrations. Dedicated videos just don’t offer the same kind of exposure or return.
Regardless, dedicated video requests continue to pour into creators’ inboxes. This presents quite a challenge because the potential earnings for engaging in such partnerships are almost too good to ignore. Unfortunately, if you pick the wrong product or make the wrong video, your audience will begin to question your integrity and impartiality.
So, how can you navigate these murky dedicated sponsor waters? I’ve learned a lot about this subject over the last three years, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself. The good news is that I’m starting to understand how to approach this stuff.
The first golden rule of dedicated sponsors is to only accept a small number. The more dedicated videos you publish, the more likely you are to piss off your audience and stunt your growth. Equally, you should only ever accept dedicated sponsors from brands who inspire you. If you suspect you’re doing it just for the money, that’s a clear indication that you need to back out.
I’ve made one or two poor choices in the past with dedicated sponsors, but, over time, I’ve made far better decisions. For instance, Himoni is an office chair brand with whom I partnered last year. They paid handsomely for a dedicated review of their Herman Miller-beating chair, and the resulting video has proved a hit with my audience. Every week, one or two people order that chair (I receive a commission for each sale, too), and the video itself is approaching 20,000 views. I took a punt with that one, but there was something about Hinomi that I liked, and the product is brilliant - I still use it to this day.
The other thing I recommend you do is working towards a longer-term partnership with any brand that insists on a dedicated sponsor. Sure, they’ll pay less for future videos, but they’ll be with you for far longer, and your audience will grow to know, like, and trust them.
Lastly, remember that you drive the narrative for dedicated reviews. The brand shouldn’t have any creative input (bar suggestions for use cases), and they certainly shouldn’t influence your opinion of the product. Those that do need to be steered well clear of.
Dedicated sponsors aren’t a bad thing or a poor reflection of you as a creator. They’re great profit centres and, if you pick the right partners, can benefit everyone involved - including your audience.