YouTuber Brand Deals: My First Sponsored Video Experience
A couple of months ago, I reached what I think is a YouTuber milestone: I completed my first brand deal. Okay, “brand deal” sounds very influencer-y, but I did make my first sponsored video. Previously, I’d made a handful of videos about products or services I’d received for free (but with no promise of a good review), however, this was the first time I was actually paid to produce a video review — I even had to check the “sponsored content” button on YouTube and everything!
So what was my sponsored experience like? I wanted to discuss why I had resisted sponsorship offers until now, what was different about this one, and how I think everything went overall. By the way, although you could go to my channel and figure out which brand I partnered with, I’m going to refrain from specifically mentioning them in this post. Additionally, I won’t be revealing the terms of the deal just to be on the safe side. With that out of the way, let’s start off with a little backstory:
Why I Was Worried About Doing Sponsored Content
Obviously the biggest challenge in accepting sponsorships is retaining viewer trust. How can you truly give an honest review of something if you’re being paid to talk about it? That’s a tough question to answer and was a big reason why I didn’t pursue brand deals in the past.
Something else to keep in mind is that if you’re regularly doing sponsored reviews, that doesn’t just reflect on those videos but could also taint the way people see your other content. For example, if I have five sponsored videos for different apps and then give another app a more negative review, people could assume that I’m only picking on said app because of my bias toward those paying me. It’s a fair concern and something I’ve been cautious of as I build out my channel.
Another issue I had encountered with previous sponsorship offers was that they were products that really had little to nothing to do with my channel’s main focus. So, while I might be able to make a quick buck, it would totally look like the cash grab that it was. Although I am interested in expanding the breadth of my channel overall, this certainly wouldn’t be the way to do so.
Finally, I feel as though my YouTube channel is a bit unique in that the majority of my video views often don’t come in the first 48 hours but, instead, come in time as my reviews work their way up the search rankings. Because of this, I would be anxious about letting a sponsor down who expected big view numbers off the bat. Sure, I do have a good number of videos with 10K+ views and a couple with 100K+, but the vast majority are well below that (at least for now). Thus, in order to partner with a brand, they’d need to understand this dynamic and be cool with it. Otherwise, there could be trouble.
Why I Decided to Do This Sponsored Video
Want to know something funny? When the email from this brand reached my inbox, I was already planning to produce a video review of their app just a few days later. In other words, they were now offering to pay me to do what I was going to do for free. Of course, I didn’t exactly say this to them, but this was clearly a good sign for me.
(Almost) no content compromises
Going back to why I was hesitant about sponsorships in the first place, I wanted to ensure that I could honestly endorse any product I was promoting. In the case of this app, I had already reviewed it favorably in print and had no major complaints that I’d feel bad omitting. On that note, what the company was asking for was indeed a review, in the exact same vein as dozens of other videos I’ve made in recent years. In fact, if you fast-forwarded past the part where I disclosed the sponsor, I’m guessing you wouldn’t know the difference. To me, this was absolutely key in why I ultimately agreed to do the sponsorship.
As I mentioned, I didn’t have many negative things to say about the service in question. However, if I had made this as a regular video, I might have mentioned some other options viewers might be interested in. Admittedly, this was something I could not do on a sponsored video. But, to my credit, I did explain that this particular app has a paid version (and a free version, which I think is important), so I figured viewers can decide for themselves if the perks are worth that cost. I also hope that those interested would explore the rest of my channel for alternatives. Nevertheless, this was one small compromise I made that I’ll stand behind overall.
No strings attached
Lastly, since I had no idea what to expect from the video’s performance, I was glad that was never even something that was brought up during my discussions with the brand. Instead, all they asked was that I use the title of their choice — that was it. If I had to speculate, I’d guess that this request (and them reaching out to me in the first place) was due to them realizing that I often ranked well for financial app reviews and, in turn, understood my channel. I feel so seen!
Plus, being a newbie, I was pleased that they offered a compensation amount first since, admittedly, I wouldn’t know where to start. What they offered sounded good and fair to me, so I accepted. Once the video was done, they seemed pleased and so was I — a true win-win.
The Good and Bad of My Sponsored Experience
The back and forth
Starting off with a minor negative about my experience was the communication. While the brand was good about answering my questions and explaining everything to me overall, it would often take a day or two to get back to me. That’s mostly fine except, when they’d ask for a small edit or correction that I could fix in five minutes, it was frustrating to then have to delay my video’s release by a day or more. Speaking of those tiny edits, there was also a miscommunication about a screenshot I used of the app and the explanation for what was wrong didn’t make sense to me. Eventually, I realized that my phone was in dark mode, which was what was causing the difference in appearance the brand was noting. Again, an easy fix that took more time to actually correct than it should have.
As I just alluded to, the brand was very easy to work with when it came to approving the content, only requesting a couple of tweaks to ensure I was displaying the most recent version of the service (some of my screenshots had been taken a few months ago when I first joined the app). Other than that, I was able to make the video the same way I make all of my other videos. This is what they promised when they asked me to consider a sponsorship and I have to say that they absolutely kept their word.
Lastly, another positive was that my payment for the sponsorship arrived remarkably quickly. I suppose the benefit of partnering with a banking app is that they offered the option to simply have the funds deposited directly into my account with no delay. That said, had I wanted a payout via check or other direct deposit, they did have net 30 terms (meaning they had up to 30 days to send payment after the video was delivered to them). Did I really need to get my money that quickly? Not really — but it was definitely nice to have things squared away and not have to worry about it down the line.
All things considered, I’d call my first sponsored video experience a success. At the same time, I’m not exactly sure if and when I’d do it again. If I did, it would have to make just as much sense as this one did in terms of me liking the product, having creative control, and working with a partner that understands the unique nature of my channel. So, while I won’t dismiss future sponsorships out of hand, I’ll definitely continue to be picky and particular about who I partner with.
Also published on Medium.