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Industry Trends
March 20, 2022
min read
Max Rochman

Early Bird Catches the Sponsorship Worm

Influencer marketing is often spoken about as “the wild west” of advertising; YouTube, Podcasts, Newsletters, and Blogs are all in this new stage of advertising where success indicators can be hard to read. Finding channels that will give your brand positive ROAS can be a challenge and finding channels that will even sponsor your business is yet another hurdle.

Big player brands sponsoring on YouTube

Looking at the frequency of YouTube sponsorships, we see that there are a few brands that seem to sponsor every type of channel. Just within the past year, Skillshare, Squarespace, BetterHelp, ExpressVPN, and Manscaped dominated the scene, with those brands being just a few of those big players. We see these brands featured on some of the largest and most broad channels to the smallest/most niche of channels. 

Brands sponsoring on YouTube
Chart of most brands appearing in the most sponsorships in the past year on YouTube

Clearly, an immense amount of sponsorship works for these brands, as this has been their strategy for the past few years. But the question remains, “Are they seeing a positive ROAS on these ad spends? Or is there something else at play?”

Brands like these could be casting a wide net, recovering from their losses on lack-luster channels by seeing major conversions on channels that they sponsor more consistently. Or it’s possible that these brands don’t mind losing money on placements as it still can act as a brand awareness play. 

On the other hand, buying up as many channels as your budget allows, does give your brand some edge. Think of it as a YouTube land-grab.  As our agency is told time and time again, lots of brands have a 90-day exclusivity clause on channels that they sponsor, meaning that no similar brands can sponsor on those channels for at least 90 days.

To showcase this point, let’s take a look at Squarespace’s sponsorship history over the past year.

Squarespace sponsorship history

First and foremost, let’s take a look at their Thought Leaders vs. Mentions. We see that over the past year they have sponsored 995 channels, which is quite a lot and nearly 5x the number of Thought Leaders that they do mention. This indicates that they found channels that were successful for them and have sponsored the channel multiple times. 

The target audience for Squarespace would be anyone interested in creating a website, so if they wanted to be conservative with their budget and only sponsor channels that have content that would be relevant for that audience; they may sponsor Arts & Crafts channels to target artists and photographers, or possibly channels focused on business/entrepreneurship. 

Yet overall, we see that Squarespace has mainly sponsored Lifestyle and Technology channels. These two content categories are not the first that jumps to mind when contemplating where the ideal website building audience is located. 

The chart below shows the top content categories from 2020 until now: 

This chart reveals why Squarespace may be advertising so much on Lifestyle channels. As you can see, Lifestyle is the second most popular content category for content creators with How To/Crafts and Technology falling in the fourth and fifth spots. 

In an interview in 2014, the CEO of Squarespace Anthony Casalena was asked what the company’s biggest challenge was, he responded by saying, “Brand awareness. You may have a better product, but if someone isn’t comparing you to other products, they don’t know you exist.”

This approach is clearly evident in their sponsorship history. Rather than only sponsoring channels that they know their target audience is watching, they sponsor the most popular channels on the website. 

This chart shows trends from the past year from videos in the Lifestyle category. 

Just in the past year, 82.5 billion people have watched Lifestyle content with 94k average views per video. Additionally, we see the sentiment score of Lifestyle videos is nearly 100%, which shows us that audiences generally react positively to this type of content (something advertisers are always looking for). 

How can your brand learn from Squarespace?

Brands like Squarespace can take this same approach and dominate a specific content category. Not only is Squarespace getting one of the biggest brand awareness plays possible by sponsoring Lifestyle channels, but they are also blocking potential competitors from advertising in those spaces at all. 

In the case of blocking out competitors, HelloFresh was able to box out one of their biggest competitors in the YouTube space, Blue Apron, and dominate the space.

Here is what both brands look like since Jan 1st of 2020:

Blue Apron brand sponsorships


HelloFresh brand sponsorships

Just in the past year, HelloFresh has sponsored over 1000 ThoughtLeaders, leaving Blue Apron in the dust with only 200 ThoughtLeaders. Although Blue Apron has slowed its influencer sponsorship over the past few years, we can clearly see that HelloFresh has moved into the space.

We cannot point to HelloFresh’s initial sponsorships as the reason why Blue Apron slowed their advertising, but what we can say is that it will be very difficult for Blue Apron to return to the YouTube scene with HelloFresh being such an advertising powerhouse. 

This chart shows HelloFresh’s sponsorship growth dating back from their first ever integrations in 2015. The red shows their YouTube sponsorship while the purple shows their Podcast integrations, although there was a clear dip in late 2020, we can see that in 2021 they have increased their budget even more, connecting with more ThoughtLeaders than in previous years.

This snapshot shows that HelloFresh has acquired almost a billion views over all of their previous integrations, with a sentiment score of 98.56% indicating positive reactions to the videos where they have been placed.

A snapshot of HelloFresh’s history on YouTube

Brand awareness in influencer marketing

Overall, a large part of influencer marketing is brand awareness and having control over the space/your competitors. Being ahead of the game and sponsoring the proper channels can lock your brand in as a serious player in the YouTube space and potentially box out your competition. We’d love to discuss how we can launch your brand as a company to watch on YouTube, and as these examples show, there is no time like the present! 

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