Partnering with Creators

April 2018

Tap into loyal audiences by partnering with YouTube creators. Define the scope of your collaboration with a clear creative brief. Use creators’ relationships with fans to share your message with hard-to-reach viewers.

Who are YouTube Creators?

A YouTube creator is anyone who makes videos for YouTube. That’s the beauty of the platform: everyone has a voice, and everyone can have a channel.

Popular creators are savvy marketers, with a knack for finding innovative ways to engage with their viewers. And they’re adept at building massive communities, with audiences that range from hundreds to millions. Research shows the presence of celebrities in ads was associated with increased brand lift and view-through rates.1 And while this tactic has stood the test of time, keep in mind today’s notion of celebrity has expanded far beyond the latest box office hit. 70% of YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities.2

  • Creators run the gamut from casual smartphone vloggers to full production teams shooting TV-quality scripted content.
  • 61% of YouTube subscribers say their views of a brand have been influenced by a creator.3
  • Popular creators are becoming icons. Millennials think YouTube stars are bigger trendsetters than celebrities.4
  • And among YouTube subscribers, 6 in 10 would follow the advice of a fellow creator over a favorite TV/movie personality on what to buy.5
  • Creators are business-minded. They’re dependent on their content, and interested in having long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships with brands


  1. Partnering with YouTube creators gives you the opportunity to get your brand message in front of a larger audience.
  2. YouTube creators are more influential than traditional celebrities.6

The Benefits of Partnering with YouTube Creators

There are millions of creators on YouTube. Their videos reach over a billion people and cover nearly every topic imaginable. Partnering with creators allows you to share your brand message in an authentic and engaging way.

  • Creators have built strong relationships with their fans which they can use to promote brands they believe in.
  • Creators are experts in programming on YouTube and can help share your brand message with hard-to-reach audiences who don’t consume traditional media.
  • Creators are nimble. Working with them can be a fast and cost-effective way to supplement traditional creative agency work.

Tips for Working with Creators

This section covers different types of creator partnerships, how to initiate them, and best practices for a successful campaign.

What Do Creator Partnerships Look Like?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so consider each type of campaign on a per-project basis to find what works best for you. These approaches aren’t mutually exclusive and it’s common for advertisers to mix and match based on campaign specifics, goals, and the types of assets they’re looking to get out of a partnership.

  • Product Placement

Creators weave your product into videos they’d be making anyway. This light touch, shout-out-to-your-brand approach is cost effective, and doesn’t put a drain on advertiser resources or require too much creative or brand oversight.

  • Custom Integration

A dedicated segment or video produced and distributed by the creator on his or her own channel (example: a video of the creator trying your product). While more expensive, this approach is ideal for advertisers seeking robust storytelling opportunities.

  • Advertiser Videos

Brand-owned videos produced by or featuring creators and designed for YouTube ad formats such as TrueView. These videos allow for more creative control and can be targeted to specific audiences.

  • Social Amplification

Promotion across a participating creator’s social media is often included with partnership. Social amplification can be used to drive traffic back to video content and engage with fans.

  • 360 Partnership

A combination of the above tactics, typically over an extended period of time, and potentially including other extensions such as appearances, category exclusivity, licensing agreements, etc.

Identifying The Right Influencers

It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with YouTube creators who might be a fit for your campaign, but try not to fixate on specific creators too early in case they’re unavailable. A more measured approach is to identify a range of creators with the key characteristics you’re looking for and use their programming to inspire your vision of what collaborative videos could look like.

  • Research creators on YouTube. Subscribe and watch creator videos to familiarize yourself with their programming, tone, release schedule, etc.
  • Not sure where to start? YouTube’s Creator Services Directory features over 200 companies including platforms like FameBit that specialize in matchmaking.

Working With Creators

You can engage with creators directly or enlist the help of a third party to oversee the process. Here are some different approaches:

  • Collaboration with creators

Managing the process directly with content creators can be cost-effective and help nurture a valuable relationship for your brand. Keep in mind, additional resources may be required to identify influencers, negotiate contracts, and manage campaigns, which could require extra time.

  • Multi-Channel Network(s)

MCNs represent specific creators across YouTube and other digital platforms. They provide pre-sale ideation and manage the post-sale process—contracting, project management, etc. Many MCNs also provide production capabilities, which can supplement the resources of individual creators.

  • Platforms

Matchmaking platforms like FameBit exist to make influencer marketing more scalable. They provide software that manages the process from end to end—identifying creators, briefing, sharing proposals, contracting, managing the creative approval process, and more.

  • Social and/or PR agencies

Many have teams focused on influencer marketing. They can help you stay on top of trends in the social and video space and are best suited for multi-creator campaigns that depend on creators to produce most of the content.

  • Talent agencies

Top YouTube creators are celebrities in their own right, so it's no surprise that many of them are also signed to traditional talent management agencies. These may be a good fit if you're thinking about long-term cross-platform partnerships.

  • Production companies

Consider them for campaigns focused on ownable advertiser content and/or creator channel videos that require production capabilities beyond what an individual creator can off

Create a Brief to Define Scope

You’ve decided that you want to work with a creator. Where do you go from there? The first step is to create a brief with a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve. Here are some important elements to include:

  • Logistics

The budget and timing of your proposed campaign. This will help determine level of talent, quantity of videos, and production specifics.

  • Objective

Describe the campaign’s purpose. Include any challenges that your brand is facing and insights used to inform your strategy. Be as clear as possible and focus on the role creator partnership(s) will play within your overall campaign.

  • Success

Which metrics will you use to define success? And how do you plan to track them?

  • Deliverables

How many videos you are looking for? Where will they live? How do you plan to distribute them?

  • Insight

What have you learned about your audience that will help creators come up with the most compelling ideas? Include market research, data, or consumer insights.

  • Audience

Who are you trying to reach? Share any pertinent info including age, gender, interests, etc.

  • Inclusions

Must-haves or things to avoid. Some examples are media usage rights, brand safety requirements, monetization settings, FTC compliance, SAG requirements, and category exclusivity. Address these requirements up front before any contracts are signed.

  • Creative Messaging

Information about your brand’s personality—what is and is not on brand—along with any key messaging. This is key to ensure consistency.

  • Thought Starters

These can be example videos from similar campaigns that demonstrate what you’re hoping to achieve.

  • Creative Control

Working with creators requires you to relinquish some creative control. Be sure to provide feedback up front and during the treatment phase, since re-shoots typically carry additional costs.

Best Practices and Other Considerations

  • Trust the creators—they know their audiences.
  • Find creators that share your values and are passionate about your brand.
  • Lead time varies from project to project. Once contracts are signed, allow three months lead time, including one-and-a-half months to produce content once contracts are signed.
  • Typically, creators own the content they produce. You will need to license the content to run as media, host on your website, etc.
  • Many advertisers opt to turn off advertising on sponsored content to maximize viewership and avoid competitive ads from appearing. Keep in mind, creators rely on advertising revenue and may ask that compensation be baked into their fees.
  • Be transparent—FTC requires creators to disclose when content is sponsored.
  • Consider supplementing organic distribution with paid.
  • Pricing varies based on the specifics of a given project. Keep in mind that creator partnerships often include production and distribution and are structured on a cost-per-view basis.
  • Identify a main point of contact who will lead to lead the partnership.
  • New trends are constantly emerging on YouTube. Staying on top of them is a great way to make your brand more relevant and relatable.
Macy’s put on an at-home music festival to reach Millennials in their festival fashion micro-moments. The Summer Vibes Concert featured YouTube stars Todrick Hall, The Gardiner Sisters, AJ Rafael, and Macy Kate. The result? 4M+ views, 60% lift in festival product consideration and a 15% rise in searches for Macy's on Google and YouTube.* Learn more on Think with Google: Macy's Breaks into Festival Fashion with its Own Summer Vibes Concert on YouTube

Sources (7)

1 “Why YouTube Stars Are More Influential Than Traditional Celebrities,” Think with Google, July 2016.
2, 3, 5 Google-commissioned Ipsos Connect, “The YouTube Generation Study,” U.S., November 2015.
4 Google/Nielsen, "The Influence of YouTube Creators Study," U.S. Feb. 2016.
6 “Digital Star Popularity Grows Versus Mainstream Celebrities,” Variety, July 2015.
* “Macy's Breaks into Festival Fashion with its Own Summer Vibes Concert on YouTube,” Think with Google, October 2016.

Programming and Channel Strategy