Shifting Values of The Three Basic Types of YouTube Sponsored Content

Key Article Takeaways:

  • The three main YouTube sponsorships (aside from ambassadorships) are:
    • :30 burn-in pre-roll, mid-roll, or end-roll
    • Brand/product Integration
    • Brand Showcase
  • :30 burn-ins excel in ease of placement in well-performing videos, frequency data, and attaching to the most organic asset type of the list
    • These also have typically lower CTRs comparably
  • Brand/product integrations should typically last around 1-2 minutes
  • For an integration or showcase, it's important to let Creators speak to the product or service in their own words, while still giving direction on key talking points
  • The quality and value of views go up when running a fully branded post, but the quantity will often go down


First topic on this post might be to see if we can even agree that there are three basic forms of YouTube sponsorships. We are excluding ambassadorships which encompass videos on multiple topics over a multi-month period or simply including links in description fields but feel free to drop any relevant comments or insights on these or other formats in the comments.

With that, here are the three basic forms of sponsorships and how their value has been shifting:

:30 burn-in pre-roll, mid- or end-roll: This form of sponsorship is obviously the most like traditional paid media and for that reason is perhaps not considered as much as it might otherwise be. Typically the package includes placement in multiple of the influencer’s editorial videos. There are two benefits to this:

    1. You can really draft off the influencer’s core editorial strengths by choosing to have the placements in videos expected to have the highest views. And if those views don’t materialize, this is probably the easiest situation to ask for a make-good on

    2. This is the only type of sponsorship with a frequency component (in fairness, ambassadorships could be argued to provide a form of frequency). Frequency is critical to marketing success and one of the weaknesses of influencer marketing is that it fails to deliver frequency. Ironically, frequency often comes via using multiple similar influencers who presumably have some audience overlap. Clients will ask about that this as a negative (“we want unduplicated audiences”) but since this isn’t really measurable, it becomes a moot topic

You can be placed in videos that otherwise wouldn’t make any editorial sense for an integration and that way get your message in front of both subscriber and SEO viewers who wouldn’t opt-in to your message

For some lower involvement categories :30 is plenty of time to deliver your message and not annoy the audience. Antivirus software comes to mind as the poster child of this kind of sponsorship

The difference between a pre-roll, mid- and end-roll is perhaps underappreciated for the simple reason that there isn’t a ton of attention paid yet to viewer decay in videos. For this reason, we strongly prefer pre or mid-roll that occurs in the first 25% of the video. Some influencers insist on end-rolls which either is an instant disqualification or requires retention screenshots to show that viewers are watching to the end. I’d ask for sample retention graphs for prior end-rolls and structure the package based on those numbers to ensure expectations are realistic

While we do see lower click through rates (CTRs) on these sponsorships, we love that we are still going to be the primary link in the description field and that link is going to be persistent not only for the whole video but as going to live in the description typically in perpetuity. As a further nod to the importance of frequency, anecdotally we have observed the most clicks typically occurring on the second of the three placements 

Pricing for these packages averages around 3 placements for the same cost as a basic integration. Another great benefit is that you have an asset already designed to be repurposed for additional paid media applications & there is no reason why the influencer shouldn’t provide those rights for at least six months given the nature of this sponsorship

Integration: Integrations are the broadest category and there are a lot of variables to think through so that everyone ends up happy. Let’s talk these through as this is also where we seeing a lot of movement in the market:

  •  Integration Length: Should be a minimum of 1 min dedicated to the product but more typically 2 min or more. Typically this is done in one continuous segment but we prefer and see better performance when there are multiple references to the product throughout the video. That’s a ‘deep integration’ and provides enhanced authenticity among other benefits. The integration should be in the front third of the video

  • Editorial approval: Influencers understandably want to maintain editorial control and integrity of their content but this doesn’t obviate the need for brands to not only understand what content they are going to be associated with but to have the right to comment on how the product / brand integrates with a specific editorial message

  • Inclusion of other products:  Historically, this has been a particularly tricky topic. The reason it was tricky was that “10 top lists”, “desktop setups” and “ultimate haul” videos did very well from a viewership and clicks perspective and so there was a reason to encourage them even though brands could feel like “why am I paying for nine other products to get promoted?” More recently, we are finding that these types of videos don’t outperform like they used to and in fact there’s some evidence that the sponsor product underperforms from a clicks basis and so we view these proposals with growing skepticism. What hasn’t changed is that directly competitive products with any of a brand’s ‘siblings’ are a no-no.

  • Titling and SEO: While there are lots of clues as to the topics of a video, including the transcript, tags and all of the text in the description field, the video title is a particularly important one. Not only does it unambiguously impact SEO but it pulls in viewers who see that title on the SERP. Is inclusion in the title one of the benefits of an integration? Not automatically, but it’s something we push for in order to maximize long term benefit to the client and draw in searchers looking for product information. If three is pushback from the influencer, interesting to note that while you cannot edit or change a video once it has been posted, you can actually edit a title post launch, giving you an enhanced ability to segment how you appeal to subscribers vs. searchers (if you haven’t already read the post on vertical performance variations, you can push your thinking with the graphical framework described there). 

Brand Showcase: Brand showcases are the simplest type of sponsorship. The entire video is focused on the product or brand. Historically one might have also called these videos reviews but I like leaning way from this semantic: to me a review can’t be sponsored. Even if there wasn’t full editorial freedom, that’s impossible for viewers to know and therefore it tears into the fabric of trust. Historically, we liked showcases. Done well, there wasn’t a noticeable dropoff in views from other content and there would be materially higher clickthroughs. That said, we are seeing lower views typically on this content and as a result influencers are growing increasingly resistant to this type of sponsorship or demanding increasing premiums. Rising prices and falling views is a bad combination and and as a result, this type of sponsorship is decreasing in frequency. 

Seeing anything different? Let us know! Otherwise hope you enjoyed the post and stay tuned for more next week.