Five quick things to know about sponsored YouTube videos

April 18, 2018

Written by NewsWhip

As publishers and brands diversify their 2018 strategies, Youtube influencers already have loyal audiences ready to engage. We take a look at the data.

We’ve talked a lot about influencers on the blog, particularly on Instagram and, to a lesser extent, Facebook. With publishers and brands looking to expand beyond the duopoly this year, we decided to investigate influencers on Youtube.

Why? Youtube has a younger audience, with 94 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. on the platform, according to Pew Research. Of all American adults, 73 percent use Youtube, compared to 60 percent on Facebook. People tend to go to Youtube for intentional viewing rather than passive scrolling.

For influencers, in particular, Youtube is particularly appealing, as our data showed us (but more on that in a moment!).


influencer Youtube data
According to Google, 7 out of 10 teenage Youtube subscribers relate better to their favorite Youtube creator than to traditional celebrities. Another survey from Google found that 40 percent of millennials feel that their favorite YouTuber understands them better than their friends.

Influencers have strong audiences, and they already know the ins and outs of creating catchy video content, still the favored format across social platforms.

Much like what we’ve seen on Instagram, influencers are still a wild, wild west in terms of regulation. According to a new report, researchers found that 90 percent of Youtube videos didn’t contain any written disclosure, something that we saw as well when we compared attributed videos to some top influencers’ videos and found a clear disparity.

Despite this, we wanted to understand what makes sponsored content successful on Youtube. Using NewsWhip Spike, we looked at 30 days’ worth of videos containing sponsored content, brand partnerships, and affiliate links.

What did we notice, straightaway?

Looking at 30 days of content (March 18th – April 18th, 2018), we noticed that there weren’t just one or two industries that dominated the top sponsored videos.

Within the top 100 viewed videos in our analysis, brands across food, fitness, fashion & beauty, gaming and apps, nerd culture, parenting/toys, and tech all featured.

Tech-savvy brands like Postmates, Amazon, HelloFresh, Dollar Shave Club, Squarespace, Netflix, Crunchy Roll, and HelloFresh all featured, but we also saw some traditional brands like Mattel, Ubisoft, and Slim Jim.
Apps and other startups also appeared, like War of Clans (below), SeatGeek, Black Tux, Nimses, Romwe, and the viral video game, FortNite.

This video that appears to be partnered with LootCrate, drove 156,000 likes and 11,000 comments, and 3.5 million views on Youtube. LootCrate’s own Youtube channel appears to only drive hundreds of views per video.

On Facebook, LootCrate’s Page drove an average of 902 engagements per post in March, and again, just thousands of engagements per Instagram post.

Influencers can have a big impact on a brand’s awareness and reach to new customers. Here’s what we learned from the top viewed, liked, and commented sponsored videos in our database.

1. They’re human

The theme of 2018 for social media content and platform appears to just, being human. This comes through in what makes these sponsored videos so successful.

As seen below in this more extreme example, it’s not only the highlight reel that does well for influencers and sponsored content. Viewers want to see it all.

The top sponsored videos are often tightly focused on one or two people, and showing their genuine emotions and reactions, whether it’s to a product or to whatever the video is about.

2. They’re all about inspiration that’s attainable

We may love to stalk the Kardashians and Jenners on Instagram, but on Youtube, the story is a little different.

Compared to videos from traditional celebrities, the top 25 Youtube influencers’ videos drive 3x the views and 12x the comments. Millennials believe Youtube creators are trendsetters more than other celebrities.

This came through in the top sponsored videos as well, whether they were beauty videos, gaming videos, or something else.

The videos are often endorsing products or aesthetics that are attainable to viewers, and usually, actionable.

3. They are longer than on other platforms

How much time do people spend consuming Youtube content?

This looks a bit more in-depth than other channels, giving publishers and brands an opportunity for longer engagement with a piece of content.


duration youtube
Looking at the top 25 native Facebook videos of March (excluding one Live video), the average duration was 2:57, nearly three minutes long. This is certainly on the rise from what we’ve seen in the past, but not on the level we see with Youtube, at 7:46 for the top 25 English-language videos in a 30 day period.

For our top sponsored content, we saw a similar trend to the above comparison. The top 20 sponsored videos in our analysis were an average of 13:47, nearly 14 minutes long. The longest one was from Zoella, at more than 32 minutes long, but others were quite consistently over 15 minutes long.

This can also come down to the platform itself, as well as the way people are accustomed to engaging there. Video on Instagram posts (not Stories) is limited to 60 seconds.

4. They can be product-focused

When we’ve analyzed top branded content in the past, for web, Facebook, and Instagram, the tie-in to the actual product or service tends to come as a second thought to just delivering a really good story or social post.

The below example, from BuzzFeed and Subaru, exemplifies that, and actual influencers on Facebook as well:

However, on Youtube, there appears to be a bit more acceptance toward product-focused content. This could be because of the trend on the platform with unboxing, haul, and tutorial videos.
Again, it’s less about catching attention in users’ feeds, and more about meeting users based on their intention.


While each platform has its advantages, for brands trying to directly connect products to consumers, Youtube might be be similar in a way to Pinterest.

5. They blur the line between paid and editorial

As we mentioned before, many influencers don’t disclose sponsored content, and other times, it’s hard to tell what is and isn’t sponsored. Even the FCC has trouble.

Hauls, unboxing, tutorials, and product reviews all blend effortlessly into content that accrues millions of views. Going into the description of these videos, oftentimes creators will link right to the products that appeared or were used, making for a seamless path to purchasing.

To understand the impact, we can look at Ryan ToysReview. Ryan ToysReview has one of the most viewed videos on Youtube. Despite it being sponsored content, (and Ryan being the 8th highest paid Youtube entrepreneur), his videos drive millions of views and affect toy sales.

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to examine influencers and other ways that publishers and brands alike are experimenting with Youtube.

In the meantime, check out NewsWhip Spike to look at what’s driving views, likes, comments (and even dislikes!) on Youtube right now.

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