🪦 Grave Sponsorship Mistakes (and how to avoid them) 🦇
Reliving real sponsorship horror stories from my audience!
What are you going to be for Halloween tonight?
I, unfortunately, won’t be dressing up because I’ve been abducted by aliens.
The worst part about my abductors is they’ve been forcing me to listen to real sponsorship horror stories from my audience over and over.
They also told me that if I don’t share them with you, they’re going to force me to do a bunch of posts on my socials in exchange for a free alien plushie. 😱
Hope you don’t have a weak stomach (stop eating the Halloween candy btw, that’s for the trick-or-treaters) 🎃
😈 #1 - Deal With The Devil
Anonymous Creator #1 decided to partner with a big-name brand, even though the terms weren’t great.
For example, the brand wasn’t willing to sponsor the creator’s usual minimum number of podcast episodes, and they would only pay 30 days after the spot ran.
They also stipulated that the podcast episodes had to come within 10% of the creator’s average downloads.
The consequence of failing to meet this threshold was that the creator would have to do a “make-good” episode free of charge.
The brand regularly complained about the spot read, claiming the talking points were outdated, even though the creator was definitely reading the most up-to-date info they had sent.
This led to a constant cycle of the creator giving the brand free “make-good” episodes and an overall bad taste. 🤢
Lesson 1: Don’t blindly accept the terms of a sponsorship just because it’s a prestigious brand.
Lesson 2: If you let a brand walk all over you from the beginning, they’ll always do it. You need to stand up for yourself and flex your expertise about how to make the partnership perform best.
🧟♀️ #2 - Dead to Undead
Anonymous Creator #2 often partners up with multiple brands concurrently.
But Brand X almost went nuclear when they discovered the creator was working with Brand Y, who they perceived to be a competitor (but exclusivity was never discussed)!
So as a peace offering to Brand X, the creator offered to make a YouTube video for free demonstrating the brand’s big new feature.
And guess what?
Brand X loved the video so much that they hired the creator to make 10 more!
AND now that creator produces Brand X’s podcast!
Lesson 1: Clarify who the brand views as competition sooner rather than later. You don’t wanna waste everyone’s time.
Lesson 2: Remain graceful at all times during a negotiation, even when you perceive a brand to be overreacting. By keeping the relationship positive, you open up further opportunities later.
🧛🏻♀️ #3 - Blood-Sucking
Anonymous Creator #3 made a TikTok featuring a homeware brand’s space-saving paper towel holder.
When the video absolutely blew up, they decided to contact the brand and offer them a series of TikToks centered around saving kitchen space using this brand’s products.
Though the brand responded, they offered 8x LESS $$$ than the creator’s usual bundle value.
And despite trying to negotiate by adjusting the deliverables, the brand wouldn’t budge and it went no further.
Except it DID go further.
This creator was shocked to find the brand had actually downloaded their original video, run it through some watermark-removal software, and used it on their own platforms.
And guess what?
It was their MOST VIEWED VIDEO at 500k views!!
And to this day, the creator hasn’t received a cent for any of the work.
Lesson 1: Some brands are very shady. It’s unfortunate but it happens. But remember that’s the exception, not the rule.
Lesson 2: Rather than threatening to send your lawyer after the brand, use this template that leads with empathy (and doesn’t assume malice):
I’m so glad to see that you enjoyed the video I made about [your brand/product/service] so much that you reposted it! Repurposing my content is something that requires an investment so can you let me know what budget you’ve set aside to secure those rights? I also have a few collaboration ideas featuring [your brand/product/service] I’d love to share with you! Are you free on Thursday at 1pm to chat?
👻 #4 - Ghosting
After Anonymous Creator #4 agreed to a partnership with a brand, they asked when they could expect the contract. Pretty reasonable, right?!
Then, for three weeks, the brand completely ghosted the creator 👻
And when they did finally get a reply, it was only to say:
“Hey! So we’ve shipped the product and it should be with you in the next few days! Thanks!”
Leaving this creator totally perplexed.
I mean, what about the contract? What’s the timeline for the partnership? What's actually going on? 😂
Lesson 1: If you’re not getting the answers you need from a brand, don’t be afraid to follow up relentlessly.
Lesson 2: Don’t produce anything until a contract is signed. Especially not when a brand starts pressuring you for asset delivery ASAP.
🎃 #5 - My Worst Nightmare
Now the aliens are forcing me to relive two of my own sponsorship nightmares! Noooo!!
We lost $24,000 on a sponsorship campaign after the brand started playing fast and loose with the terms in our contract. However, there are definitely some things I could have done better which would have saved us all some time.
We spent almost an entire year chasing up a $5,000 payment from an agency which eventually went bust. But the worst part is, this could have all been avoided if I’d noticed a couple of glaring red flags.
Wow! You made it to the end of the spooky stories without passing out.
Well, now you have to tweet me and either...
A) Share your OWN sponsorship horror story
B) Send me a pic of your Halloween costume
Thanks to George Blackman for contributing to this piece.
P.S. Most people giving YouTube advice don’t have any actual data to back up what they’re saying.
But my friend Jake recently ran 103 YouTube title A/B tests to see what really works. He put all of the results into a book and shared everything — what he changed, what worked, and what didn’t. Get the book here.