The Truth About Getting a Brand Deal on YouTube

You don't need millions of YouTube subscribers to get a brand deal. It's all about having the right attitude and a bit of persistence to close the deal.


Most YouTube creators dream of getting a brand deal – and for good reason. Instead of depending on AdSense revenue, they get to diversify their income and make more money.

But here’s the truth. The best way to get a brand deal, ironically, is to become a brand yourself. Having a YouTube channel is great, but taking the steps to create a business gives your content a different identity. For example, it’s one thing to post videos about how to emigrate from the U.S. to Mexico. It is another thing entirely to sell courses, consultations, and e-books about how to make the switch. That’s a step above content creation. When your empire is that fleshed out, brands have more information about how and why they should partner with you.

Read More: Making Money on YouTube - 7 Tips to Start a Successful Business

In this episode of TubeTalk, we chat with Mike Bienstock about what it takes to get and keep a brand deal on YouTube. Bienstock is the chief executive at Semaphore, which helps creators get products into stores, negotiate brand deals, and more.

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In addition to treating yourself like a brand, here's how to get (and keep) YouTube brand deals.

What Is a Brand Deal?

According to YouTube, a brand deal is “a partnership between creators and brands and is sometimes referred to as a brand sponsorship.” That definition comes from a Creator Academy course on brand deals. Most partnerships are simple: You create a piece of content that features a product, and the brand pays you for your work.

You don’t need millions of subscribers to partner with a brand. Oftentimes, you just need a focused niche, high-quality content, and a good pitch.

It’s Easier to Get a Brand Deal When You’re Serious About YouTube

Before striking a deal with a creator, Bienstock gauges their passion for YouTube. So if you’re interested in getting brand deals, go all-in. Be consistent with your video uploads, create awesome thumbnails, and write the best titles you can. Let your passion spill over into everything you create so brands know you’re here to stay.

Having lots of views and subscribers helps too. But Bienstock says there are more important factors.

“It’s more about attitude and dedication than any particular metrics because the metrics can grow and expand over time,” Bienstock says. “The creator’s attitude of how they are treating it is usually pretty [ingrained].”

You Need to Love The Product/Service You’re Promoting

You can’t fake passion on YouTube. If you’re a creator who appears on camera, think of how long people have studied your mannerisms. By now, they know when you’re being genuine or if something seems off. That’s why you can’t say yes to any brand deal. People will know when you’re promoting something just for the money.

“Creators and their audiences, that relationship is very transparent,” Bienstock says. “We’ve learned this way back in the early days: If the creator isn’t really excited or passionate about the project or what’s happening, the audience can tell…. We need to figure out something that’s going to fire up the creator because the audience is going to sense how true that is.”

Before agreeing to do anything, make sure that…

  • The product or service is something you believe in and aligns with your channel
  • Your audience will benefit from using the product or service
  • You are excited and passionate about promoting the brand

Remember, the right opportunity is better than any opportunity.

Brands Will Reject Your Pitch, and That’s OK

Everyone faces rejection when they’re trying to get a brand deal. Yes, – even the talented negotiators at Semaphore. The company is super successful, and yet, not every brand is willing to work with the creators they represent.

“We get told no a lot, and we get told, ‘What you're proposing is impossible,’” Bienstock says. “Now it makes me laugh because people tell me things are impossible, and 12 months later, we’re working on a national launch tied to something they swore was impossible.”

If a major company can fail like this and still keep going, so can you! Don’t feel too bad about getting rejection emails, or even worse, no response. It’s just one brand. There are more opportunities out there if you’re willing to look.

Brand Deals Create More Work, But You Can Handle It

It’s true. Brand deals are more work than what you would do on your own. When you’re simply creating videos, you get to make a plan and execute a few ideas – nothing more and nothing less. With a brand deal, you might be tasked with making three sponsored videos a month, in addition to regular content. Then there’s the pressure to make quality videos that perform well for your channel and the brand.

It’s challenging because you have more responsibility. But just think: If you made it this far, it’s because you have the work ethic to create at a high level. That’s a trait you can tap into when things get rough.

“[Successful creators] are very true to their roots of being a new influencer,” Bienstock says. “They remember those all-nighters where they couldn’t even afford an editor. They had to do the editing. And the mic didn’t work. And they’re re-filming their videos. So I don’t believe they change. Because everything they’ve done to get to that place is thinking about their emotional connection to their audience.”

Partnering With a Brand Doesn’t Make You a Sell-Out

Repeat after me: Promoting a brand on your YouTube channel doesn’t make you a sell-out. It’s 2021, and viewers love to see it. A few years ago, promoting a brand could alienate your audience and even cause jealousy or disgust. It’s the opposite today. People are simply happy their favorite creator is being recognized and compensated. They leave comments expressing how proud they are, and how just a few years ago, that creator had 100 subscribers instead of millions.

Need another reason to pursue a partnership? Here’s one of the best: Money is a basic necessity. Creating and posting YouTube videos is hard work. A brand deal helps you support yourself.

Read More: 7 Steps to Build Multiple Income Streams on YouTube

“Listen, if you cannot pay your rent or your car expense or buy a camera, you have no content to create for the world,” Bienstock says. “You’re going to need to get a job somewhere, and you’re going to have zero time to create. So we need to be realistic and transparent about the fact that you’re filming and buying props. They don’t just get given to you. You’re going on Amazon and buying these things.”

Are you ready to get a brand deal as a small creator? Check out this post to learn how.