YouTube has become a major platform for influencer marketing. With creators of all sizes participating in sponsored content, YouTube brand deals and sponsorship issues have become more complex. These issues can come with legal pitfalls if not approached carefully.
As a YouTube content creator, you must know about these issues before signing up for a sponsorship contract.
In this article, I will dig into 16 key issues that creators should keep in mind when reviewing YouTube sponsorship contracts and brand deals. I will also share a few tips that you can follow to avoid these issues.
Note: Not all of the issues are instant red flags that make you say no to working with the company. But still, being aware of potential problems like limits on creative control, usage rights, and cancellation policies can help YouTubers protect themselves legally and financially.
YouTube Contract & Sponsorship
Let’s take a quick look at the YouTube Brand Deal And Sponsorship Contract Issues.
- Brand Ban
- Script Control
- Extra Promotional Activities
- Ad Revenue
- Usage Rights
- Multi Deals
- Brand Cancellation
- You Cancelling
- Non-Disclosure Agreements
- Legal Stuff
Now that you have a glimpse of these let’s take a look at each issue in detail below.
1. The Brand Ban
In some cases, if one brand is reaching out to you, they’ll request/demand that you don’t use other brands in the content that you’re producing for them. While that might not be a big problem in itself. What you’re really looking out for is whether there is any kind of time period surrounding that condition. This is especially important if the brand ban is complete.
For example, if you are a makeup guru, then you probably don’t want to be tied into a contract that prevents you from using any other makeup brand for any duration. Rather than that one piece of content you are creating for them.
2. Script Control
It’s not often that a brand will want to control the entire script of a video. Usually, they want the video to be made in the style of the creator. But in some cases brands will put some kind of restrictions down. Usually, they prevent the creator from saying anything negative about whatever they are being paid to promote. So, the creator might be able to put forth their own positive opinion about the product. But they have to leave out the negative.
Think very hard about whether or not to agree to this kind of deal because, essentially, you are being asked to mislead your audience. If you do intend to agree, you’ll want to put in your own terms that while you agree not to say anything negative.
This way, you will be making it clear in the video the degree of control the brand has over what you are saying. Sadly, when you do that, you’ll normally find that the brand doesn’t want to work with you. Let’s face it kind of discredits any other promotional videos made about the brand if you go ahead and spill the beans that they are controlling the script.
3. Pre Approval
It’s not uncommon for a brand to want to see and approve your video before you publish it. If they are paying for an ad. But you do want to be a little careful here about what happens if they don’t approve. It also can be the potential reason for not approving it.
You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where the brand is controlling. Whatever you are trying to say in the video. Refusing to approve the content because you are giving an honest negative opinion.
You also don’t want to find yourself in the position of having to continually remake the video because they are not satisfied with it.
Make sure you confirm with the brand how much control they actually have, whether or not they are going to determine the general topic of the video, the amount of time within the video dedicated to the product, or whether they simply want to make sure that you aren’t doing anything in the video that would be considered bad (like making racists comments, or flushing the products down the toilet or something).
4. Extra Promotional Activities
While this post is about YouTube videos, you’ll often find that brands won’t want just a YouTube video, they’ll want some other promotional activities surrounding that video. Make sure you clarify exactly what those are.
For example, are you required to promote the video on other social media platforms? How many times? Are you required to post pictures of the product to social media, or talk about those products on social media? Does the brand have some kind of control over the content of those posts?
You could also find that this ties in with other points like the brand ban, where you aren’t allowed to promote a similar product from another brand on your social media for x amount of time after your video has gone live.
5. Ad Revenue
If you’re being paid to make an ad for a company, chances are they aren’t going to want other adverts playing on that video which means a lot of them will ask for monetization to be turned off.
No biggie, right? Well, yes and no. If you’re a small YouTuber who isn’t pulling in that many views or making that much money in ad revenue from a single video, then you probably won’t mind monetizing it. If you’re a larger YouTuber that gets a decent amount of views, you’re probably going to be looking a little more closely at the amount you would make in ad revenue vs the amount you’re making from the deal.
At the end of the day, the amount of ads or sponsored content you take part in can affect your audience and how much they trust your recommendations. If you’re taking an ad opportunity and you’re not going to be making more than what you would probably make with YouTube’s ad revenue, it might not be worth it.
If a brand approaches you, then chances are they’ll want you to use their products or services in a video. You want to make sure that these products are going to be provided to you for free.
It sounds obvious. But if a company wants you to feature a lip gloss in a makeup tutorial and requires you only to use their products in the video. You’re either going to want to make sure you have enough of that brand’s products already.
Otherwise, they will be providing the additional products with no strings attached for you to use. You don’t want to end up having to spend your own cash on a load of products to fulfill your side of the deal.
7. Usage Rights
In some cases, brands will want the rights to things like your pictures and will slip something into the contract that allows them to do that. In general, whatever your deal is, you want to be producing something that is specifically for them and not giving them access to everything that you have ever created, and everything that you create in the future.
Basically, if you give over the rights for them to use any and all of your images created past, present, and future in their campaigns they don’t need to pay you for the usage of those. They can use that content however they please, whenever they please, at no extra cost to them.
In other words, You’ll be missing out on potential payment, which you should be entitled to. You could find your pictures being used in ad campaigns that you are no part of.
Like usage rights, this isn’t limited to just video. With reproduction, you want to know exactly what the rules are.
If you create an image for a company, how can they use that image? On billboards? In shops? On their website? Can they sell t-shirts with the image on them? Can they post it on their own social media? How many times can that image be reproduced, and for how many years do they retain those rights?
There should be very specific time frames for any contract or agreement you are entering into. If you are giving them the right to use a single image, clearly state how long they have the right to use them.
You produce a piece of content for a brand, for what period of time can they use it, and under what conditions? If you grant them rights to a picture of your face, are they allowed to use that picture in other campaigns that you are not directly a part of?
Aside from specific images, you’ll want the same to apply to your videos. If you make a video promoting something for a brand. Are you obligated to keep that video on your channel forever?
Let’s say it was a video for a makeup brand that isn’t cruelty-free, and you become cruelty-free. Are you obligated to keep that video up regardless of your changed opinion?
In most cases, all you are looking for is the inclusion of a time frame. For example, you are making an advertorial video for a brand. You agree to keep that advertorial on your channel for 3 years.
This can also apply to monetization. Maybe you’re agreeing to keep the monetization off the video for the first year, but after that first year, you are allowed to turn on the monetization. Perhaps it’s a forever deal where you can never monetize that video.
These shouldn’t necessarily be things that keep you from agreeing to a contract. It’s something you should be aware of when agreeing to anything. At the end of the day, you want to retain control over your content. If you are agreeing to forever more terms then you start to lose that control.
11. Multi Deals
A multi-deal is where the company doesn’t want to just do one project with you. They want to do multiple projects. Usually, a multi-deal would be something that occurs across multiple platforms, so they want a YouTube video and maybe an Instagram post to go along with it.
In some cases, they only have the details of one of the projects and are really vague about the other ones. That’s not good. You don’t want to sign anything that ties you into doing an unspecified project because you could find it tricky.
If you’re considering one of these, then you’re probably going to want them to hash out at least the basics of the additional projects or to have a clause in the agreement that sets out some basic terms for your ability to not proceed with any project that doesn’t meet a set of guidelines.
One of the issues here is the timing of the projects. If a company approaches you when you have 10k subscribers to do the first project of a multi-deal. The payment terms for the multi-project are specified, and then they approach you for the remainder of the deal. When you have a million subscribers, you could find yourself being massively underpaid.
Whatever form of payment is involved, find out how and when you will be receiving it. It’s not unusual to request a percentage of the payment upfront and the final sum on completion of the project.
You don’t want to find that your video has gone live and the company has already got what they want from the bargain, leaving you chasing money.
13. Brand Cancellation
There are some cases where a brand might decide not to go ahead with a project once you’ve already done the work. In general, it has nothing to do with your specific content. It could just be that there’s been some change, meaning they are no longer running the ad campaign.
But if you’ve already put in the work, then you should be getting paid anyway. That’s part of why it’s a good idea to negotiate getting paid at least half upfront.
That way, even if the brand is being difficult about paying the rest of the money (which you should still fight to get, you are entitled to it), at least you aren’t totally out of pocket if you can’t get the rest of the money.
14. You Cancelling
This is a tricky situation that hopefully none of you will find yourself in. It could happen for many reasons. But at last, you find yourself in a position where you are unable to complete the project.
In general, the main reason for cancellation should be an issue with whatever it is you’re being asked to promote. Maybe you’ve never tried the product, and when they send it, you hate it and just don’t want to have anything to do with it. In a perfect world, you would get the product to try out before you agree to anything. Sometimes, you’ll find that it’s a quick turnaround situation where they want the video done in a couple of days, and you only receive the product in time to start filming.
If that’s the case, then you’ll want to make sure there is a clause in the contract that lets you out of it if you don’t want to promote the product. Without that clause, if you’ve agreed to promote something, you’re kind of stuck legally and have to fulfill your side of the bargain whether you want to or not.
15. Non Disclosure Agreements
NDAs are fairly basic. Signing an NDA basically means you are agreeing not to disclose certain information. This could be specific to whatever agreement you have with the company, like how much you are getting paid. It could be discussing things that the company is keeping under wraps, like future product launches. It could be disclosing other information that they might not want made public.
What it shouldn’t be is something that prevents you from disclosing the fact. It’s illegal to not disclose an ad to your audience and no brand should be trying to prevent you from doing that.
Sometimes, a brand will want you to sign an NDA before disclosing the details of the deal they are offering, and that’s just to protect themselves if you decide not to go through with it.
Part of the appeal of YouTube advertising for brands is the fact that often viewers are not totally aware that they are viewing an ad (something currently being fixed by new legislation over disclosing ads), or that even if viewers are aware it’s an ad they aren’t aware of the specific terms of the deal.
Of course, if you’re left to freely talk about the terms of the deals they are offering or the amount that they are paying, then it can hurt the ad campaign.
16. Legal Stuff
Last on my list of “YouTube Brand Deal And Sponsorship Contract Issues” is Legal Stuff. Things should be straightforward enough for you to understand. You do not need someone with legal expertise to look over things on your behalf.
If you are faced with a situation where you’re really not sure what is happening, then it might be worth questioning whether it’s worth signing on the dotted line for it. If you can’t clear things up with a brand in a way that makes sense to you. Then, if you want to go ahead with the deal, it might be worth getting some legal advice to make sure you’re only agreeing to things you feel comfortable with.
Another alternative to getting your own legal advice is to work with a management team or an MCN (Multi Channel Network). These are all their own special little minefields that you’ll want to get informed about before agreeing to anything.
So, even if you are feeling a little out of your depth, make sure you are doing your research on the best way to go for your situation and needs.
Tips To Avoid YouTube Brand Deal And Sponsorship Contract Issues
Once you are aware of potential pitfalls, YouTube creators can avoid legal issues by following these tips:
1. Create Your Own Sponsorship Contract Template
Many YouTubers don’t want to lose their creativity or get in trouble with agreement boundaries. That’s why they are already prepared with their own contract templates. This saves them time reviewing contracts or renegotiating basic terms and protections each time.
You can set your own expectations and interests with the brands while creating your template. Make sure to update the template as needed for specific deals to maintain core protections and policies.
2. Maintain Creative Control
You can push back on any clauses that give brands too much power over your video script, message, or format. You must specify to the brand that they must agree to the terms of providing honest opinions and reviews of their product, not just endorsement. This way, you will keep your authenticity while specifying the brand within your creativity.
3. Limitations Of Exclusivity
Don’t agree to completely avoid mentioning or showing competitors’ products for extended periods, especially if you review products often. Make sure to specify that you can still collaborate with other brands to give your honest opinion on the products.
4. Explain The Deadline To Deliver Content
Pin down specific schedules for when you will deliver content. Also, make sure to set deadlines after you receive sample products from the brands so you get enough time to review the product. You can also get approval from the brand before publishing your video content.
5. Seek Legal Advice
If agreements from brands seem overly complex or restrictive. Consulting a lawyer will ensure there are no loopholes or legal oversights in the contract that could get you in trouble. It will also help protect the interests of both parties.
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Conclusion: Always Follow Youtube Guidelines
Entering into brand partnerships can provide lucrative opportunities for YouTube creators. However, there are a lot of reasons and contract terms that can take your partnership to a wrong turn. Mostly, it happens when one party ripoff the deal in some way.
There are probably tons of different issues that I may have missed. But the issues mentioned above are the most common ones creators face while on a contract. The best way to spot a loophole in brand agreements is by hiring a good lawyer. You can also follow the tips above before signing a contract to avoid these issues in the future.
Let me know in the comments if you need more information or help!