There's a secret to building an influencer partnership that will resonate beyond a single social-media post, according to an exec who has worked with many high-profile YouTube stars: don't do too much.
"Take the backseat and let the influencer do what they do best," Ian Borthwick, director of influencer marketing for the ticket-selling service SeatGeek, told Business Insider in a recent interview about the company's strategy when working with YouTubers.
SeatGeek's most prominent relationship is with David Dobrik, who has 13.9 million subscribers on YouTube. Dobrik, who is the creative mind behind much of the partnership, has filmed 30-plus videos sponsored by SeatGeek for his YouTube channel. These videos have generated a total 200 million views, and built as much search interest as more mainstream partnerships — like Chrissy Teigen and Target, or Ninja and Red Bull — according to Google Trends data. The Dobrik partnership has led to over 25,000 Twitter mentions, fan videos with 1 million views, and shout-outs from other influencers.
"The reason that people support the partnership is because they are supporting us, supporting David," Borthwick said. Many of Dobrik's SeatGeek videos show him using the brand's money to surprise friends, with gifts like a new Tesla, or by paying off their college tuition.
Borthwick said investing in influencers like Dobrik has helped the brand compete with rivals like Ticketmaster and StubHub. And for SeatGeek, creating an effective influencer marketing partnership means taking a backseat and trusting the influencer with the creative direction.
'Let your guard down' and trust the influencer to take creative control
"If you let your guard down and really lean into the joke of the entire thing, you can reach a level where the audience really celebrates you and you don't feel like some stuffy brand," Borthwick said. "They view you as a content creator yourself, who is a part of this weird, die-hard loyal community of fans."
SeatGeek has "leaned into" some of the jokes between the company and Dobrik, from Borthwick jokingly calling the company a "car dealership" while on the phone with Dobrik in the recent video, to the brand reacting on Twitter to Dobrik's sponsored post with another company.
"What did we do wrong…" SeatGeek wrote sharing the tweet, later adding: "PLEASE WE HAVE A FAMILY!"
"I think a lot of brands make the mistake of sending over these incredibly complex and restrictive creative briefs," Borthwick said. "Ultimately, those produce bad influencer marketing."
By taking a backseat and allowing the influencer to drive the direction of the sponsorship, brands can utilize the unique creator-fan relationship that comes with working with a popular influencer, Borthwick said.