Opinion: Why Love Island is a platform for contestants, not brands

Love Island has – once again – been TV gold this summer. It has offered a rollercoaster of drama, created an unstoppable meme engine and appears to have already bred a number of reality stars – and we’re only a few weeks into the show.

In recent years the show has become a dual-screen experience; watching the show on real-time or on-demand with social media open, following accounts that create memes, sharing them with friends on WhatsApp groups…

Love Island is as close to a live sporting event as TV gets.

It’s on six nights a week; a live event with twists and turns in every show, consumed on big screens in living rooms or on mobiles out and about, with many catching up on-demand to be part of the conversation.

With a reach of between 2 and 3 million viewers each episode, Love Island is unlike any other TV show. This should be a sponsor’s dream, but is that really the case?

READ MORE: Boots UK announced as Love Island’s beauty partner

Is Love Island a platform for contestants or brands?

Despite the early concerns about how contestants were selected via Instagram (rather than the official application process), we have already seen reality TV stars made and curated this season.

Davide and Ekin-Su have captured the nation’s heart with their soap-like love story and humour, while Gemma has taken centre stage as the modern-day reality star.

Michael Owen’s daughter Gemma had a savvy celebrity PR machine behind her Love Island appearance and even released her own swimwear brand before entering the villa – a perfectly aligned timeline to promote her own personal brand.

Gemma’s own Instagram account has grown over +500k followers since starring in the show, according to social media tracking tool socialblade.

Brands sponsoring the show tend to grow only slightly. Gemma’s account has gained more followers than all the brands sponsoring the show put together.

Many brands will already be approaching Gemma’s team for future influencer opportunities. The question Gemma’s team now must be asking is: can Gemma become the next Molly Mae and truly capitalise on her rocketing social media following?

Meanwhile, sponsors and product partners have struggled to get much cut through. Many have opted to act as a traditional sponsor rather than being reactive and attempting to leverage the reach and cultural impact of the show.

READ MORE: Will Love Island bring success to the brands sponsoring the show?

Can Love Island solve brand problems?

Every brand has a different problem it is trying to solve by sponsoring Love Island.

This year’s sponsors and product partners have clearer goals than before. Raising awareness at the top of the funnel for chilled coffee brand Emmi Caffe, driving sign-ups and active users for Reddit, encouraging more and frequent food orders for headline sponsor Just Eat or keeping relevancy and driving sales through summer for drinks brand WKD.

Online marketplace eBay has had the closest brand moment so far, when even the voice of Love Island Iain Stirling made a tongue-in-cheek comment during the show about how the shirts worn by contestants were available on eBay.

A brand moment like this isn’t going to help eBay’s reputation or drive demand on the marketplace. What eBay has seen, however, is an impressive 700% increase in searches for ‘pre-loved’ fashion on the site.

But is this enough to convince the leadership teams and boards high-priced sponsorship is enough? I doubt it and I expect the ongoing econometric model to be updated regularly.

READ MORE: Snapchat announces ITV partnership covering
Love Island and I’m a Celebrity content

Is Love Island just a brand summer holiday fling?

Sponsors have six to eight weeks to have their official moment and a twelve-week window to test, learn and iterate their advertising and messaging.

We haven’t seen brands doubling down and attempting to leverage other ways of advertising connected to the show, with many are choosing to play it safe and sticking to the script of traditional sponsorship.

The partnership makes sense for headline sponsor Just Eat; adverts are shown multiple times per show and on every ad break (on +1, on catch up and on-demand). The CPM and maths make it easy to understand why Just Eat invests millions.

The value exchange of the Love Island platform is clear for large brands but less obvious for other sponsors and partners.

Product partners are more restricted. With a limited sprinkling of ads throughout the show, sponsors need to think carefully about how they promote this partnership; it has to go much further and wider.

Many of the partner brands work with the talent to record ‘exclusive content’ but if only a small percentage of your followers are getting to see this, is it helping to drive these businesses forward? No.

Even with the best modern day (MarTech) marketing stack helping to track every moment, TV’s huge reach still matters, especially when Love Island appears on ITV’s new streaming platform ITVX which has far more insightful demographic and psychometric data.

Despite what some experts imply, TV is still a strong marketing option for the right brands and paired with social media content, it can help to hit many internal goals. With the right ROI calculations, it can propel many brands forward.

Love Island might just be an expensive experiment and advertising channel for the majority of partners, although the promise of connected TV (CTV) and live shopping gives savvy brands another option to consider.

ITV made a strong DTC play with its official Love Island shop – the sponsors could also step up and maximise their sponsorship success.

READ MORE: ITV to air two Love Island shows in 2023 

Love Island’s success is ITV’s success

So is the Love Island platform geared primarily for contestants and the show to thrive, at the cost of its partners?

It is important to note that sponsors and brands are fully aware of what they are signing up for. But will the positive impact have tangible results they can confidently show in the boardroom? Unfortunately for most, no.

What’s more likely is the seasonal affinity it builds for the brands reconnects it with superfans – and that is ok for some brands. But for most internal marketers this won’t please any leadership team.

Love Island will continue to be the big go-to advertising choice for certain brands, but as a platform – as with most TV advertising – it will likely drive bigger successes for larger well-known brands.

The big winners will be ITV, a handful of contestants and the smart tactical brands that invest at the right time with the right promotion and continue to leverage and market the show and then the relationships build from that source.

This piece was written for Marketing Beat by marketing leadership coach Danny Denhard.

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