Is Love Island A Platform Just For Contestant Success, Or Can Brands Succeed Too?  

This is the full article for an op-ed for Marketing Beat, read the shorter version that is live on Marketing Beat or read the full article below.

Love Island The Platform For Contestants Not Brands ?

Love Island has been TV gold, it has been a rollercoaster of drama, it has created a meme engine like no other series and appears to have already created a number of reality stars only a few weeks into the show. 

Love Island is a TV show that is deeply rooted in social media, it naturally drives viewers comments, creativity and criticism. In recent years Love Island has become the dual-screen experience, watching the show with social media open, following accounts that create memes that you are then going to share with your friends on WhatsApp groups all while watching real-time or on-demand. 

Love Island is unlike other flagship programmes, it is as close to a live sporting event as TV gets. 

It is on six nights a week, it is a live event with numerous twists and turns in every show every night, it is consumed in living rooms, live on the mobile on the go, many catching up on-demand to be part of the conversation, all while it commands high reach through its 2-3million viewership each episode, this makes Love Island, unlike any other TV show. 

This should translate as a sponsor’s dream, but is it really? 

Platform For Contestants Not Brands? 

Despite the early concerns about how contestants were selected via Instagram, not through the application process, we have seen reality TV stars made and some curated. 

Davide and Ekin-Su have captured the nation’s heart in their soap-like love story and humour, while Gemma highlights the modern-day reality star, from a celebrity family, a savvy PR machine behind her Love Island appearance and releasing her own swimwear brand before entering the villa, a perfectly aligned timeline to promote her and her own brand. 

Gemma’s own account has grown over +500k followers according to Social Media tracking tool socialblade since starring in the show. 

This is actually way more followers than the brands added up together. Brands tend to grow slightly. 

This shows you the affinity the platform drives and rightly so, we are connected to people, very rarely sponsors. 

The question Gemma’s team now must be asking is: can Gemma become the next Molly Mae and truly capitalise on the social media following? 

There are many brands already considering approaching Gemma’s team for influencer opportunities. 

Platform For Brands? 

On the other side, sponsors and product partners have struggled to get much cut through. Many have opted to act as the traditional sponsor and not to be reactive and attempt to leverage the reach of the show and the cultural impact of the show. 

Brand Problems Solved? 

Every brand has a different problem it is trying to solve with the sponsorship of Love Island. 

This year’s sponsors and product partners have clearer goals than many before. 

Whether it might be awareness at the top of the funnel for chilled coffee brand Emmi Caffe, driving sign-ups and active users for Reddit, or encouraging more and frequent food orders in headline sponsor Just Eat’s case. 

Or is it keeping relevancy and driving sales through the summer for drinks brand WKD?  WKD already celebrated the reach of the TV show and how it added relevancy to its brand.

eBay had the closest brand moment. 

In an earlier standout episode; the blue party, even the voice of Love Island Iain Stirling made a tongue-in-cheek comment during the show on the blue shirts worn by two contestants and commenting these were available on eBay. 

A brand moment like this isn’t going to help the reputation or drive demand on eBay’s marketplace. 

What eBay has seen, however, is an increase in reactive searches for products on their site, with impressive stats shared by the brand. But really 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. 

Is Love Island Just A Brand Summer Holiday Fling? 

Sponsors have six to eight weeks to have their official moment, they have around a twelve-week window to test, learn and iterate their advertising and messaging to have their sponsor’s moment, many are choosing to play it safe and sticking to the script of traditional sponsorship. 

We haven’t seen competing brands really doubling down in attempting to leverage other ways of advertising connected to the show. 

Media Savvy Sponsors

For the headline sponsor Just Eat, it makes sense, you 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 you would invest multiple millions in headline sponsoring the show. 

The value exchange of the Love Island platform for large brands is obvious. Not so much for other sponsors and partners. 

“Product Partners” are on the other hand more restricted. With the limited sprinkle of ads throughout the show ad breaks and similar ads slot on the ITV2 show aftersun, sponsors need to think and act on how they promote and distribute this partnership, 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 (thanks to the social media networks limiting organic reach) are getting to see this, is it helping to drive these businesses forward? No. 

TV Package Or TV + Packages?

Even with the best modern-day (MarTech) Marketing stack helping to track every moment, coupled with the numerous advertising options, TV’s huge viewership, reach still matters for brands and is why so many brands would line up to discuss partnership opportunities in the winter show and next year’s shows.

Especially when Love Island appears on ITV’s new streaming platform ITVX and 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 helps to hit many internal goals and with the right ROI calculations, it can propel many brands forward. 

The econometric stack up for the right brands, but not for all brands connected. 

Tracking success, and unpicking direct traffic and sales bumps can be challenging even for the smartest tech and data teams. Many will be refreshing dashboards and requesting more reports to see positive signals to prove the sponsorship is or has worked.

Love Island might just be an expensive experiment and advertising channel for the majority of partners.

Enabling Your Own Success 

With the promise of connected TV (CTV) and entering into live shopping, brands have a direct play where they possibly can, others have a way into a DTC play – if brands are savvy and invest in building the right offerings to support their advertising plays they could win. 

Think about scheduling your order from Just Eat, ordering for when the show starts and ordering your iced coffee supply for delivery in a couple of days, or ordering the look one of the reality stars is wearing via the clothing sponsor.  

ITV made their DTC play with their official Love Island shop, it’s now time sponsors could step up too, to maximise their sponsorship success. 

Love Island Success Is ITVs Success 

Is Love Island as a platform only geared for contestants and the show success versus enabling its partners to thrive? 

Brands will always chase audience(s), this should clearly lead to awareness and sales, are Marketing teams in a place to make the most out of the sponsorship? Unlikely. 

And are the reality TV stars then able to drive attention months after their last regular appearance on our screens connecting with many brands? 

It is important to call out: Brands are fully aware of what they are signing up for and where they are likely going to appear but will this be something they can confidently show in the boardroom and say their sponsorship has had a positive impact? Unfortunately for most, no. 

In all honesty, maybe it builds “seasonal” affinity for these partners and reconnects the brand with their superfans and that is ok for some brands. For most internal Marketers this won’t please any leadership team in this macroeconomic setting.  

Will Love Island be the big go-to advertising choice for brands in the winter and next year, of course, however, as a platform, like most TV advertising, it will likely drive larger successes for larger well known brands.

The big winners will be ITV and 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.

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