This is the first post in a new series spotlighting the top influencers in social media. Stay tuned for much more, including exclusive interviews.

When we decided to start spotlighting some of the top influencers in video and how they work with brands, Devin Supertramp (real name Devin Graham) felt like an obvious starting point. Fellow YouTube stars Rhett and Link recently called his work “ready-made for sponsorship,” and it only takes one visit to his YouTube channel to see why so many brands want to align with gorgeous footage of young people having the time of their lives, performing insane stunts, all over the world. Each video is practically a guaranteed viral hit at this point, so instead of getting lost in the weeds of view counts, suffice it to say that Graham has amassed hundreds of millions of views in his career. And he’s just getting started.

Once we looked more closely at all of his videos, what surprised us was just how many brand integration deals Devin Graham has amassed. And yet, the key point here is that Graham’s success is only made possible thanks to his commitment to his fans. The brand deals listed below only work if the relationship between Graham and his audience is put first. And so, from the brand’s point of view, that requires putting a lot of trust in the creator.

Thus, as Devin has smartly shown through his work, two key principles emerge for any brand looking to develop a successful partnership with a creator:

  1. Maintaining authenticity with the audience
  2. Trusting the creator

And, if you listen closely to Graham in his interviews and the behind-the-scenes footage that accompanies practically everything he shoots, he explains how this is all meant to work. Here are a couple quotations from his most recent collaboration with Citibank:

“We just got done filming with Citibank on our next big video. They were so gracious to sponsor to make it happen, without them, without sponsorships, these epic things that we can think of in our minds we can’t do. In this case, Citibank, they trusted us to do a collaboration with them. So, we’re super thankful for them.”

“We did an awesome partnership with Citibank – they are the ones that made this video happen. Because you guys watch our videos and support our videos, we actually get the chance to work with sponsors that make our videos much bigger, and better, and alive. And this one was really exciting because we had you guys, our fans, take part in it and actually determine what we actually built.”

And, here’s what he said in a Behind the Brand interview at VidCon:

“These brands see what we’re doing, they see we have a huge audience, they see that we’re successful with that audience, so they’re basically like ‘We trust you, here’s the criteria… what do you want to do with that?’ So they give us complete creative license, for the most part… And I love it because they trust us and we get to work together in a collaboration – it’s still a collaboration, you want their feedback and stuff – but it is them trusting us because it’s our audience. So, we can do what we want to basically make anything happen.”

For more tips and strategies for brand integrations on YouTube, get our free eBook right here.

Now, without further ado, here are some of the best brand integrations from Graham and his Supertramp team, along with some insights into what made them special.


As part of their #incredouble campaign for the new Double Cash Card, Citibank enlisted the Supertramp team to come up with an “epic combo,” in this case combining a giant rope swing with hot air balloons.

Citi then asked the fans to submit their own ideas for an epic combo stunt, and the winner was a “Wrecking Ball Piñata.” Pay special attention to the #incredouble T-shirts on display.

Something Graham excels at is how he brings the audience behind the scenes to make them feel like a part of the process, while building and maintaining authenticity. Here is a behind-the-scenes video uploaded to Citi’s official YouTube channel.


With video games looking more realistic every day, what’s truly impressive is the ability to recreate these games in real life. And that’s exactly what Graham pulled off for Ubisoft, reenacting games such as Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and Watch Dogs.

As Graham explained in his Behind the Brand interview, this partnership was made possible because Graham was already a fan of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed, and so, he went ahead, without talks of any deal, and made this epic video in his hometown of Salt Lake City:

By proving to Ubisoft what he was actually capable of before any deal negotiations had even begun, it made everything that much easier once it came time to create officially sponsored, custom content like this:

Speed Stick Gear

After using some of Graham’s footage for their own, more traditional TV commercial, Speed Stick took the next step and signed up for a piece of branded content, creating the world’s largest urban zipline.

Something to notice is how the brands are featured in the “end card” of the videos. What’s important is that the audience is given something much more useful than a blunt “buy now!” link. Instead, they can continue to engage with the content by watching supplemental videos. This builds authenticity, and it’s important for brands to understand why. On YouTube especially, the audience can tell when something doesn’t feel true to the creator’s style, so it’s essential to trust the creator as much as possible.

youtube brand deals devin supertramp

Mountain Dew

Mountain Dew enlisted the Supertramp team for their #DEWroadtrip campaign, which involved asking fans to submit ideas for stunts – “On September 1st, we’re jumping into an RV full of Mountain Dew and all the equipment we need to pull off some seriously amazing stunts. And the best part is, YOU will be planning the locations and the stunts themselves right along with us!” Here is the most viewed of the six different videos from this campaign:

Bear Naked Granola

A common theme for these videos is clearly, “Don’t try this at home.” And so, we’d like to take this moment to thank Devin Supertramp for letting us live vicariously through his epic videos. Though, what makes these videos so great is how just about anyone – not just stunt professionals – is welcome to “play at their own risk”:

Turkish Airlines

This video came about as part of a larger YouTuber collaboration campaign from Turkish Airlines called #FortuneTraveller, which followed 10 different YouTubers around Istanbul. Be sure to check out the entire campaign to see how other YouTube stars are working with brands.

(A somewhat related side note – Graham smartly offers up some of his beautiful, 4k and 6k footage to license as “stock footage.”)


Honestly, we don’t have much commentary to add here, other than THIS LOOKS AWESOME CAN WE PLAY!?


When compared to the bike-riding skills on display here, driving a car has never been made to look easier, more convenient, or safer. Well done, Ford.


Finally, we have this collaboration with Intel, which is perhaps the least “branded” video of them all, proving that simply being able to align with incredible content like this can be highly valuable to brands.

How to work with influencers

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of authenticity and trust when it comes to creating custom, branded content with influencers. If you didn’t take the time to watch all the videos above, you may have missed just how careful Devin Supertramp is when it comes to respecting the relationship with his audience, along with the high level of trust that all of these brands have in Devin and his team. If you keep those two core principles in mind, you’ll be on your way to creating amazing, engaging content that connects with audiences unlike anything else.


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Paid media is the necessary third part of a successful, and complete, YouTube strategy. We have already assembled some of the best resources for both owned media and earned media, so now here are some resources to help strengthen your paid media strategy. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for all the latest tips on YouTube marketing.

Paid Media Guides From Google/YouTube

First up is a collection of resources provided to advertisers by both Google and YouTube, which includes some of their tools and best practices for paid media.

1. YouTube Advertising Overview

An overview of everything YouTube has to offer its advertisers. Can’t go wrong starting here:

Paid Media Resources YouTube

“Deliver your message to the right people at the right time with video ads. Every business has an audience on YouTube.”


2. Google Support – Display ads on YouTube

Pulled from the Google AdWords Certification Exam Study Guides, this particular section is filled with great paid media topics just for YouTube, and there’s plenty to dig your teeth into. One example: a breakdown of the differences between Auction and Reserved Media Buys on YouTube:

“As a part of the Google Display Network, YouTube allows advertisers to leverage the AdWords’ auction-based system to target specific YouTube content.”

To find out what exactly Auction and Reserved Media Buys are, and when to use one over the other, click here.

3. Google Video Ads – Step-by-Step Guide 

Google walks advertisers through the process of creating a campaign on YouTube in this handy guide for AdWords.
Paid Media Resources YouTube

4. YouTube In-Stream Ads: Captivate Your Audience [PDF]

paid media resources youtube 5
YouTube explains the different kinds of in-stream ads, while assessing the benefits of each in this excellent, 2 page PDF.

“Target viewers by geography, demographic criteria, or topic to make sure that your ads reach the right audience and get the attention they deserve.”


5. YouTube Advertising Resources

So, if you were being thorough as you worked through each of these resources, you should have already found this page from the very first “YouTube Overview” resource. But, we felt it was important enough to highlight again just in case you got lazy. This is a well curated selection of resources that YouTube maintains for advertisers.

“YouTube works hard to provide a reliable home for your brand. We have systems in place to categorize videos, and Community Guidelines, so that ads can be matched with appropriate content.”


6. Mastering AdWords for Video Tutorial Series [Videos]

Last but not least from Google/YouTube, we have this video series. Though slightly outdated, given that a few of the videos have been taken down, there’s still a lot of valuable info here:

Paid Media Tips From Blogs

Next, we have some tips from expert blogs on how to maximize paid media strategies.

7. ClickZ | YouTube Paid Advertising – A Beginners Guide

Here we have ClickZ’s fifth most read article of 2013, and a solid argument in favor of advertising with TrueView Ads:

“According to YouTube, over six billion hours of video are watched each month on the video search engine … This presents enormous opportunity for brands to promote their goods and services to a worldwide audience through video advertising on the world’s second largest search engine.”

See the full extent of what the author of the piece, Benjamin Spiegel, has to say about TrueView here.


8. ZEFR Blog | YouTube Ad Formats 101: Where to Advertise and Why

Read our explanation of the various types of ads available on YouTube, and learn when to use which ads depending on the objectives of your paid media campaign.

“Pairing the right ad placements with your specific objective is the most fundamental way to make sure you’re getting the most value out of your marketing budget. Here’s a brief guide that lays out which ad formats to use for some of the most common KPIs on YouTube.”


9. ReelSEO | The YouTube Advertiser Playbook Index and Overview

ReelSEO breaks down and indexes all 9 parts of the YouTube Advertiser Playbook, with a brief description of each section, and a link to their coverage on it.

“Titles, keywords, descriptions.  Things that describe the video so that a search engine can find context.  Perhaps there will be one day where computers can scan a video and tell you all of the contents of it, but for now, writing the relevant metadata is important in video discovery.”


10. Tubefilter | Meet the Top 1% of YouTube’s “Google Preferred” Channels for Advertisers

Tubefilter investigates YouTube’s new offering for advertisers, Google Preferred.

“Brands and marketers who commit to buying advertising space on YouTube in advance will reportedly be given the opportunity to advertise against these select few Google Preferred channels.”

What precisely is Google Preferred and how will it impact paid media? Read the full article to find out.

11. ZEFR’s Introductory Guide to Brand Integration on YouTube [eBook]

Get our latest eBook here to learn the ins and outs of brand integration deals and how they can supplement a paid media campaign.

Paid Media Resources YouTube

12. Business Insider | This Chart Breaks Down Why Advertisers Need YouTube

Paid Media Resources YouTube

“With 1 billion unique users every month, YouTube has become a necessary platform in virtually any marketing plan. MDG Advertising created an infographic that breaks down all the numbers that explain why advertisers need to be on the video sharing site.”

Check out the awesome chart in its entirety here.


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YouTubers working with brands

photo by Craig Garner

YouTubers want to work with brands. Brands want to be on YouTube. YouTubers don’t always have the resources to initiate brand integration deals. Brands don’t always know what to do with YouTubers. In an effort to remedy this situation, YouTubers have been increasingly open as of late when talking about their experiences working with brands.

At VidCon 2013, YouTubers spoke on panels about working with brands. A couple of months ago, YouTuber Nikki Phillippi did a video titled, “What is a YouTuber?!” in which she took about 45 minutes, sponsored by Netflix, to answer questions about the business of being a full time YouTuber. Tyler Oakley was on PBS’s Frontline talking about what he has come to expect from good brand deals.

The through lines with every YouTuber are the same: they only work with brands they like, and they expect brands to be very flexible and receptive to the style in which the YouTubers work.

Brand Integration and Nikki Phillippi

With 500,000+ subscribers, Nikki Phillippi and her husband run a full time YouTube business. Brand integrations with Beauty Gurus, especially for her size and larger, seem like a no brainer.

Nikki, in her video, answers questions from Twitter and gives surprisingly thorough answers. She disclaims that what she talks about is true to her, but not all YouTubers are on the same monetization roadmap doing the same things.

NikkiPhillippi How do You Make Money?

From the above Twitter question, Nikki answers with both, mentioning that she was once given advice on how to make a living on the internet, with the key being diversity. There is almost no way a YouTuber can be full time on AdSense alone. Similarly, being part of Amazon Affiliates, or any other single revenue stream is not enough, but participating in all of them adds up to a full time job, making a living wage.

On the subject of product integration, Nikki says that it works well for her because, “I naturally create content that often, like, I often mention like products or clothes.” Because she already makes content about brands, she is a good fit for brand integration, but not all brand integrations are a good fit for her.

As she explains in her video about how branded content works, she talks about click through rates, implying that most of the brand integration she does include links in the description box to a brand, product or service.

The order of operations in terms of doing a brand integration with Nikki is as follows:

  • Step 1: Brand reaches out. This can be to her personally, or to her MCN, or management.
  • Step 2: Offer to pay her to mention a product in a video.
  • Step 3: Nikki decides if the brand is a good fit for her. If she already knows the brand and the product and thinks favorably about them and the price/rate is good, then move forward.
  • Step 3b: If she hasn’t heard of the product, but thinks she would like it, she asks to try it to see if she likes it. If the rate is good and she ends up liking the product, then move forward with negotiating a rate for cost-per-click, or other payment method.
  • Step 4: Figure out what kind of video will get made. Nikki, up until this point has only done videos where a product gets mentioned as part of a video.

Nikki, when thinking about why she doesn’t like doing videos about a single product, notes that it is a whole lot of attention to one product, when her normal videos feature multiple products. She would have to LOVE a product to devote a whole video to it. It isn’t that she says she is opposed to a single brand focused video, but the right match hasn’t come along.

In order for a deal to work, the price has to be right as well. On this subject, Nikki says, “This is something that is kinda like this awkward little teetering line that I think a lot of YouTubers are walking because I think everybody who was in to YouTube knows, or anything on the Internet realizes, that entertainment is going more towards the digital sides of things.” She goes on to detail that in comparison to traditional media and the cost of making a commercial then buying airtime, YouTube is inexpensive. She continues to say,

“And what is happening with YouTube is there is this weird line where I won’t rep a product I do not like, but, that being said, I don’t work with brands that don’t understand the value of YouTube either. I would rather not make as much and do stuff by myself, for free, with stuff I have picked up from the drugstore, than work with a company who either doesn’t understand the value of it, or does understand the value of it, but they think that we don’t, and are like here is $100, and I realize that that sounds really strange to people […] but it’s really what is going on in the industry and a matter of trying to elevate and help the entertainment industry kind of segue and understand the value of digital marketing.”

Nikki goes on to make the claim that most YouTubers turn down 90% of the things they are offered because everyone is really careful about the things they accept. Sometimes YouTubers get some hate for the brands that they work with, but it probably turns out that the YouTuber really does like the brand and that they turned down a bunch of other offers from brands that he or she feels less passionately about.

This tends to be true across the board. YouTubers, especially at the more professional levels, have a strong sense of their personal brands and what it means to be authentic to themselves and their channels. If brands are not a good fit, culturally, YouTubers are significantly less inclined to work with them.

Brand Integration and Tyler Oakley

Tyler Oakley is kind of a big deal. He is rapidly approaching 4 million subscribers. He is his MCN’s largest YouTuber. He has worked with brands like Pepsi, MTV, Taco Bell, E!, NBC, Warby Parker, Virgin Mobile, and Audible.

Once one brand got involved with him, others followed suit, but for Oakley, he won’t work with just any brand. He spent years building up his personal channel to what it is today and knows that the whole YouTube community has done the same.

On PBS’s Frontline, Oakley says:

“If you want to get involved, then you have to play by our rules. This is our platform. We have built this up in our own capacity, in our own way without you. So if you want to come on and if you want to get involved, you can’t just come in like a bully and kind of get your way. You may have to like, play by our rules a little bit. Which is FUN!”

The through line between the brands that Oakley chooses to work with are their understanding of his personal brand and message. The brands understand that Oakley is a direct line to fan interaction and not just a channel on which one distributes content. For him, in his own words, “it takes the creative teams that get what we are doing, for me to want to work with them.”

Some Best Practices

The keys that both Nikki Phillippi and Tyler Oakley mentioned in spades is that brands who want to work with YouTubers need to be receptive to working the way YouTubers work, rather than the way traditional media does. YouTubers make money off of their personal brands, so if they aren’t a fan of your brand, it is better to find a YouTuber that is, so that the brand and YouTuber mesh well together.

From a stylistic perspective it is important to not try and force a storyboard. Since YouTubers are involved in every step of the process from ideation to production to social engagement, they want to have a say in the creative process of crafting brand deal videos as well.

From the brand perspective, that means:

  1. Find YouTubers who already like your products.

  2. If you are a new brand/product, give YouTubers a chance to get to know your brand/product before trying to make content.

  3. Be receptive towards a collaborative development process.

  4. Open up the opportunity for YouTubers to be as involved as they want in production (which could be a lot or a little).

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