We live in an age of controversy. Whether it’s a tweet from the president, or a YouTuber making a anti-semitic video- we see it all around us. PewDiePie, his real name, Felix Kjellberg, is arguably the most successful YouTuber of all time. Recently he uploaded videos to his channel which showed racist and anti-semitic content and his sponsors reacted. Not only did PewDiePie lose his sponsorship with Disney, but has sparked a conversation of control over creators. This conversation isn’t about PewDiePie though, if it wasn’t him, it would be someone else. Influencers are in a unique position of control over their own brand, which means sponsors must be careful when signing deals with these celebrities. Brands need to pad against controversy through influencer vetting as well as placing strict guardrails on sponsored content.


On the outside PewDiePie would seem like a great brand fit for those looking to hit the golden millennial age group – a YouTuber with millions and millions of fans who streams himself playing video games, what could go wrong? Without really digging down into content, it seemed like a home run for the Disney Corporation – connecting to an audience through a face they trust.


Brands strive to retain control of their image – just consider advertising on television. You consider what station your ad plays on, and even during what show. There is an element of control there. You consider carefully what the commercial on television really means for your brand: you wouldn’t advertise your beef jerky during the vegan cooking show, would you? Yet opening your brand up to sponsorships of influencers means losing some of this meticulous control. While no one at Disney knew that their influencer would upload these controversial videos, there are ways to create guidelines and guardrails to minimize your risk.


While time consuming, creating a document outlining what you expect from an influencer agreement is the best way to showcase what you want. We aren’t saying that an influencer can’t be free to create videos that they are known for, but we are saying that some bullet points might be the difference between a successful campaign and a PR nightmare.


Things to consider when looking to hire an influencer:

  • Competitors: Make sure they aren’t representing your competition
  • Clothing: Brand-free and a color approved by your brand
  • Comments: This is where YouTube comments can come in handy – see what their audience says about them
  • Negative Press: A Google search to see if they have anything written about them in the past
  • Content: Does their content align with your company? Is their content offensive or dividing? Better safe than sorry.


This advice runs true to influencers as well. We’re not telling you not to be true to your audience. That’s what we love about you – your content is genuine and your fans know that. But if you’re looking for a big brand sponsorship, and some influencers may not be, you need to control the message. Many brands will pass by you for drug references, sexual content, bad language and more. Some brands might be attracted to this, but realistically the larger ones need someone who can represent their core values.

And that’s where Disney went wrong. The signs were there. PewDiePie has created questionable content in the past; if you read his YouTube comments, there were a lot of arguments over him as a broadcaster. There’s a chance Disney didn’t vet them hard enough, or took a chance knowing there might be some time in the future when it came back to them. Whatever the case may be, it boils down to one simple fact: influencers are human beings and thus we can’t anticipate their actions, but as brands we can make sure our dollar is being spent on those who best represent our values.

Image Source: PewDiePie