Maybe you love it, maybe you hate it, maybe you couldn’t care less about it – but you must have been living in complete isolation if you haven’t heard about Love Island. In its fifth series, the final will take place this weekend, where one lucky couple will leave the ‘island’ with £50,000. But when it comes to the hit reality TV show, I’m less interested in whether Molly-Mae or Tommy will be crowned the winning couple, and much more interested in the way that brands have been associating themselves with the show and how ITV is leveraging this.
From fashion, through to telecoms, companies are clamoring to tap into the show’s popularity. From Ministry of Sound putting together a sponsored party, sending in Craig David to DJ and releasing a soundtrack, to Superdrug providing the official sun cream for use throughout the villa, all the way to Samsung providing contestant phones. Uber Eats has included show hosts Caroline Flack and Ian Stirling in their TV sponsorship (which is said to be the most money paid for a single programme not run on a flagship channel) and VO5 has become the show’s hair partner. And this is only a handful of the brands involving themselves in the show, targeting hard-to-reach 16- to 34-year-olds. Others include Lucozade, Jet2 Holidays, Voxi, Samsung and I Saw it First.
A key component of this sponsorship and commercial involvement has been the use of product placement. A tried and tested model, brands have been inserting themselves into popular culture since Reese’s Pieces was famously featured in E.T., and Coca Cola cups appeared on the American Idol judging panel. Consumers naturally seek reassurance from trusted sources before purchasing a new product, and brands look to their favourite celebrities and reality TV stars to provide this for them.
But in today’s digital media landscape, brands have the possibility to do so much more by connecting with audiences in targeted and authentic ways.
Audiences today will switch off to any communication from brands that isn’t relevant to them. First party data is becoming an important lever to better understanding consumers, and data analytics tools are helping marketers become more strategic in the partnerships they pursue. On the one hand, it’s easier to understand the audience tuning into Love Island, or following Curtis and Amy on Twitter. On the other hand, marketing automation platforms have also made it easier for brands to understand their own audiences and ensure that all partnerships line up with the needs and interests of their own customers. In other words, marketing technology has allowed brands to take a tried and true method of marketing, and make it more effective.
At the same time, today’s media partnerships benefit from an effort to embed the product more seamlessly into the environment where it’s placed. It’s a more meaningful exercise than inserting your product into a program that millions of people are watching, like the Reese’s Pieces and Coca Cola examples from decades earlier. Nowadays it’s about placing the product in a relevant environment, in a way that resonates. Brands don’t just want to partner with Love Island because it’s popular, brands want to partner with the program because it represents something to the hard-to-reach 16- to 34-year-olds that tune in. They know this is the target audience they need to reach because the data tells them so, and they want their products to be associated with the lifestyle that engages this group so strongly.
What’s more, marketing automation platforms allow brands to embed paid partnerships into integrated campaigns, helping them make the most out of their investment. For example, a Love Island star might wear a particular clothing brand on the show, which would also feature in a shoppable Instagram post from a popular influencer, or a link in the brand’s e‑newsletter. These planned follow-up activities drive people further down the funnel beyond the original interest, to actually complete the purchase.
It’s not just media partnerships that benefit from this more strategic, intelligent approach. It’s what we call personalised marketing, and it’s also helping brands reach the right audience through targeted display advertising, dynamic content on their company website, and personalised direct campaigns. These new and diverse ways of reaching audiences are helping brands supplement their spend on traditional media – like television ads – with more targeted and dynamic formats. There’s no need to cancel your traditional paid media activities just yet, but don’t underestimate the branding chops of your favourite Love Island contestant either.