YouTube Stars Versus Celebrity in Branded Entertainment

By Tom Bannister

Branded entertainment has become an increasingly important and accepted revenue stream for mainstream celebrities. But how do those celebrities stack up against YouTube stars? Variety ran an article last year about how the public awareness of YT stars is as high as A-list stars, aand 2015 has seen multiple campaigns from MCNs centered around their vloggers. Below we compare celebrity and YouTube star branded entertainment campaigns using YouTube engagement metrics (views, likes, number of comments). YouTube is an interesting venue to conduct this comparison, because while mainstream stars often have large Twitter or Instagram followings, they don’t generally have significant YouTube followings. So this is really comparing celebrity brand power with YouTube stars’ subscribership:

Pringles- Dude Perfect

Ping Pong Trick Shots | Dude Perfect

Views 22,852,320 / Likes 133,995


Johnnie Walker- Jude Law

JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL presents Jude Law in 'The Gentleman's Wager'

Views 11,812,436 / Likes 14,708

Dan and Phil SIM- Dan Howell

MEET 'DIL HOWLTER' - Dan and Phil Play: The Sims 4 #1

Views 2,346,745 / Likes 143,693

Air New Zealand- The Hobbit

The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made #airnzhobbit

Views 15,114,835 / Likes 73,703

Cats React to Viral Videos- The Fine Bros


Views 14,035,044 / Likes 369,623

Audi- Zachery Quinto & Leonard Nimoy

The Audi Spock Challenge: Zachary Quinto vs. Leonard Nimoy

Views 9,801,695 / Likes 77,338

Daddy Meal Time / Epic Meal Time- Harley Morenstein

Daddy Meal Time - Epic Meal Time

Views 803,741 / Likes 16,009

Beats by Dr. Dre- LeBron James

LeBron James in RE-ESTABLISHED 2014 - Powerbeats2 Wireless | Beats by Dre

Views 14,286,128 / Likes 39,423

I broke my Nexus One!- Ryan Higa

I broke my Nexus One!

Views 11,634,629/ Likes 69,492

Jaguar- Nicholas Hoult

British Villains “Master Plan” | Jaguar XE | JaguarUSA

Views 40,415/ Likes 611

London Brawling- Rocket Jump

London Brawling

Views 3,357,945/ Likes 75,127

The Collective Project- Robert Downey Jr

The Collective Project: Robert Downey Jr. Delivers a Real Bionic Arm

Views 9,992,459/ Likes 82,779

The results are interesting. Obviously, we are not taking into account media spend. However, we can still gauge the impact by the ratio of engagement (comments, likes) to views. Creatively, mainstream celebrities tend to be positioned with higher end brands (Johnnie Walker, Jaguar) paired with more premium production, whereas YouTube stars are mass product (Pringles) and cheap production. A mainstream celebrity might feel out of place promoting potato chip and likewise a scrappy YouTuber, a Louis Vuitton bag.

In terms of stats, the mainstream celebrities win on overall views, averaging around the ten million. Yet, as previously stated, the brand most likely bought the majority of those views, versus driving them organically (though we should assume some smaller media spend behind YouTubers too). In terms of engagement, the YouTubers beat the mainstream stars on ratio of viewers to number of comments/likes. YouTubers on average get a like every 61.1 viewes and a comment every 351.6 views. Whereas mainstream celebs get a like every 214.3 views and a comment every 2132.2 views. Finally, the radio of likes to dislikes is pretty evenly matched, and the performance is pretty impressive for branded content on YouTube (all campaigns are over 90%).

While YouTubers likely have the edge over mainstream celebs in terms of YouTube engagement, its important to note that we are not measuring results off-YouTube, such as press impressions. It’s safe to say that the mainstream celebs achieve higher in this arena.

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