The Marketing Highs and Lows of Love Island

Four years on and the phenomenon of Love Island is still dominating.  Deny you watch if you wish, but with viewing figures reaching a peak of 5.9 million (around 18.5% of the TV viewing population (!)) the stats are undeniable.  It’s no wonder that the marketing gurus have been maxing out on every opportunity remotely linked to the show.  Not only are a huge number of us tuning in every night, but the majority of those that do are exactly the audience brands want to get in front of. That’s to say Generation Z, the 16 – 34 year olds who make up 57% of all Love Island viewers. I began watching so I could join in the ONLY conversation of my teenage kids.  And now I’m hooked.  There, I’ve said it.  But of course, I’m only observing the surrounding marketing to see what lessons can be learnt. Ahem…

So, obviously, the pickings are rich. This year’s main sponsor, Uber Eats has reportedly paid £5 million for its slot book-ending every segment of the show. At more than double paid by last year’s main sponsor, that’s the biggest amount paid for any show sponsorship not televised on a flagship channel. Yes, this stuff is BIG money and to those who were outbid on this we say: you dim sum, you lose sum.

But is it worth it? We’re all aware of the Love Island-isms that catch on each year, (it is what it is, after all) but beyond the vernacular, are the marketing opportunities surrounding Love Island and its myriad of contestants all positive? Are the brands clamoring to get involved guaranteed a healthy impact on sales, brand profile, and income generation? Or is there a dark side to the Love Island marketing juggernaut that is becoming increasingly visible? 

Opportunity Knocks

On the positive, the role brands can play in the Love Island life story are numerous. From providing the contestants with clothes, tech, or music during the episodes. I Saw it First fashion, Samsung, Dyson hairdryers and Jet2.com are just some of the official brand partners hoping to reap in sales.  And as a platform to really put just one product out there, what about the much-talked-about R baseball cap by brand Rewired Clothing, worn by many of the islanders?  With 22% of viewers enjoying the show through a format other than live TV (apps, hubs, players, highlights reels), they are already on their devices and prime to engage immediately in this instant marketing. This is how instant business is done: see it, want it, buy it.

More peripherally, smart brands thrive from community engagement. They dive into conversations during the shows. They create shared moments, become part of the banter, retweet, and exchange GIFs, and videos. All the while endearing themselves to the audience in a much more subtle way.

Then there are the reactive brands. These ones eagle eye the episode and before you can tune in to After Sun, have a service or must-have merch’ release that viewers will immediately buy into.

And let us not forget the influencers. This is an interesting one because not only are the islanders becoming influencers after their time in the villa, but this year, more than ever, it would seem that the fact of their “influencer” status is what’s earned them a bed in the first place. That, and pumped up biceps, washboard abs, pre-existing mahogany tans, boosted bums and boobs and snow-white teeth, as a basic tick-list. From former show participants to friends of current participants, they are all offered the opportunity to endorse and Ad Spon endless brands and products to capitalise on their moment(s) in the sun.

But with opportunity comes cost. And there are certainly some costs that brands affiliating with Love Island should be aware of.

Real or Fake?

With a little bit of digging, we’ve seen that of the current Love Island participants, more than 50% of their Instagram followers are fake (shocked face emoji). Brands should carefully consider who they work with. And how they assess their value. Are these ‘audiences’ in line with their brand proposition? Is the brand money well spent when half of the audience is fake? Somewhat depressingly, despite the fraudulent followers, these ‘influencers’ are still powerful marketing tools. They have the ability to connect immediately with a large number of core audience members. But at what cost to the authenticity of the brand?

Societal Concerns

The backlash against Love Island and other reality shows has been building following the tragic suicides of two former contestants. Layering that with concerns of lack of body diversity, alleged racism, producers ignoring manipulative gaslighting behaviour, and concerns around mental health following contestants leaving the villa, the list of reasons a brand may not wish to be affiliated with the show is growing.  While these issues seem to be glossed over by producers, they are growing and are likely to continue to grow with every season and similar show. Where does that leave the brands associated? Consider Unilver, a company which sells the Dove range who champions body diversity and loving your own skin? Clearly there is a misstep with their support of Love Island? And surely audiences will soon pick up on that?

So where does that leave us? The Love Island marketing train has left the station and brands are still clamoring to get on.  It’s clearly being seen as worth the investment for many, but it’s important that brands take some time to properly assess the benefits and potential damage which being associated with this type of reality show could have on their reputation.

And, like all good reality shows, we’ll pick this discussion up in the next episode.  Now, say “I’ve got a text”, say “I’ve got a text”!

Vicki Caddy

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