Direct-to-fan marketing skyrockets as consumers pay creators directly

A new study from UTA marketing reveals opportunity for brands in the creator economy.

Gone are the days of only brands being able to market to consumers. Creators can now grab cameras, microphones and editing software to make content around their passions that develop authentic connections with people — and cultivate loyal fanbases.

On Wednesday, UTA, a talent, entertainment and sports agency, released a study called “Creators & The New Frontier of Consumer Engagement”, which revealed high levels of fan engagement with creators. 

Forty percent of more than 1,000 respondents (or 65 million U.S consumers) are paying creators directly through virtual meet-and-greets, fan clubs and video shout-outs. And 49% of those who pay creators directly are spending $25 a month, creating a nearly $10 billion market that’s tracking to surpass $18 billion.

Gen Z and millennials represent 72% of consumers who directly support creators, with an even split across gender (51% male and 48% female). 

Consumers’ reasons for directly paying creators boiled down to exclusivity (71%), inspiration (69%), access (66%) and community (51%). 

“You consistently see this feedback loop where not only are people consuming creators' content, but they're engaging with it,” David Anderson, co-head of UTA Marketing, told Campaign US. “They are more active participants than ever before. And I think that when they see that connectivity and responsiveness [from creators], they're much more willing to respect that content costs money to produce and these people are building a livelihood.”

Julian Jacobs, co-head of UTA Marketing, added that the pandemic accelerated consumers’ desire to directly support creators, enabled by a one to one relationship through technology. 

Still, there are abundant opportunities for brands to capitalize on the creator economy — and fans are welcoming it. In fact, 95% of consumers are open to brands participating in the creator economy.

1 in 2 people are more likely to remember brands that engage with creators, and another 1 in 2 people will feel more favorably towards those brands. Most importantly,1 in 3 people are more likely to purchase or use those brands. 

“If you're advertising around a television property and you potentially want to integrate your brand into that property, you shouldn't just be talking to the ad sales team,” said Anderson. “You should be talking to the person who created that story, the person who's creating those characters and the narrative around it.

“When our clients do have a seat at that table, and they're able to share their vision, the story that comes out is much more compelling and authentic, as opposed to something that's driven by a number of intermediaries who work between the two,” he added. 

Musicians and gamers are currently the top two types of creators receiving consumer support, with 63% of respondents paying for content from multiple creators in each genre. But that’s likely to change, Jacobs said.

“Gamers use social platforms as part of who they are as creators, and musicians have been forced to develop one to one relationships with their fans [because of the pandemic],” he said. “But as we come out of the pandemic, you'll see a lot more general entertainment creators alongside musicians and gamers.”

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