Leading creator, Marques Brownlee sets out the playbook for future industry brand collaborations


Top, tech YouTuber, Marques Brownlee has become chief creative partner and board member at accessories company Ridge.

The move is far from unique. Last year the idea of influencer-turned-Creative Director took hold for instance: 

  • Diet Coke appointed Kate Moss 

  • LVMH appointed Pharell

  • Gymshark appointed David Laid

  • Too Faced appointed Sara Echeagaray

The spirit and design of the partnership deal between Ridge and Brownlee is worth exploring, though. 

Ridge CEO Sean Frank told Fortune that Brownlee is “teaching us to be more of a content-first brand, like how we actually get better at storytelling instead of just running static image ads on Facebook.” 

Brownlee, in turn, praised his level of creative freedom and the length of deal:  “I really am happy with how much input I'm gonna get to have on actually bringing certain products to life.” … “We’re going to be in this for the long-haul” he told Fortune. 

Frank first opened the creator partnership role back in August 2023. Writing an X thread (formerly Twitter) he said:

“Instead of paying an A list celebrity to come do 2 photoshoots a year, I would rather use that money to hire someone who can help shape the brand. Someone with a POV. With a skill they can teach us. Who actually is invested in our success.”

We don’t know where Brownlee ended up with his remuneration package. Frank’s initial offer was low according to his thread: “10-40 hours a month. Sometimes on content strategy calls. Sometimes on set. Sometimes making short form content for us. $250,000 a year+benefits, 4 year contract. Equity on the table as well.”

Size of equity may have tempted Brownlee. Frank is ramping the company for a $1 billion exit within two years. “It felt like a perfect alignment to get [Brownlee] on the cap table and give him a good chunk of this business to help us scale,” he told Fortune. 

A few considerations on making this partnership successful

  • Brownlee is being hired in part as a teacher. Possessing the skills is not the same as being able to pass on those skills. Ridge may benefit from creating a ‘translator role’, someone who can work with Brownlee to translate some of his processes and embed them into Ridge’s organisational memory.
  • It sucks being an employee - Brownlee is an entrepreneur; he’s used to calling his own shots in business. He’ll have to learn to be part of the board. This may require patience and restraint.
  • He will need to balance the creative with the corporate and keep motivated once the initial ‘buzz’ of the deal has subsided.

Brownlee’s push to diversify income

Brownlee has worked hard these past three years to diversify his income streams to limit his exposure to risk and to seize opportunities. 

In 2021 90% of his income came from either YouTube’s Adsense or through influencer marketing brand collabs. The remainder coming from selling merch, his podcast, appearance fees and through licencing. 

Today he part owns laptop camera company Opal as well as podcast and video editing company Riverside.FM. Last year the YouTuber released the M251, a shoe collaboration with sneaker company Atoms that had been in the works for three years.

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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