United States: More Followers, More (Potential Sponsorship) Problems – What Brands Should Keep In Mind When Sponsoring YouTube Gurus, Instagram Influencers, And Bloggers

The FTC recently reviewed numerous Instagram posts by celebrities, athletes, and other social media influencers, and sent out more than 90 letters to those individuals to remind them to "clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing through social media." But does the same disclosure standard apply to YouTube gurus, Instagram influencers, or lifestyle bloggers (i.e., "social media influencers") who are not A-List celebrities?

Maybe you are a beauty guru receiving free products to review on your YouTube channel with hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Maybe you are an Instagram influencer that gets paid for each of your posts seen and liked by your millions of followers. Maybe you are a lifestyle blogger that partners with household brands to take on special projects. Or, maybe you are the brand that wants to work with these influencers through sponsorships. Maybe you are not an A-List celebrity, but as a social media influencer or brand, you may be an "advertiser" within the meaning of the Federal Trade Commission Act.


The Federal Trade Commission Act (" FTC Act") is the primary statute of the FTC. It protects consumers from "unfair or deceptive acts or practices." This prohibition on unfair and deceptive practices applies broadly to advertising claims, marketing and promotional activities, and sales practices – even when such practices occur online.

Recognizing the broadening of online advertising activities, the FTC issued " Dot Com Disclosures" in May 2000. This guidance document discussed how consumer protection statutes, rules, and guides applied to online advertising and sales. In 2009, the FTC released Endorsement Guidelines,1 discussing the standards to which both brands and social media influencers should adhere. The Dot Com Disclosures were revised in 2013 to reflect the dramatic changes in online advertising, and clarified that the FTC could consider undisclosed social media sponsorships as deceptive marketing practices.


Social media sponsorships involve brands' social media teams reaching out to popular YouTubers, Instagram influencers, and lifestyle bloggers in an effort to partner with them to ultimately help sell their products and services online. Social media influencer sponsorships are a non-traditional approach that allows brands to reach consumers who may otherwise miss traditional television and radio commercials.

Although non-traditional and effective, this kind of advertising could be fall within the purview of the FTC Act if there is a "material connection" between the brand and the influencer. If there is "a 'material connection' between a brand and social media influencer [it] should be 'clearly and conspicuously' disclosed, unless it is already clear from the context of the communication," according to the FTC's Endorsement Guidelines.

A social media sponsorship relationship may equate to a material connection between the brand and the influencer if it consists of a business or (less likely) family relationship, monetary payment, or a gift of a free product. Thus, sponsorships can arguably take the form of beauty gurus receiving free hair or makeup supplies in exchange for positive review videos, Instagram influencers being paid per post, and lifestyle bloggers partnering with major brands for campaigns. Likewise, merely sharing that you are a fan of a particular brand or product without monetary benefit or gifts may likely not satisfy the "material connection" standard.

"Clearly and Conspicuously"– When In Doubt, #Hashtag It Correctly

The Dot Com Disclosures advise brands and influencers to use unambiguous language and to make their disclosures stand out.

For YouTube users, this may not be so much of a challenge to meet, as beauty gurus and the like may disclose sponsorship relationships within the title of the video, the caption of the video, and through verbal statements by nature of the guru reviewing products in videos.

For brands and influencers using space-constrained platforms such as Instagram or Twitter, the FTC advises that those in a sponsorship relationship can clearly disclose the relationship by placing a simple "#Ad" in the caption– doing so "should inform consumers that the message is an advertisement."2 Likewise, the term "#Sponsored" will "likely inform [...] consumers that the message was sponsored by an advertiser." The FTC warns brands and influencers to stay away from hashtags such as "#sp" or "#partner," as it may not be clear to your consumers that there is a sponsorship relationship.

Brands and influencers can also make it clear that there is a sponsorship by being conscious of where they place the disclosure in the space-constrained caption. The Dot Com Disclosures encourage brands and influencers to place disclosures such as #Ad or #Sponsor at "the beginning of a tweet or similar short-form message."3 The FTC's letters to several influencers encouraged them to think about consumers viewing Instagram posts on mobile devices. The letters noted that disclosures should occur within the first three lines of a longer post, as Instagrammers typically see only the first three lines of a longer post unless they click "more," which many may not do. The letters also noted that when multiple tags, hashtags, or links are used, consumers will likely skip them. As the Dot Com Disclosures note, "A disclosure that is buried in a long paragraph of unrelated text will not be effective."

Besides meeting the FTC's requirements,4 disclosing your sponsorship relationships to your followers and consumers can provide transparency about your vested interest and build trust. As the brand, make sure you require the influencer to disclose your relationship, as recently done by Instagram. This may help to avoid fines from the FTC. As the influencer, be sure to properly disclose your sponsorship relationship clearly and conspicuously in the social media post. Otherwise, you may run the risk of engaging in deceptive marketing practices in violation of the FTC Act.


16 C.F.R. Part 255.

2 See Dot Com Disclosures, page 16.

3 See Dot Com Disclosures, page 16.

4 Be sure to review your sponsored posts to ensure they comply with state laws.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.