Social & Influencers

When an influencer couple breaks up, what happens to their brand deals?

After one influencer couple split, they finished the brand deals they’d already committed to before announcing their breakup.
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Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photo: Issarawat Tattong/Getty Images

· 4 min read

When AJ Cartas and his boyfriend broke up, they had a lot to think about. Beyond the normal logistics, like who keeps the apartment, or the cat, Cartas and his partner had to figure out something slightly more complicated: what to do about their upcoming brand deals.

“We had a few brand deals coming up. One was already in progress,” Cartas told Marketing Brew. “We were still getting inbounds after we broke up.”

It’s a problem that more than a few marketers have run into. After all, brands contract couples to double-team content rather than tapping individual influencers all the time—and they do it for a reason.

“In general, brands love couples because their engagement rate and analytics tend to be much higher as fans love to follow their relationship,” Lori Krebs, who runs her own PR firm that works with many influencers, such as Bachelor Nation’s Hannah Godwin and Dylan Barbour, told us.

So what’s a marketer to do when cupid’s arrow shatters her influencer marketing plans? In the past, marketers and influencers have responded in a multitude of ways, from postponing the breakup post to get through brand deals to using an agency to swap couples.

Just keep swimming

Cartas told us that when he and his partner broke up, they finished the brand deals they’d already committed to, declining any new inbounds. Only then, when their existing contracts were fulfilled, did they announce their breakup to their thousands of combined followers.

Apparently, it’s a common move. “They’ll fake that they’re still together to get through the deal,” Matt Zuvella, VP of marketing at influencer talent agency FamePick, explained. Krebs said she’d seen this happen before, too, where the couple waited “a week or two” to announce their breakup in order to finish out deals.

Frank Poe, VP, legal and business affairs for agency Central Entertainment Group (CEG), said that if the couple knows they can finish up brand deals without their audience realizing anything is amiss, it’s “an admirable approach.”

“They should do that, if they can,” he told us. But if there’s any chance of the influencer’s audience smelling a rotten coconut in paradise, they shouldn’t try to continue with their deals, Poe said. Doing so could come across as inauthentic, which is especially bad in influencer marketing.

For instance, if one partner is missing from all the organic content but still shows up for paid content, Poe explained, devoted fans would notice. Trying to “push through a deal in an inauthentic way would not serve anyone,” he continued.

What now?

As anyone who has been through a messy breakup knows, it’s not always possible to remain professional for days—let alone weeks—afterward.

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“Most of the time, they will break up, and we will deal with the aftermath with the brand at a later date,” Krebs told us.

If the influencer works through an agency, it can potentially offer the brand a different influencer couple to work with. “In our contracts, we write in that if we can’t provide the specific talent, we’ll provide a replacement free of charge,” Zuvella explained.

Poe told us that sometimes, if a couple starts having personal issues, CEG typically asks if the brand is willing to push the activation out by a month or so. If not, he might recommend substituting another CEG couple in their place.

In her experience, Krebs said “brands have been accommodating and understanding and typically will just have them execute the deliverables separately” when a couple who’d signed a deal together have broken up.

“We would go back to the brand, say, ‘look, they broke up, they’re not together. If you still want to continue on with the partnership, we could rearrange the deal so that they were both getting their separate quote,’” Poe explained.

Looking ahead

There aren’t a ton of ways for brands to prevent fallout if an influencer couple breaks up during a deal, other than being strategic about contract details when drawing up the agreement in the first place.

Apparently, brands are typically pretty understanding about breakups. Kirstin Enlow, VP of talent at Digital Brand Architects, thinks we have the pandemic to thank for that.

“Brands and agencies had to learn how to be really flexible,” Enlow explained. “I think if any brand or agency is going to tackle influencer marketing in any way, shape, or form, they are already not looking at it as a traditional ad buy. You’re dealing with humans at the end of the day, and there’s so many variables that can affect a human—from breakups, to medical situations, to family,” Enlow said, adding that she’d estimate 75%–80% of the time, brands and agencies are understanding and open to compromise in these situations.

“It’s a human business; we have to be aware of that,” Poe said.

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