Love Island 2023: Is the era of big brand deals for the show’s contestants over?

Posted by Dina Zubi in Comment

3 weeks ago

Popular Love Island contestants have left the villa and signed big commercial deals since 2015. However, the last few batches of the show’s alumni seem to have missed out on these opportunities – have brands grown tired of reality stars or is there another reason for this decline in partnerships?

There’s no denying the developing industry scepticism of how much influence Love Islanders actually have. Case and point is season eight winner Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu, who was hailed as a new reality superstar after her 2022 appearance on the ITV show.

After exiting the villa, she signed a deal with Oh Polly that was estimated to be the biggest brand deal for any Love Islander ever – reportedly worth £1 million. She had worn its pieces 27 times on the show, and it seemed like a natural collaboration.

Less than six months later, news emerged that Oh Polly had dropped Cülcüloğlu after just one collection and that the reality star was suing the brand. Her large percentage of fake followers and followers outside of the brand’s target demographic were thought to be two reasons why the deal flopped. Cülcüloğlu’s collaboration with Beauty Works also ended soon after.

Similarly, fellow season eight star Paige Thorne’s six-figure deal with fashion brand Forever Unique came to an end just six months after signing, and the TV personality took legal action due to an alleged breach of contract. Brands looking to partner with future Love Islanders would undoubtedly have taken note.

Season nine winners Kai Fagan and Sanam Harrinanan recently uploaded a Q&A YouTube video and said they were confused by the lack of opportunities they were offered after their win. Unlike previous winners, they didn’t visit daytime TV shows, feature in tabloid photoshoots or sign big contracts with brands. “Maybe we weren’t what they wanted,” the couple shared in the clip.

So what about the latest season’s Love Island contestants? As to be expected, PrettyLittleThing snapped up one of the most fashionable contestants, Ella Thomas. Winner Jess Harding signed a six-figure deal with In The Style, while Whitney Adebayo hinted at a partnership with Gymshark. Other Islanders have collaborated with brands on smaller projects and attended events, but there have been noticeably few announcements of big ambassadorships.

All of this is possibly indicative of Love Island as a concept feeling less relevant and a bit tired. The show’s viewing figures have declined, with many viewers complaining the cast is too homogenous. Other channels and production companies have picked up on the criticism and launched more inclusive dating shows. BBC’s I Kissed A Boy is the UK’s first same-sex reality dating show and has a serious fandom after just one season. Paramount+’s pansexual dating show Love Allways launched earlier this summer and Netflix’ recent The Ultimatum: Queer Love featured solely queer contestants. ITV’s new midlife dating series My Mum Your Dad is also a more inclusive take on the dating show format.

As Love Island announced its next season would be an all stars version, many contestants will already have brand relationships in place, while others might attract new commercial deals thanks to being firmly back in the public eye. Will this repair the show’s reputation as the UK’s ultimate influencer making machine? Watch this space and when it comes to partnerships, don’t rush in.

By Dina Zubi, news and features writer for CORQ. Picture credit: Ella Thomas via Instagram.