Case Study: Hulu Influencers “Sell Out” In Blunt Influencer Marketing Stunt

hulu influencers

Instagram Influencer Marketing Case Study: Hulu Influencers Turned Professional Sellouts

Cable is on the way out—the declining consumption of television media has been a familiar topic for several years at this point. Streaming services have been relentlessly picking up the slack in their endeavors to get a foothold in what is now a booming market, with Netflix leading the way, of course.

Who else wants to muscle their way into the scene? Answer: pretty much every media conglomerate with a checkbook. Disney, Apple, Facebook, and DC Entertainment are all in deep with launching or expanding services this year; while WarnerMedia, Walmart, and NBC all have projects in the pipeline to compete in what will no doubt become a saturated market before long.

No surprise then that Hulu, the world’s third-largest service, is looking to put their case to consumers and gain as much ground as possible this year in a bid to catch up with Netflix and Amazon—the two big players in the market.

hulu influencers hulu has live sports

With an increase of 8 million subscribers in 2018, Hulu has been outpacing Netflix’s growth in the US and the gains are impressive. This year, they want to solidify those gains and double down on their marketing push for live TV streaming.

Hulu Influencer Marketing Campaign Calls It Like It Is

With 399,000 followers, Hulu’s Instagram following is somewhat dwarfed by Netflix (15 million), making the involvement of a wide range of influencers—some with mid-tier followings all the way up to mega-influencers with more than 1  million followers—a sensible choice for a campaign from a large network.

Their campaign centers around the hashtag #HuluSellouts, a self-aware tag designed to be upfront with audiences about endorsements—with a strong element of humor, of course. This is just the latest effort for Hulu, which last year launched a similarly ambitious advertising campaign, rolling out ads that matched the themes of select original programming, beginning with sci-fi series The First.

Beginning the campaign with NBA stars Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Hulu sought to primarily push their live TV service, particularly live sports—hence the athletes involved.

hulu influencers

The current ‘sell-outs’ campaign was created by Big Family Table with plans for it to run for the duration of 2019, with various sports stars involved making many #paid appearances. The US women’s national soccer team created buzz in anticipation for the 2019 Women’s World Cup.


  • Drive awareness of Hulu’s live sports offerings
  • Spread word among sports audiences that may not consider streaming services as an option
  • Promote positive brand engagement by using an atypical, humorous, and eye-catching campaign


  • Channel: Instagram
  • Influencers: NBA and Women’s National Soccer Team athletes
    • 11 soccer stars from the women’s 2019 World Cup team, 8 men’s NBA basketball players for a total of
    • 19 influencers
    • 9 mid-tier, 6 macro-tier, and 4 mega-influencers

Preview Of Influencers



View this post on Instagram

Time to add another ? to the collection. USA! USA! USA! ?? #FIFAWWC

A post shared by Hulu (@hulu) on


  • Hashtag use among influencers was consistent: #HuluHasLiveSports; #TeamHuluSellouts; #HuluSellouts; #ad; #HuluHasLiveSportsChallenge; #obviously—all featured prominently in the campaign
  • Almost every woman soccer player in the campaign uploaded four pieces of content—captions across posts followed the same or very similar templates
  • For the men’s posts, each uploaded video featured them at a mock Hulu press conference, having money thrown at them each time they said ‘Hulu has live sports’
  • The basketball players typically uploaded fewer posts, with the most being Lillard with three


View this post on Instagram

I get paid to finish at the rim? #huluhaslivesports #Off$ea$on Workouts #HuluSellouts #ad

A post shared by De’Aaron Fox (@swipathefox) on

Social Reach

  • Instagram followers targeted: 17,118,200


  • Likes: 1,406,595
  • Comments: 10,480
  • Views: 5,118,339
  • Engagement rate (overall average): 5.71%

Josh Okogie Makes It Rain

Minnesota Timberwolves player Josh Okogie is our first influencer to examine. One of the smaller examples, with a mid-tier following of 69K, the 20-year-old is featured at a faux conference. After signing a ‘contract’ money is thrown at him every time he says ‘Hulu has live sports’ in a humorous stunt.

View this post on Instagram

Hulu’s paying me every time I say “Hulu has Live Sports.” #hulusellouts #neversellout #exceptforhulu #huluhaslivesports #hulupaidme #sponseredpost #ad

A post shared by Josh Okogie (@callme_nonstop) on

Okogie’s post had the highest engagement on a post in the campaign with 19.69%. His metrics were similar to fellow player Khris Middleton, who starred in an identical video for his part and has 100K more followers. With 68,610 views, 13,351 likes, 253 comments, Okogie’s engagement rate was the highest of the campaign so far.

Emily Sonnett Shows Off Ball Juggling Skills

National women’s soccer team player Emily Sonnett engaged in a four-post campaign. Her highest-performing upload featured her juggling a soccer ball (with coffee in-hand) in the street while saying the campaign phrase.

Her caption embraced the humorous campaign message, declaring that she’s selling out and endorsing a Hulu charity donation scheme by mimicking her performance and posting their own videos. With 80,078 views, 11,312 likes, and 71 comments, Sonnett achieved her highest engagement rate of 13.54% with this upload. It’s also worth noting that Sonnett can boast the highest everyday engagement (12%, via SocialBlade) on Instagram out of all her teammates.

Joel Embiid Signs The Dotted Line On Sponsorship Contract

Embiid boasts the second-largest following of any of the influencers. He posted an image of himself with a prop Hulu sponsorship contract, with his name signed as ‘Joel “Hulu has live sports” Embiid’. His post features all the expected campaign hashtags and remains consistent with brand captioning found across most of the posts.

With humor the main component once again, Embiid uploaded two posts, the better performing of which the highest amount of likes and comments of anyone in the campaign so far. This is especially impressive considering he has 2.3M fewer followers than Lillard. With 220,577 likes and comments, he garnered an engagement rate of 6.36%, an impressive watermark for any mega-influencer.

Tobin Heath Has A Suitcase Full Of Cash

Next up is Sonnett’s club and national teammate Tobin Heath, who featured for Hulu in a quick ad of her opening a suitcase full of cash in her hotel room, along with a slightly more personalized caption saying she bleeds ‘red, white, blue, and GREEN.’

View this post on Instagram

As of today, I bleed red, white, blue, and GREEN. Because Hulu is paying me to ? #HuluHasLiveSports #TeamHuluSellouts #HuluSellouts #ad #obviously

A post shared by tobin powell heath (@tobinheath) on

Heath has a substantial following of over half a million on Instagram, and all four of her sponsored posts performed well, with only one falling below 5% engagement. With 262,494 views, 44,903 likes, and 481 comments, she snapped up and engagement high of 8.83%.

Damian Lillard Gets Inked (Not Really)

Damian Lillard, the influencer for the campaign with the largest Instagram following of nearly 6M, starred in a notably high-production upload of the standard of a TV commercial. It featured him going to a tattoo parlor to have ‘Hulu has live sports’ inked on his arm, with a funny caption that said as much.

For his part in the campaign, Lillard posted three uploads to Instagram, all staying on-message with the campaign—all of them performing relatively poorly. This video, despite the obvious production quality, only achieved an engagement rate of 0.39%. His best-performing post, an image of him holding a Hulu sponsorship contract, got 75,859 likes and 812 comments for an engagement rate of 1.32%.


  • The soccer players had a higher average engagement rate with a 5.87% average across 43 posts
  • The basketball players had a slightly lower average of 5.18% (13 posts)
  • Smaller influencers, in general, once again showed that they can provide better engagement rates than their larger peers; though with fewer likes, comments, and views overall
  • Using mega-influencers can be hit-or-miss, depending on the campaign and the influencer, demonstrated by Embiid’s successful posts and Lillard’s low performance