Monday January 20, 2020

For love and money: Big paydays await Love Island stars

Love Island stars Greg O’Shea, Maura Higgins and Yewande Biala are set to hit paydirt as they prepare to cash in on their newfound celebrity with a slew of endorsements, sponsored social media posts and public appearances

Killian Woods

Business reporter

4th August, 2019

Fourteen days before the Love Island finale, the average punter had no idea who Greg O’Shea was. Fast-forward two weeks and he’s a household name with an extra £25,000 in his pocket – the first of many paydays coming his way.

The Irish professional rugby player, who was a late entrant to ITV’s reality game show, was a dark horse entering the final. He only paired with his partner – Amber Gill – very late in the game. Her popularity among viewers, coupled with his tendency to show a basic level of manners towards women, appeared to endear the couple to the public. They topped the poll and each walked away with a £25,000 cash prize.

O’Shea essentially swooped in to steal the show. Some contestants spent eight weeks in the Majorca villa with cameras watching their every move. And compared to O’Shea’s windfall, they only banked a reported £250 for each week they took part in the show.

However, research by Frontier Economics has shown you don’t need to feel too sorry for them. The consultancy group has found that contestants can expect a £1.1 million bump, on average, to their lifetime earnings after a stint in the villa. People on the show for the full eight weeks stand to bank £2.3 million from sponsorship and appearance fees over their career. For comparison, a degree from the Oxbridge universities is estimated to deliver a £815,000 lifetime earnings bump to graduates.

This Love Island payday doesn’t just land in contestants’ bank accounts automatically. They grafted to earn a spot on the show ahead of 85,000 other applicants and they will need to graft a lot more to reap the financial rewards, according to Emily Austen, who has managed reality stars from Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex and runs her own PR agency, Emerge. She said contestants would fade away if they sit back and expect the money to land in their laps.

“A lot of these reality TV stars are told categorically that there’s a golden period when you harvest. Their agents will want the client to work because the window in which they are relevant is 12 months,” she said, adding that with Love Island due to air twice a year from 2020, the window for cashing in has narrowed.

“As with any of these shows like I’m A Celeb or Big Brother, once a new winner comes in, they do the same press cycle. So unless you have interesting news, you’re engaged or you’re dating someone new, you’re kind of old news.”


Last year’s Love Island winner, Dani Dyer, is a good example of someone who crammed a lot into the last 12 months. She bagged a six-figure deal for a campaign with hair-care brand Mark Hill and £750,000 for a link-up with fashion brand In The Style, and also published her autobiography. It has been reported that she also commands a £15,000 fee for a sponsored post on her Instagram account, which has 3.5 million followers.

Not all former contestants will reach these heights, according to reality TV agent Matt Nicholls, but those willing to put effort into nightclub tours, social media endorsements and TV appearances can pocket a lot of money. Nicholls, who has represented former Love Island contestants and stars of Made In Chelsea and Geordie Shore, said anyone who makes the final of the show will have garnered a significant social media following to attract well-paid brand endorsements and sponsorships.

“A slot on Good Morning Britain will pay £200 and getting into the I’m A Celeb jungle will be five figures. Male islanders can do well on the nightclub appearances circuit – they can do 70 venues at £2,000 to £3,000 a time – and the top girls will be given six-figure endorsements by fashion brands.”

The nightclub tour circuit can be particularly profitable. Adam Collard, a well-known figure from last year’s show, embarked on a 61-date tour after the show and made a reported £5,000 per night. According to Austen, Love Island stars like Collard attract paparazzi, and those pictures in the red tops are very valuable to nightclub operators. She added the nightclub circuit would likely be a big money-maker for Maura Higgins – another breakout Irish star of the show – who is already booked in for appearances in Ireland.

“Maura has the capacity to be very popular in Ireland because she’s now famous. She will probably dominate in clubs from a tour perspective,” said Austen. “I think she’s strong enough to make money and stand for herself; I don’t think she needs to be in a couple.”

Austen feels that O’Shea may not be able to stand on his own two feet so easily, saying: “Greg’s difficulty is that Amber probably has a bigger personality than him. Obviously his earning potential increases if he’s attached to her.”


Compared to previous years, where Irish contestants barely got a look in, this edition has been a financially fruitful one for the Irish. Even outside the villa, diehard Irish fans of the show Orlaith Condon and Fionnuala Jones secured thousands of euro from an advertising deal for their Love Island podcast My Pod On Paper.

The biggest financial winners of the show tend to become apparent 12 months after it goes off the air, according to Nicholls. But based on data published by eMarketer, which tracks the value advertisers place on social media followers, Higgins stands a good chance of being top dog. She has 1.7 million Instagram followers and could charge in the region of £5,600 per post, while O’Shea (one million followers) and fellow Irish contestant Yewande Biala (810,000 followers) could charge £3,300 and £2,600 respectively.

One Irish woman who has already made a tidy sum off social endorsements following her appearance on Love Island in 2017 is Shannen Reilly McGrath. Before she appeared on the show, Reilly McGrath had 8,000 followers on Instagram. That number has since swelled over the 100,000 mark, and she now makes a living from paid social media posts and TV appearances.

Reilly McGrath said she went into the show in 2017 with savings in the bank in case it didn’t work out. She hasn’t gone back to her job as a dental nurse, but she said that doesn’t mean it has been plain sailing.

“I can’t complain when I’m at these lovely events and I’m getting good pay for a certain paid post. I know a lot of models in Ireland that are charging €500 to €750 for a paid partnership on Instagram, but it’s just not as reliable as people think,” she said. “It is hard if you’re not getting paid posts. I have over 100,000 followers, and just getting free dresses in return for an endorsement is not worth my while, it’s not paying my bills. I have to do paid posts to keep my money going.

“When I first came off Love Island, I actually sold myself completely short. I used to just say ‘I’ll wear an outfit’ and wasn’t about the paid posts because I wasn’t used to getting anything free. I wasn’t used to being sent gorgeous dresses that I’d usually pay €120 for.”

Reilly McGrath said the show could be a great stepping stone for people who want a career in TV. However, she noted that a lot of former contestants have gone back to their normal jobs because it doesn’t pay the bills. But going back to work isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.

“I feel in Ireland that wouldn’t be an option for me. I have been out for food and people take sly photos of me. I feel I would be judged if they walked in and I was working in a dentist clinic,” she said. “I’ve been really busy with Instagram work every year since I left Love Island and I’ve been on TV and radio about the show.

“Next year, with Greg and Maura, I might be pushed to the side a bit. That’s when it might go a bit dead for me when it comes to Love Island.”

Make them an Island: how it became the biggest show of the summer

Season one (2015)

Richard Cowles, multimillionaire creator of Love Island

• Richard Cowles, the creative director of ITV Studios Entertainment, creates Love Island for ITV2. It is a reworking of the 2005 show, Celebrity Love Island. The contestants are members of the public rather than celebrities. The series is presented by English radio and television presenter, Caroline Flack and is narrated by Scottish comedian and television presenter, Iain Stirling. The dating reality show involves a group of contestants living in isolation from the outside world in a villa in Mallorca, constantly under video surveillance. The islanders couple up, with the winning duo taking home a cash prize of £50,000 and often making fortunes afterwards with branding and various deals. ITV owns the rights.

• ITV Commercial and the dating service site form a partnership for the show. This includes broadcasts, online and mobile sponsorship of the show.

• The show gets sponsorship from Superdrug, a health and beauty retailer.

• Guest appearances include Calum Best (son of 1960s footballer George Best) and English television personality Mark Wright.

• Series winners are contestants Jess Hayes and Max Morley.

Season two (2016)

• Series extends from five to six shows a week.

• Contestants Sophie Gradon and Katie Salmon become the first same-sex couple in the show. Series winners are Cara de la Hoyde and Nathan Massey.

• According to media reports, finalists Alex Bowen and Olivia Buckland are thought to be worth £4.4 million. After the villa, Olivia Buckland lands her own show and collaborates with clothing line Quiz and hair stylist Mark Hill. She is announced as the face of W7 makeup. Alex Bowen lands modelling deals with Boohoo and launches his own clothing line with MVMNT. The couple start their own clothing line, Exempt Society, which reports suggest will take in over £950,000 by 2021. They earn around £2,000 per Instagram post.

Season three (2017)

• Tech company Monterosa creates an app enabling fans to vote, view live polls and ratings, podcasts and exclusive content. In 2018, it was reported that the app had more active users than apps for Uber, Deliveroo, BBC News, ASOS, Amex and British Airways.

• The series features dumped islanders (Mike Thalassitis and Sam Gowland) for the first time. They are the first Islanders to return to the villa after being dumped from the island. The voters vote them back in rather than vote for new contestants.

• The series ends on July 24, and is won by Amber Davies and Kem Cetinay.

• Some episodes get 4.5 million viewers, resulting in ITV charging top rates for adverts.

• ITV bosses also begin to make money from merchandise, selling 70,000 water bottles and thousands of T-shirts with slogans from the show.

• According to the Mirror, winner Amber Davies (22) is currently worth £1.6 million due to her musical career, branding and clothes deal with Motel Rocks worth £500,000.

• The German version of Love Island premieres in September.

• In October, contestants Chris Hughes and Kem Cetinay star in their own spin-off show, Chris & Kem: Straight Outta Love Island.

• In March 2018, a fly-on-the-wall documentary spin-off titled Chris and Olivia: Crackin’ On is aired. It follows the life of Chris Hughes and fellow contestant Olivia Attwood after Love Island and their dramatic split. Unlike the other spin-offs and the main show, it is broadcast on ITVBe.

Season four (2018)

Sophie Gradon and Katie Salmon: Gradon later took her own life

• A massive 90,000 people apply to participate in the show.

• Islanders get £200 a week.

• Sophie Gradon, a contestant in the 2016 show, kills herself. A second Love Island suicide ensues in March 2019 when Mike Thalassitis takes his own life. Many call for the show to be taken off air.

• Viewing figures peak in July, topping five million.

• Eleven commercial partners are involved, spanning product placement, brand licensing, podcast sponsors, in-store branding and exclusive.

• In July, ITV reports a fall in revenues and earnings for the previous six months, despite a strong performance by flagship reality show Love Island. The company said earnings slumped on the back of sliding advertising revenue and major investment. It sees advertising revenues fall by 5 per cent for the six months to June, marking a slight improvement on forecasts. Total revenues also fall by 5 per cent to £1.75 billion, although Love Island helps to boost revenues.

Hannah O’Brien

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