How NordVPN Used Influencer Marketing to Get 4.4B Views on its Videos

NordVPN partnered with YouTubers to skyrocket brand awareness.

February 11, 2023

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4.4B (BILLION!) — that's the approximate number of combined views of all the YouTube videos sponsored by some VPN or with affiliate links for VPN services. And this data is only from 2016 to 2020. If we extrapolate it to today, the number might be beyond 10B.

Those are incredible numbers for brand owners and marketers working to stay on top of the minds of their audience. What are these VPN companies doing to amass such attention, and what can you learn from them?

If you've been watching YouTube videos, I’m pretty sure you would have encountered the statement “Hey guys, today's sponsor is NordVPN.”

It's one of the most popular VPN services, so we chose them for our case study into the world of VPNs and influencer marketing 🪄

Do you also feel like everything is sponsored by NordVPN? ;)

About NordVPN & its impressive numbers

NordVPN is a virtual private network (VPN) service that was developed by a cybersecurity company called Nord Security. It was launched in 2012 after a group of friends got frustrated with growing internet censorship, content controls, and government surveillance.

A decade ago VPNs were only known to a handful of people in the tech or gaming world. But as of 2022 NordVPN has 14 million users who are using it to stay private online, hide IP addresses and enjoy a secure internet connection.

If we compare NordVPN to its competitors in search volume, NordVPN leads the race by a long margin.

Search volume comparison of NordVPN, SurfShark, and ExpressVPN — the three most popular VPN services

Why does NordVPN (& VPNs in general) invest in influencer marketing more than other industries?

VPNs are high margin, high churn products. Switching from one VPN to the other isn't difficult. Everyone is giving discounts and promotions. Every other company has floated similar ideas of privacy, security and why a VPN is necessary. All this makes it difficult to differentiate one product from the other.

That's why VPNs have to stay on top of people's minds. If you watch a lot of tech videos and listen to tech podcasts, you are likely to hear the hosts speak about NordVPN multiple times.

Let's start from the basics by looking at their types of collaboration.

Types of collaborations by NordVPN

There are 5 major types of incentive models you can build to collaborate with creators. These are:

  • Gifting
  • One-off Payment
  • Performance-based payout
  • Base + Bonus
  • Equity

NordVPN has chosen two incentive models — Performance-based payouts and One-time upfront payments. They categorize creator partnerships into two programs —  the Affiliate Program and Influencer Program. Each has its separate landing pages, criteria, and creator offers.


Under affiliate partnership, they let other people market their products, and in return, they pay them a percentage of any sales that came from their efforts.

NordVPN affiliate program landing page

The landing page for the affiliate program outlines why someone should join their affiliate program. They have highlighted the most important things an affiliate would look for — high commission rate, conversion rate so that the traffic they send would buy, global reach, and someone to talk to in case they are stuck.

NordVPN's pitch to creators for joining their affiliate program

Most of the videos posted by affiliates are usually entirely about VPNs. They are either targeted towards an audience with an informational intent — 'what is VPN,' 'How to use VPN,' 'What is NordVPN,' or an audience with transactional intent — 'Comparing different VPNs,' 'Is VPN worthy paying for,' etc.

By ranking for these terms, affiliates can get the right audience to watch their videos, and then they pitch NordVPN as one of the best solutions. Each video has a unique affiliate link in the description.

Video with NordVPN's affiliate link

When we expanded some of these links, here's how they looked:

Observe how they have unique coupon codes, campaign IDs, and sources. This helps the influencer marketing team at NordVPN track each campaign's performance, and their system can calculate the commission to be paid to each creator.

Use SARAL’s built-in UTM link generator to create such links and send them to your creators!


Under the influencer program, they invite YouTubers and Twitch streamers to promote their products.

It's different from the affiliate program because creators get paid a fixed amount up front rather than just the commissions based on sales they bring in.

NordVPN influencer program landing page

People who partner under the influencer program include a pitch about NordVPN as part of a longer video rather than making the whole video about NordVPN, as is the case with affiliates.

Creator's video with NordVPN's pitch

The partner form on the influencer program page collects all the major possible data points that can help NordVPN decide whether to collaborate with a creator on it.

NordVPN's partner form

NordVPN has customized the benefits section to suit the creators. It reiterates & clarifies the kind of creators they are looking for. There's an emphasis on the fact that NordVPN is a reputed and trustworthy brand.

NordVPN's pitch to creators for becoming their ambassadors

Performance-based payout model

NordVPN offers recurring commissions to its affiliate partners. When a user signs up for a subscription, the affiliate receives a recurring fee for as long as the user remains a paying member.

Since NordVPN sells different subscription packages, percentage commissions motivate affiliates to promote the products that lead to a higher average order value even if the commission percentage is low (100% for a 1-month offer vs. 40% for new signup).

This is something that easily translates into ecommerce, especially if you have a subscription product or kit.

Recurring commission on sales

Creator-themed landing pages

Creator-themed landing pages remind visitors that they came through the creator they like, and their experience remains consistent. And that's why they trust the brand to make a purchase. It's the easiest way to improve conversions from leads to customers.

Add 3 things to your creator-themed landing page:

✅ Creator's photo or testimonial

✅ A special offer for that creator's audience.

✅ (Easiest) A banner saying "As seen on <channel name> or "XYZ gifted you a Y% discount" or "Special offer for fans of <creator name>"

NordVPN has cracked the code to build a customized page for each one of the creators they collaborate with.

Creator-themed landing page
Channel-themed landing page

Categories that NordVPN sponsor

A study by the students at Maryland university found that NordVPN advertises on videos in a variety of categories (e.g., lifestyle, tech, gaming, politics). Based on our assumption, these channels are mostly subscribed by male audiences in the age range of 20-40 yrs old. So we can say that they've hit their target audience pretty well.

This contrasts VirtualShield's strategy, which exclusively sponsors political or conspiratorial videos.

Source Fraction of videos containing VPN ads appearing in each category, as labeled by YouTube

Several NordVPN pitches by creators suggest that the service will give them complete protection against any or all internet threats, give them access to geo-locked content, and be able to save password leaks and phishing attacks. These are aligned with the messaging that NordVPN promotes on its own website.

Small team but a big game plan


As we reach the end of this post, it's apt to give credit to NordVPN's influencer marketing team. They've made the brand a top consideration amongst its target audience.

We would also like to thank NordVPN for teaching how to run influencer marketing at scale :D

Although on LinkedIn, we couldn't find many names of people who are part of the Influencer marketing or partnership team. The team members we could find have recently joined NordVPN (updated Oct 2022).

Moving beyond YouTube

We found a job listing for an Influencer Marketing Manager for Podcasts at NordVPN. You can check it out here (in case it's still up). Their next game plan looks like they will take over podcasts.

This is a key insight as they’re tapping into all sources of influence instead of just focusing on “influencers”

But basically, the role involves managing relationships with various agencies or creators, ensuring payments are made on time, coming up with campaign ideas, and such.

NordVPN’s post for recruiting a podcast-focused influencer marketer

Collaborating with college students

We found a listing where NordVPN is inviting college students to partner with them. This is extremely well written as it includes all the information at once, concisely. We've broken down different elements for you in the image below:

NordVPN pitch to college students inviting them to become its ambassadors

Here's list of sections based you should include in your pitch inviting college creators for your brand:

  • About the brand
  • Benefits of using the product
  • What is the brand looking for
  • Aim of the campaign
  • Ask from creators
  • Any guideline or tone you are looking for
  • Perks for the creators
  • Criteria for partnership

Going where their audience hangs out

We could also find landing pages that invite Discord servers and Telegram account owners to partner with NordVPN. The collaborations make sense because a lot of gamers, tech enthusiasts, and crypto enthusiasts hang out on these channels, and VPNs have many use cases for them.

Discord servers, and Telegram channels are mostly run by people enthusiastic about a topic, and they bring others like them together as a community. Usually, the owners bear the cost, and there's no plan to make money from the channel.

NordVPN realized that and crafted the perfect pitch by saying that attract Discord & Telegram account owners have an opportunity to monetize their channels if they partner with NordVPN.

Again, notice how they’re tapping into all sources of influence they have at their disposal.

Takeaways for your brand:

In summary, here are the key learnings from studying NordVPN's influencer marketing that you can use to grow your brand:

  • Build creator-themed landing pages that keep the visitor's experience consistent and improve conversions
  • Choose a mix of incentive models depending on your budget, product, and goals. You can read about the pros & cons of these models in detail here. You’re not married to just one. Start, then keep adding and adapting.
  • Track outcomes as much as you can with UTM links and unique coupon codes. Analyze which creators are performing well for which types of campaigns, and then adapt your strategy accordingly.
  • Go beyond 'influencers' and think about 'influence.' And for that, you have to look beyond social media. Think beyond Instagram and YouTube. Find people who can convince others to check out your product. They might be hanging out on Discord, Twitch, Reddit, or at your local stores.
  • Don't obsess over creative briefs. Creators know best how to communicate with their audience, so instead of giving strict briefs and guidelines, allow them to have fun. You can trust them to do their best if you've offered the right incentives.
  • For SaaS influencer marketing, choose recurring commissions to encourage creators to bring repeat customers. You can also do this for a subscription line of products in your ecommerce store.
  • Give creators marketing material, images, and assets they can use to promote your brand. This will also keep your messaging and branding consistent across all creators.

One of the best ways to be successful is to study successful brands and emulate what worked for them in their journey. NordVPN is just one such example. Check out other brand influencer marketing teardowns from SARAL:

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