The Brit Crew: Where are the oG YouTube trendsetters now?
We check in on what Zoella and Louise Pentland are doing – and where they could go next
In 2010, Youtube was still mostly a free-for-all mashup of music videos, comedy sketches and parodies. Slowly, however, a new trend was emerging: of creators posting charismatic and relatable content.
In the UK, this trend was pioneered by a young group of 20 year-olds who would later be given the nickname the ‘Brit Crew’. The group included Jim Chapman, Marcus Butler, Alfie Deyes, Tanya Burr, Caspar Lee, Niomi Smart, Louise Pentland and siblings Zoe and Joe Sugg. Within just two years, it was almost impossible to escape this group of friends, and between 2012 to 2016, they were the ultimate trendsetters. From fun and humorous challenges going viral to beauty products selling out, they were the ones to watch.
But what made this group of YouTubers so popular?
What audiences loved about the ‘Brit crew’ was that they were relatable, young and seemingly wholesome. Each week, you’d be able to watch them have fun, candidly share their lives and talk about things they were passionate about. YouTubers were the new celebrity and, unlike the typical out-of-reach A-listers we were used to, it felt as though these were real people with authentic and relatable lives.
As the group grew in fame, however, with book deals being signed and awards won, the sense of innocence that was once there started to fade and slowly the fun and simplicity that was the world of the Brit Crew began to lose its shine. This was often through no fault of their own; audiences were simply growing up and the group’s squeaky clean content was less relatable as they aged and the YouTuber’s lifestyles became more affluent.
Some of the creators eventually decided it was time to move on to the next chapter and pursue other passions and careers, whilst others pivoted their content to be more in keeping with their ageing audience. Entrepreneurial brands were founded and companies formed, and some are still a success to this day.
As of 2022, the Brit Crew combined still have more than 42 million subscribers and here at THE FIFTH we have noticed an increase in visibility surrounding the group, and therefore wanted to learn more about where the original trendsetters are now and what they are doing.
Here is what we found…
Zoe Sugg and Alfie Deyes, potentially two of the most successful members of the group, are now settled down in Brighton with their one year-old daughter, Otillie. Whilst they haven’t been posting as consistently as they used to, they do still upload videos – with Zoe even participating in Vlogmas this year! Understandably, as they have gotten older and they have started to expand their family, their content has matured from the playful challenges and become more parenting-orientated. As well as Youtube, they both have successful businesses which they continue to run. Zoe turned her original channel name ‘Zoella’ into a successful blog where she and her team write about taboo subjects surrounding sex and relationships, whilst Alfie has a clothing company called Future Self which he set up with the idea of creating fashion-forward pieces that fit with his community’s lifestyle.
Louise Pentland aka Sprinkle of Glitter has continued her YouTube journey, and regularly posts videos. Her channel now, however, is lifestyle and family focused, showing her audience a realistic insight into parenting and co parenting after she separated from the father to her first child. She is now a Times #1 Best Selling Author and has written five books, has gone on to work with amazing brands such as Walt Disney World and Universal Pictures UK. On top of that, she is an NSPCC Ambassador for Childhood, and also hosts the Mothers Meeting podcast, where she covers all things parenting, from daily struggles to mum hacks.
Marcus Butler decided it was time for a new chapter when he last posted to YouTube five years ago, with no final exit video or reason why. Marcus has, however, recently come forward in an interview with the Rolling Stone, describing his choice to leave Youtube as an overnight decision, with him crediting this to simply “falling out of love with it.” He is now living in Berlin and is the co-owner of music management company Stripped Bear and is the co-founder of a sustainable fashion company called Nu-In.
Marcus’ ex-girlfriend, fitness fanatic and health guru Niomi Smart is still an active user on YouTube. Living between Bali and the UK, her content continues to be centred around food and fitness and she has an extremely impressive resume of brand partnerships under her belt, from TAGHeur to BMW UK and Jimmy Fairly. On top of content creation, she was the co-founder of SourcedBox – a now-retired healthy snack monthly subscription service. She is the author of Eat Smart, a healthy and plant-based recipe book and more recently, she launched Smart Skin, a vegan, sustainable and natural skincare brand.
Whilst Joe Sugg, brother to Zoe, continued to do YouTube until about a year ago, his main focus has turned to acting and TV. In 2018, Joe became the first ever social media star to become a cast member of Strictly Come Dancing in which he came second place alongside his partner Dianne Buswell, who is now his long term girlfriend. Post strictly, he took an interest in animation films, and has starred in Shaun the Sheep, Wonder Park and more recently The Amazing Maurice where he plays main character Sardines alongside Emilia Clarke and David Tennant. Finally, he is co-founder of a talent management agency, MVE (previously known as Margaviane) with fellow YouTuber Caspar Lee.
Caspar stopped YouTube in 2019 in order to pursue a number of entrepreneurial companies. He is now the founder of four companies, MVE (Margavaine), aforementioned, Influencer (a data-led, global influencer marketing business), Creator ventures (a venture capital firm that invests and collaborates with creators) and Proper Living (an affordable student accommodation company in Cape Town).
Tanya Burr quit YouTube three years ago to pursue an acting career. Since then she has featured in the TV show Holby City and movie Venice at Dawn to name a few. Whilst her YouTube presence is now non-existent, Tanya still maintains a strong Instagram presence and continues to collaborate with beauty brands such as Elizabeth Arden and Function of Beauty. Around a similar time to when she left YouTube, Tanya got divorced from fellow Brit Crew member Jim Chapman. Since then, she has entered a new relationship, one that she has kept private, and recently gave birth to her first child.
Jim Chapman is now remarried and has a daughter called Margot. Jim still creates videos for YouTube, however on his own personal channel he has steered away from challenges and moved onto family, lifestyle and high fashion content. He recently started a family TikTok page called The Chapmans where he and his wife, Sarah, document life as a family of three.
The Brit Crew all seem to have gone on to successful ventures since their group YouTube days when they were all associated with one another, but where do they go from here? It is clear that many will continue down the route of content creation, but the market is far more saturated than when they first started and there’s competition for audiences from younger, Gen Z creators like @olivianeill and @lookingforlewys on platforms like TikTok.
Over the past few years, short form content has been on the rise, so adding TikTok to their platforms in which they post could help. The app has made it easier than ever to go viral and grow in popularity. It is also interesting to note that as the Brit Crew’s original audience have now grown up, many have started to frequent TikTok more often.
Louise Pentland recently posted a TikTok video where she speculated that many of her original YouTuber following have now moved over to the short form entertainment app. This video went viral, with it gaining nearly 1 million views, 107 thousand likes and a multitude of comments validating her theory.
Whilst many of the creators do have TikTok accounts, they are posted on a lot less than their YouTube accounts. Take Alfie Deyes for instance, who has posted 5 times on YouTube in the last 2 months, compared to 3 times in the last year on TikTok.
My recommendation? To keep up with the Gen Z content creators and audiences, the Brit Crew should aim to up their presence on TikTok in order to reinstate their trendsetter status.