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Brand Partnerships: How brand partnerships can drive value for all involved

Marketing asks the experts why brands should join forces, and what's the most effective way to do so.

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Good things come in pairs, and it’s no different in marketing. Brands have always relied on finding the right partners, but inevitably, as the media and consumer landscape changes, so does the nature of these relationships. Marketers no longer look solely to media and agencies to help them gain exposure, but are finding ways to authentically align themselves with their audience by partnering organisations that matter to consumers and improve their experiences in different ways.

Take EE (formerly Orange) Wednesdays, the mobile operator’s enduring collaboration with UK cinemas that offers its customers two-for-one tickets. This partnership rewards consumers by lowering the cost of what has become an eye-wateringly expensive outing while encouraging a regular supply of film-goers. Working on a huge scale, it was so successful that PizzaExpress has also got in on the act, offering two meals for the price of one to diners who present the EE code.

One of the reasons the venture worked so well was that two (or three) brands came together to form a proposition that was mutually beneficial to them, but also to the consumer.

So what are the new rules of marketing partner-ships and how can brands get it right? Moreover, what role and results can intermediaries (including agencies) provide, and how does their approach work?

Marketing spoke to three industry leaders, from different sides of the partnership equation, to get their view on the future of partnerships, and what it takes to be successful.

Matt Elek, managing director, EMEA, Vice Media Group

Are partnerships the future of marketing? Will brands eventually need to partner at some point to make an impact?
Partnerships are valuable in any marketing mix, but I’m not sure that this is new – the types of partnerships brands do are evolving, but the basic idea of aligning brands and content providers hasn’t shifted too much.

How do you choose which brand to work with? What do you look for?
We look to partner brands that want to do amazing creative work. Young people are constantly seeking great, authentic creative ideas and content, so we always aim to make stuff that truly excites and engages the intended audience – when we enter partnerships it has to be the best work we have ever done, every time. And it has to have scale.

What do brands need to do to be good partners? What’s the secret to a successful partnership?
The key to a great partnership is that everyone commits to achieving value on all sides. Great partnerships work when the output is genuinely valuable for the intended audience, which means the creative has to be perfect. The output also needs to work for the brand and reinforce whatever message is intended, but never at the expense of editorial or creative quality. And if the output is good for the audience and it works for the brand, then it works for us.

When can partnerships hurt brands?
When brands try to do partnerships that frame them as something they are not. Being truthful and authentic is critical.

What’s your favourite collaboration/partnership that you have seen?
The long-standing partnership that Vice has with Intel is the global gold standard.

We run a media channel together called The Creators Project, which is massively valu­able for Vice’s audience, and which has completely solidified Intel’s position as one of the world’s most exciting and desirable technology brands.

Who would you most like to enter partnerships with?
Brands with ambitious goals.

What are the benefits of partnerships over going it alone?
Brands (and agencies) don’t specialise in making content for the wider public, so they’re generally not very good at it. If you want to get your car fixed, you go to a mechanic. If you want a 30-second ad, you go to a creative agency. If you want to reach audiences at scale through authentic content and media, you go to a media company like Vice.

Who’s your dream date?
We’re currently looking for partnerships on two of our new channels – Vice News (news) and Munchies (food).

Where do you go on a first date?
Vice owns a pub in East London called The Old Blue Last. That’s always a good starting point.

Abigail Comber, head of brands and marketing, British Airways

Describe what you do in 140 characters or fewer
Strategic development of global brand/marketing activity: ads, sponsorship, design, digital, community relations, relationship marketing.  
 
How do you choose which brand to work with? What do you look for?
It’s about brand equity and finding one that complements what British Airways, or our partners such as Avios, stand for in order to deliver benefit and/or value to our customers.

What do brands need to do to be good partners? What’s the secret to a successful partnership?
Be clear on what you both want. Work together to create value. Trust each other. Keep talking.

When can partnerships hurt brands?
When it’s the wrong partner, or when something happens that materially changes the nature of the partnership and creates an imbalance.

What’s your favourite collaboration/partnership that you have seen?
For me, the partnership between Apple and Nike with Nike+ is great, based on the insight that brought it together and the value it creates for customers.

Where do you go on a first date?
A local pub with known good food and an easy "out", because lunch is over and the
alternative is to stay for the quiz and see how smart they really are.

Who would you most like to partner?
British Airways already partners some of the best brands in the world, although, as we take the brand forward, we are always looking for partners that share similar
values and ambition.

What are the benefits of partnerships over going it alone?
True partnerships that work always make the individual partners stronger and better than they would normally be alone.

Are partnerships the future of marketing? Will brands eventually need to partner at some point to make an impact?
Absolutely, yes, they are part of the future of marketing. All good brands need to partner at some level, be that something huge for a company, such as our joint business with American Airlines, US Airways, Iberia and Finnair, or something more specific, such as our tie-up with The Langham hotel on menus on our A380 flights to Los Angeles.

Who’s your dream date?
Rick, my husband (in case he is reading). Actually May Durrant, my maternal grandmother, whom I never met and feel I had so much to learn from. Otherwise, Gary Barlow.

Dan Chard, director, partner sales, AEG Global Partnerships

Describe what you do in 140 characters or fewer.
Responsible for leading and securing the commercial sponsorship and brand partner­ships of AEG’s music and entertainment assets.

Are partnerships the future of marketing?
We have 125 venues and 9000 live events across the globe. That’s a massive opportunity for brands to engage fans at their most passion­ate. So they are certainly part of it. Practically, it’s key that the rights-holder and brand both feel they are getting a great deal. It’s no longer just about the money or a logo placement, it’s marketing, content creation and uniqueness.

How do you choose which brand to work with?
It’s about what fits best and with how much passion the brand might activate. We have to deliver the best fan experience possible.

What do you look for?
A mutual love of the asset, creativity and the expertise to enhance the fan experience.

What do brands need to do to be good partners?
Don’t just hang the logo above the door, get creative and get involved.

What’s the secret to a successful partnership?
Being able to discuss and solve issues quickly, move on and deliver an incredible event. If it’s a long-term partnership, it’s about looking at the event each year as if it were the first time, so that the activation remains fresh and the fan experience is always forward-looking.

What’s your favourite partnership?
O2’s sponsorship of The O2, a ground-breaking partnership which was a big risk to the brand. It took guts and a great plan for both O2 and AEG, and is now seen as one of the best.

Who would you most like to partner?
I’d love to get Land Rover working in the entertainment industry. Guinness, too… to have the smartly dressed Congolese gentlemen in its current campaign strutting their stuff at Barclaycard presents British Summer Time in Hyde Park this year would be incredible.

What are the benefits of partnerships over going it alone?
Brands can always create their own events, but this is expensive and risky. Partnerships mean you spread the load and each partner can deliver what they do best.

See the Building Partnerships essays

This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk


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