Brand partnerships and sponsorships are not new to the brand toolkit. We’ve all seen them successfully deployed to help brands enhance visibility, show affinity and facilitate reach into new markets or audiences. From sports franchises to nonprofits, opportunities and organizations abound for brands to connect with. But while partnerships and sponsorships have outward visibility, it’s what’s happening behind the scenes that makes or breaks these bonds. What partnerships really bring to the table is the ability to go directly and deeply into a brand’s target audience. At its heart, partnerships are affinity-based marketing that facilitates audience segmentation to help drive the brand and business.
There’s a reason these are called strategic partnerships. Ideally, these relationships should reflect the overarching brand strategy and illuminate what the brand stands for and is trying to achieve. For both brands, the affiliation should be a natural fit in terms of positioning and market share. For example, Spotify and Hulu have partnered up to offer a bundled deal that saves consumers $5 over subscribing to both services separately. This partnership makes strategic sense because each brand provides differentiated services but both within the entertainment space. Further, through a partnership both brands can benefit from exposure to each other’s subscriber base.
Timing is also a critical consideration relating to sponsorship strategy. Determining with whom to partner oftentimes depends on where your brand is in its lifecycle. For some brands that are just getting kicked off or are trying to rebrand their image, they are focused on developing these relationships to go deeper into a community. For others further along in their lifecycle, partnering can be very specific business-driving opportunities for the brand. These openings help a brand differentiate themselves, their brand and their product from a competitor. In short, partnering will empower brands to go deeper with a target audience than traditional advertising and marketing alone.
One look at any sports franchise, you’ll see sponsorships at the center of a thriving brand. In fact, we posit that partnerships are foundational to a brand’s DNA. That’s because exposure within a target audience is needed for every brand. Strategic partnerships help brands succeed by enabling them to stand out and gain access to different resources than a brand has alone. In sports, those resources include hospitality opportunities, tickets and suites, player appearances, and executive networking – assets unavailable to a brand without that relationship. Partnership also allows the brand to benefit from affiliated credibility. Within winning sports franchises that kind of association is a huge brand win.
Partnerships aligned to brand are focused on driving distinct business objectives. Just slapping a logo on something sets a brand up to be “seen by many, heard by none.” Another misalignment occurs when a company – approached by community nonprofits – thinks “Why not?” Decisions made in haste or to “help out” rarely create meaningful connections. Partnerships focused on brand values, on the other hand, have the most success, as a more authentic tie to what’s important for the brand and their consumers. Remember, consumers have more resources than ever before and misaligned, inauthentic or forced connections will not only hurt, but cripple influencer or general marketing campaigns.
Now that we’ve outlined some of the building blocks of a successful sponsorship strategy, in our next segment on partnerships we will take a look at some high-profile matchups to determine if they were fan favorites. For more information on our partnership consulting services, contact us firstname.lastname@example.org.