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Partnership Marketing: Dream Team or Collaborative Chaos?

Some partnerships are so effortlessly ingrained that one half is not complete without the other; one has to question whether Bert could make it without Ernie, and where would Ben be without Jerry? Unfortunately, while some partnerships live happily ever after, the destiny of others couplings are not so smooth, looking at you Kermit and Miss Piggy; Britney and Justin; Romeo and Juliet – but then again the course of true love never did run smooth. Writing for DigitalGov Eric Bediel notes, ‘…partnering offers more important benefits through leveraging marketing, better prize operations and access to data or expertise your agency may not have…’. When properly orchestrated, partnership marketing can be a highly advantageous move resulting in collective satisfaction.


Defining Partnership Marketing

In 2015 the UK’s first ‘Partnerships Panel’ was launched, they started out with defining what exactly they consider partnership marketing to be, ‘Partnership Marketing is the discipline of brands working together to co-create ideas that are collectively more effective for their businesses and more compelling to their consumers’. Essentially, partnership marketing is the practise of brands working collaboratively to reach new audiences and ultimately drive revenue.  Working in conjunction with likeminded brands is an efficient way to connect with previously untapped potential customers whilst promoting one’s own brand. However, a symbiotic relationship must be in place in order for the partnership to be a success. Wpartnership marketinghile driving revenue is the ultimate aim of marketing partnerships, they should not be purely transactional, Facebook’s marketing director for business in Europe Philippa Snare notes. During her time at Microsoft, Snare was privy to both successful and unsuccessful brand partnerships and believed that the failed ones could be attributed to a lack of shared values.


Corporate Charity Couplings

For charity partnerships shared values is an essential part of a successful relationship; a partnership between British Petroleum and Greenpeace might raise a few eyebrows, for example. In fact, Greenpeace chose to protest BP’s sponsorship of the British Museum, describing it as ‘stunning irony’ that BP were sponsoring a ‘Sunken Cities’ exhibition given their environmental record.  The more cynical might argue that BP’s sponsorship could be an effort to soften the public image of an otherwise reviled corporation, or perhaps they really do have an invested interest in the exhibition – who can say. Whilst most alliances are focused on increasing profits and driving revenue, cash is not always king and good PR is extremely valuable.

Cross-sector partnerships enable brands to resonate more with consumers whilst driving revenue. For long term effectiveness, brands must do more than simply generate money for NGOs.  C&E is a company that co-creates partnerships between corporate brands and NGOs taking into account the objectives of both parties. They run a yearly assessment determining the most successful NGO and brand partnership; in 2016, for the first time the partnership of GSK and Save the Children topped the list as the ‘most admired’. GSK and Save the Children have been in partnership for ten years however in 2012 GSK decided to step up their support; the partnership aims to tackle preventable child mortality and has the ambitious goal of saving 1 million lives. GSK and Save the Children have pooled their resources, their website reads: ‘We are combining our capabilities in R&D, supply chain, procurement and vaccines with Save the Children’s expertise working with the most vulnerable children’.  By displaying a strong social conscience in their partnership GSK have generated good press which is of increasing importance to consumers, ‘When asked what factors are most likely to make corporate-NGO partnerships more important over the next three years, more than 80% of respondents cite pressure on companies to demonstrate societal considerations within their business practices’.


Globalised Golden Arches

The partnership between McDonald’s and the Olympics has recently come to an end after forty one years, three years early.  Though they had recently celebrated their ruby anniversary, apparently the separation was mutual, Silvia Lagnado, McDonald’s Global Chief Marketing Officer cited a decision to reassess their marketing efforts for the split, ‘As part of our global growth plan, we are reconsidering all aspects of our business and have made this decision in cooperation with the IOC to focus on different priorities’. Interestingly McDonald’s chose to retain their sponsorship with Fifa, albeit on a ‘second-tier’ sponsorship level described as ‘World Cup Partners’, despite a number of scandals and accusations of corruption involving the football association.

McDonald’s paid a reported $100 million to be granted ‘Top Partner’ status for each two game-deal in partnership with the winter and summer Olympics. On their website, McDonald’s cites the global nature of the Olympics as operating in harmonious accord with their globalisation agenda (paraphrased ever so slightly). Whilst the partnership of an event that showcases the pinnacle of human physical achievement and a fast food corporation that showcases the nadir of human culinary achievement might be an odd match, McDonald’s was the second most correctly identified Olympic sponsor, after Coca-Cola. So if only for recognition, the partnership was beneficial to the fast food franchisor. 


Partnerships Marketing Jobs

At Spotlight Recruitment we specialise in filling a range of marketing roles including those in Partnership marketing. If you have a role that needs filling, please contact us to see how we can be of assistance. Alternatively, if you are on the lookout for your next career move, please head over to our job vacancies page.

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