Perfect Match: Understanding the power of long-term brand partnerships

Spark Foundry national investment and partnership director Craig Cooper
By Spark Foundry national investment and partnership director Craig Cooper | 21 May 2019

At Spark Foundry, we absolutely love partnerships; they are the norm rather than the exception.

However, it’s important we evaluate each partnership opportunity based on the individual brand’s strategic objectives, as well as the potential long-term viability and benefits.

Partnerships can take many forms, from sport sponsorships, to broadcast sponsorships, data or technology partnerships, talent endorsements, cross category collaborations and many more.

Finding which partnership is best for your brand is not always so obvious. But when you do find that perfect opportunity, where it can answer a specific business challenge that spots and dots cannot do alone and mutual interests are aligned, that’s when the real magic happens.

Whenever we evaluate partnership opportunities for clients, we ask ourselves: Will it deliver an emotional connection for the brand? Does it provide exclusivity or a chance to stand out against clutter?

Does it create or reflect a cultural movement? Can it provide scale and impact? Will it help to shift key brand metrics? Will it provide the brand further credibility? Does the partner align to the brand values?

Do all parties have the resource to bring the partnership alive? Can premiums be offset with other value elements? If the partnership ticks most of these boxes, then you may have just found a perfect pairing for your brand.

Once you’ve decided to pursue the opportunity, this is where the fun begins. A partnership allows you to tap into highly-experienced and skilled specialists from a wider collective group.

While this may seem simple in theory, in reality it can be quite complex. There are a multitude of passionate stakeholders, each with their own focussed agenda; so it’s vital to clearly define the rules of engagement early.

If this is communicated well and mutually agreed, then you may be that much closer to the success that everyone wants to achieve.

It’s also worth considering that the IP rights don’t just live within the partnership environment, but you need to think about how your brand can extend these through the line.

There are also all the little extras that come with partnerships like signage, jerseys, incidental product placement, talent alignment, merchandise, hospitality and the list goes on. All these need to be explored and deployed effectively within the activation.

At Spark Foundry, we generally view any potential partnership with a three-year lens. In year one, it’s about laying the foundation of the partnership and setting benchmarks. I

It’s integral to negotiate substantial value to rationalise the opportunity but still keep enough flexibility to evolve and cumulate value for future years.

Year two is when we’re in the swing of the partnership, and all parties should be working more harmoniously, so we look to optimise areas that resonated (or didn’t) the year before.

In year three, we look to ensure the partnership is still fresh and interesting, and given its longevity, you usually have permission and credibility with audiences to be a bit braver, and look to form a much deeper connection with them.

But the million dollar question is: Do media partnerships work? 

Yes, and we have implemented a multitude of successful partnerships, across a varied mix of categories, to prove we buy what’s not for sale.

For a client in the consumer packaged goods category, we partnered with Network 10 and the Masterchef property. This enabled us to deliver product usage, incidental product placement, talent endorsement and in-store drivers.

This four-year strong Masterchef partnership has delivered immense value and significant sales lifts for featured products.

For another client in the wagering category, we partnered with The Front Bar (AFL panel show) when it was a digital-only proposition.

This allowed the brand to fully integrate into the programme and also drive and support the concept in transitioning to television with Network Seven.

Getting in early and maintaining a longer-term relationship with the property has paid off, and now delivers much higher audience reach and engagement, which may (in part) have led to the recent demise of the competitor AFL panel show.

Finally, for a client in the entertainment category, we activated a multi-year partnership with Nova’s national drive show.

This began as a more traditional sponsorship, but each year we have optimised this to deliver greater real-time flexibility and talent integration, while maintaining exclusivity in a high-rating channel and in a key timeslot.

This has allowed us to promote our client’s individual entertainment products within a very loyal audience environment. 

Here are some tips on achieving partnership brilliance for brands:

1. Strive to cultivate a strong network of connections to help you discover and nurture opportunities

2. True partnerships won’t happen overnight, but hard work and collaboration will deliver a platform for success

3. Taking (educated) risks may require the brand/client to take a leap of faith; partnerships live in the world of grey, but should symbiotically work with spots-and-dots activity. If you have found positive synergies, then all parties should jump in enthusiastically and enjoy the journey.

Henry Ford once said, "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”. Some very wise words to remember when searching for that perfect partnership for your brand.

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