It's time to start interrogating the definition of partnerships

Anchorman 2: string of brand partnerships
Anchorman 2: string of brand partnerships

Marketers need to challenge those using the lexicon of "partnerships", writes Dave Roberts, deputy MD at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment.

The much awaited sequel to Will Ferrell's 2004 cult smash 'Anchorman' is being released next month, and the UK distributor Paramount last week announced a raft of promotional partnerships.

These include on-pack activations from irreverent soft drink brand Tango and a fully integrated campaign encompassing experiential screenings and Facebook screen tests from long-term supporter of film, Irish whiskey brand, Jameson.

Film distributors have long-appreciated the value of partnerships as primary channels for helping put bums on seats. Such relationships used to be solely about leveraging the ATL exposure that a brand can bring (often helping offset decreases in their own marketing budgets). However, today they are as much about generating awareness via a brand’s own community.

Note the use of the word "partnership" here – relationships built on mutual benefit, where a rights holder provides access and assets to a brand in exchange for exposure and support.

Speak to pretty much any media owner or rights holder and you could be fooled into believing that there is universal appreciation of the value of such partnerships. After all, everyone has a ‘Partnerships Team’, and every sales person talks of their desire to work ‘in partnership’ with brands.

Little more than spin

But scratch the surface and you find that this is little more than spin; the vast majority still focus on a value exchange where financial investment is made in return for rights.

Partnerships teams continue, across the board, to be linked directly to commercial operations, rather than marketing functions.

As one of the oldest sponsorship markets, sport still delivers the biggest deals and arguably the most archaic commercial practices. From the largest, most financially robust rights holders (think the Premier League, UEFA or the IOC) to smaller, more grass-roots properties, valuations continue to focus on exposure and a mystical, often hypothetical value of association.

The music industry’s reputation in this area isn’t much better. Record labels also persist in treating brands as additional revenue streams. As recorded music revenues have dropped, far greater focus has been placed on generating incremental "partnership" income to help offset any decline – see Tinie Tempah’s recent deal with Mercedes Benz.

The crux of the problem is that partnerships teams continue, across the board, to be linked directly to commercial operations, rather than marketing functions. A commercial team sees a brand as a source of income; a marketing team sees a brand as a powerful communications channel.

Leading the way

Perhaps not surprisingly, the likes of Coca-Cola, with their scale and focus on marketing innovation are leading the way in the market generally.

Its global deal with music streaming service Spotify represents a true partnership built on mutual benefit over and above investment. Spotify benefits from exposure in new and emerging markets and Coca-Cola gets access to a universally accessible music platform, and the consumer engagement opportunities that come with it.

So, how can we encourage these sorts of examples to go viral?

Firstly, the practice of packaging and valuing rights needs to change. There can be no ‘rate card’ cost in a world where the non-monetary opportunities a partner brings to the table are at the very least as important as their chequebook.

Secondly, the remuneration model for sales people must change because under a true ‘partnerships’ approach, revenues will fall. However, cleverly structured deals, although smaller in monetary value, should deliver revenue indirectly, whether it’s through increased box office takings, album streams or even match-day beer volumes!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, marketers need to challenge those using the lexicon of ‘partnerships’. Don’t be afraid to ask probing questions and don’t underestimate the value of your community or of your media clout. 


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers