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


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
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer