The best brand partnerships are truly something special. They can add significant value to their combined customer base or send a powerful message.
But what is a brand partnership, exactly? How do they work? And most importantly, how do they benefit you?
Brand partnerships are a mutual agreement between two companies to utilise both of their brand names in a strategic alliance. Each brand brings its own identity to create a melded co-brand image.
Successful co-branding means that success for one brand means success for their partner brand as well. It also means that there is a deeper well of creativity, resources and customer base for the brands to utilise as well.
Put simply, when done right, they are a win-win for everyone involved.
But it’s not just about partnering with just any brand that has a large customer base.
Because you’re basically leveraging each other’s customers’ trust and brand loyalty, it’s essential that you consider the added value that your partnership can give both of your customer bases.
It’s not a good look to align yourself with a brand whose values and mission statement are at odds with your own.
In this post we will be looking at some of the best examples of brand partnerships. Let’s jump in…
LEGO and IKEA
This is definitely an example of a brand partnership made in heaven!
Just about everyone has fond memories of playing and building cool things with LEGO at some point in their lives. Likewise, most of us have, at some point, built something from IKEA.
Ever noticed how the process feels surprisingly similar? Well, someone involved in making this brand partnership happen sure must have, because in 2020, IKEA launched their new BYGGLEK collection in partnership with LEGO.
Aimed squarely at parents and kids, this new collection introduced a new range of storage boxes with LEGO studs on the lids, alongside a new exclusive LEGO set. The idea behind the collaboration is to remove a barrier to children’s play and learning, as well as introducing a sense of playfulness to storage solutions that children and adults alike can enjoy. Speaking on the new collection, IKEA’s designer had this to say:
“Where adults often see mess, children see a stimulating creative environment”
Andreas Fredriksson, designer at IKEA of Sweden
The BYGGLEK range serves as both a secure play location that helps keep LEGO projects securely in one place, as well as providing attractive and functional storage solutions for families.
This is a perfect example of two brands with similar values collaborating to create a unique range of goods that offers significant value to both of their customer bases.
Image credit and © Brewdog
Aldi and Brewdog
This brand partnership was truly a thing of beauty to see unfolding in August 2020. Following German supermarket chain Aldi announcing on social media that they were releasing a new IPA beer titled Anti Establishment IPA, eagle-eyed fans of both companies couldn’t help noticing the branding similarities to BrewDog’s own Punk IPA beer.
Now, this could have turned ugly if BrewDog took issue with the discount copycat beer. Instead, BrewDog founder James Watt took to Twitter to give Aldi some lighthearted ribbing over the similarities.
What started off as banter over BrewDog rebranding their beer to Ald IPA with Aldi-esque colours and design ended up turning into a genuine collaboration between the two brands. Best of all, both brands pledged to plant a new tree each in the BrewDog forest with every crate of Ald IPA beer sold.
This is an example of two brands seeing a golden opportunity and jumping on it. Following enquiries from customers querying if the collaboration would be made real, they clearly saw the mutual benefit in partnering on this product. A shared value of giving back to the environment was also a stroke of genius to bring more customers in.
Not only does this story show the strength of a good brand partnership, it also illustrated the power of social media for brands when well-managed.
This beer definitely needs to feature in our roundup of awesome beer packaging!
Nike and Apple
Nike and Apple have a brand partnership that has been going strong since 2006. At a New York event attended by sports icons of the time Lance Armstrong (bit awkward in hindsight, that one) and Paul Radcliffe, Nike and Apple CEOs Mark Parker and Steve Jobs unveiled Nike+ – the first product of their long brand collaboration.
The idea behind the collaboration was to bring music and activity tracking to their customers workouts. Originally, activity trackers, shoes and clothing was designed that would connect to the wearer’s ipod so they could track their activity and listen to music on the same device.
This has since evolved into the long term brand collaboration known as Nike+ and has continued to go for strength to strength.
This brand partnership is a genius move that recognised that there was a direct connection between music and exercise and knew exactly how to capitalise on that and add value to both of their customer bases.
It’s also worth noting that this brand partnership is much better than when Apple went into business with U2 and pre-installed the latest U2 album when people updated their iOS software.
Red Bull and GoPro
Red Bull and GoPro have been brand partners since 2016. What we know about the partnership deal is a fantastic example of a brand collaboration that is mutually beneficial. For their part, Red Bull receives equity in GoPro during the partnership, while GoPro got the exclusive provider rights for point-of-view imaging technology at all of Red Bull’s productions and events.
This partnership followed in the wake of probably their best-known brand collaboration, 2014’s Stratos event, shown during that year’s Super Bowl event. Audiences saw renowned skydiver and daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s triple record-breaking jump from 24 miles above the earth.
The whole jump was caught with a crystal-clear first-person shot from the pod door hovering above the earth right through to Felix’s safe landing. Probably not great if you’re afraid of heights, this 30 second video was an exhilarating experience to watch as it almost made you feel like you were falling with him.
Both brands put out an image of excitement, high energy and adventure. It made perfect sense for them to team up on the ultimate thrill ride that was the Stratos jump. It makes even more sense that this has led to a long-term partnership for both brands, as much of their values and public image are aligned.
Vans and Everyone
Renowned skate shoe brand Vans have literally crafted brand partnerships with most of the big name brands in the world.
They’ve worked with;
- National Geographic
- Toy Story
- Harry Potter
- Spongebob Squarepants
And more! They’ve even partnered with the Foo Fighters.
For everyone involved in these partnerships, it’s a huge win-win scenario.
Disney give Vans the licensing and rights to their characters, patterns, and trademark style, Vans design and manufacture the shoe. Both Disney and Vans split the profits. Both brands double down on the marketing. The shoes sell out. Or I assume that’s how it works!
What’s not to like? A great use of everyone’s resources, to drive bottom line business results.
McDonalds and Burger King
This definitely takes the prize for most heartwarming brand partnership on our list.
McDonalds and Burger King’s brand rivalry is pretty legendary at this point. However, in 2019, they put aside their differences in the name of raising money for children’s cancer charities.
At the time, McDonald’s were holding an annual event where they donated $2 for every Big Mac sold to children’s cancer charities.
In a wonderful show of setting aside differences for a good cause Burger King Argentina, as well as a few other countries, launched their ‘A Day Without a Whopper’ campaign, where they removed their own signature burger from their menus and actively encouraged their customers to buy a McDonald’s Big Mac instead.
While it’s unclear whether or not this actually had any impact on increasing the number of Big Macs sold that day, Burger King especially came out of that campaign looking particularly rosy. The warmhearted campaign earned a lot of goodwill online and gave both brands some great word-of-mouth buzz.
Kanye West and Adidas
It’s a little odd thinking of an individual person having a ‘brand’ but that is exactly what Kanye West has.
In 2016, Adidas struck a deal with the Grammy award-winning rapper to collaborate on a high-end exclusive line of footwear. The resulting limited edition Yeezy line was a resounding success, both for Adidas, who were able to score a significant win over their main rival brand Nike, but also for Kanye West and his own burgeoning fashion line.
While brands partnering with celebrities to leverage their personal brand and celebrity status is nothing new, Kanye and Adidas achieved something much bigger with their collaboration. It’s also truly more of a brand partnership, as Yeezy is entirely Kanye West’s brand baby.
This brand partnership really shows the magic that can happen when two brands recognise their strengths and compatibility. Kanye’s unique style of dress was already recognised and coveted by his fans. He was also looking to start his own brand of high-end fashion. Meanwhile, Adidas were busy building their own streetwear line of clothing.
These similar goal alignments and a compatible public image meant that both of their customer bases were more likely to react favourably to their brand partnership. Indeed, as of 2020, the collaboration has grown to become a multi-billion dollar partnership to rival Nike’s iconic Air Jordans line.
Not bad for a celebrity collaboration, right?
M.A.C and Disney
High-end make-up brand M.A.C is certainly no stranger to brand partnerships and celebrity collaborations, having partnered with the likes of Rihanna, Ellie Goulding and Barbie, to name a few.
Today, however, we are focusing on their 2019 partnership with Disney. At the time, Disney was busy promoting the latest live action remake of their classic animations – this time, the 90s favourite, Aladdin.
What really made this collaboration stand out was the amount of work that went into creating the makeup range. M.A.C have such an iconic image and a strong reputation for their high quality makeup that it may well have been enough to focus on the makeup itself while maintaining their sleek matte black packaging with only a stylish nod to Aladdin.
Instead, as well as creating a makeup range with colours designed to reflect the character of Jasmine in the movie, the packaging was also beautifully designed in hues of gold, green and purple. They also featured Jasmine’s actress, Naomi Scott prominently in their marketing campaign.
For Disney, this partnership served to drum up more awareness in their new movie (if not more interest), as well as an additional revenue stream from partnering with the high profile makeup brand. For M.A.C, it helped maintain their reputation as a brand with its finger firmly on the social pulse.
Additionally, this was an exclusive limited run makeup range, and once it was gone, that was it, thus creating a sense of urgency for customers to buy it while they could.
H&M and Alexander Wang
H&M are another brand that are no strangers to brand collaborations. In fact, every year they partner with a different high-end designer brand to release a limited run exclusive line of clothing. In the past, they have collaborated with the likes of Versace, Karl Lagerfeld and Balmain, to name but a few of the big name designers the high street fashion brand has partnered with.
So what makes 2014’s partnership with Alexander Wang so special? Well, for a start, this range sold out in record time and actually crashed the H&M website servers upon release. That’s notable in itself. The other factor was a very clever marketing campaign that successfully ignited interest in the collaboration.
The partnership was first announced in May via Alexander Wang’s Instagram shortly before a Coachella party hosted by the two brands. Later, following a slew of strategic press releases and social media teases, they brought singer Rihanna (pre-Fenty Beauty) onboard as a brand ambassador. By the time the range was finally released in November that year, social media hype for the collaboration was at an all-time high.
(We previously wrote a piece on some other great marketing campaigns, if you want to read more on this subject.)
What really sold this brand collaboration though, was the fact that Alexander Wang, for all that they are a high-end designer brand, their image very much appeals to a younger demographic. They are known to be one of the brands regularly leading the charge on seasonal trends.
While this kind of brand partnership clearly benefits H&M, as it helps position their brand as trendy and fashionable, as well as cashing in on that exclusivity factor, it’s fair to ask what a designer brand gets out of the deal. Well, simply put, it helps to create a bond with a new consumer base that will potentially aspire to purchase more designer items in the future.
Truly a win-win for both brands involved.
Spotify and Starbucks
Forbes called this brand partnership “digital co-branding genius” when it was announced in 2015. And, honestly, they weren’t exaggerating.
When Spotify and Starbucks teamed up, they created a first-of-its-kind musical ecosystem. As part of the partnership, Spotify gave Starbucks employees access to premium accounts where they could create playlists that could be played in the shop throughout the day. For Starbucks patrons, they could access the playlists via the Starbucks Rewards mobile app. Additionally, customers could also earn ‘Stars as Currency’ for ‘My Starbucks Rewards’ points that can be redeemed in-store.
The partnership also encouraged active participation with their customers by inviting them to create their own Starbucks playlists that could not only be played in-store, but was something they could also access at home.
As well as being well known for their coffee and cultivating a coffee house culture, Starbucks has a long history of supporting up and coming musicians. Spotify has also championed amplifying the discoverability of new, up-and-coming artists. On virtually every level, this was a perfect brand pairing.
Their fully integrated and customer-immersive collaboration offered something of value to both of their customer bases, as well as allowing both brands to reach new potential customers without sacrificing anything of their own personal brands.
It really doesn’t get much better than this!
Greggs and Primark
“Take two beloved high street chains and mash them together.”
That was seemingly the design brief that the Greggs and Primark teams followed when going into partnership together in early 2022. By the looks of things, they certainly weren’t looking to win any fashion awards!
So what happened here?
Sausage roll and pastry maker, Greggs baked up a brand partnership with high street fashion retailer Primark, to create a limited run of Greggs clothes.
First of all, Greggs left half eaten pasties and bakery products in Primark display stands, then they launched the fashion line.
Then, quicker than eating the aforementioned sausage roll, the entire range had sold out.
It’s interesting, it’s unique, and people knew the range would be hard to come by.
Brand partnerships like this one are so left field, that there’s not a whole load of explaining to do. The marketing teams motivated the masses, and the rest is history.
Raybans and Facebook
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has unveiled the company’s debut smart glasses, as a result of its brand partnership with Rayban.
These cool, super-tech glasses are designed to allow users to listen to music, capture photos, shoot short videos, and take calls, all through the power of their sunnies!
Users can then choose to share the content they capture on Facebook’s social media , such as Instagram and Whatsapp. It’s a great win-win for both of brands, as Rayban will sell more sunglasses and Facebook will have a plethora of new content across various channels.
Although Facebook’s primary revenue source is from advertising, they have also made a significant investment in virtual and augmented reality, so this ties beautifully into where the company is headed.
It firmly sets the social media giant on the path to building a metaverse – a virtual reality world comprising of virtual environments and online platforms that allows users to interact with one another
In a video posted on his Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg said, “We believe for a long time that glasses are going to be an important part of building the next computing platform.”
Despite concerns over privacy, Facebook has told users that they will not access the content produced by the smart glasses without first obtaining consent.
Vans x National Geographic
Skatewear brand, Vans, is continuing to add to their Spring collaboration catalogue by teaming up with the famous television network, National Geographic.
To say this is an unexpected brand partnership would be an understatement!
But, I really like it, and think the animal prints look really cool and unique.
The design is a blend of different animal and nature-inspired graphical treatments that you can’t help but be captivated by.
On some ranges of the shoe such as the Slip-On and Authentic pairs, you can enjoy interesting wallpapers of Greenland’s ice glaciers, as well as ocean waters filled with cool and colourful fish.
On other shoe ranges there’s an animal motif, coupled with imagery of Mexican Grey Wolves and Red-Eyed Tree Frogs. On ranges such as ‘Eras’ you will see an impressive collage of National Geographic magazine covers which creates a busy, but visually interesting design.
In contrast, their Sk8-His range take a more minimal approach and simply showcase the national Geographic branding across its heels.
Whilst this might initially seem like an odd brand partnership, Vans has become notorious for featuring multiple brand inspired art designs on their shoes since the 80s.
They’ve had various partnerships since then, with an on-going relationship with National Geographic’s parent company, Disney, so this collab shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
The Best of Brand Partnerships
So there you go – our picks of the best brand partnerships. Are there any that you think we missed?
It’s clear that mutual values and the ability to be able to produce something of real value to both brands’ customers is the most important aspect of forging a successful brand partnership. So it’s worth doing your research before considering collaborating with another brand.
This applies to both established businesses, and start up founders as you need to choose a brand that aligns with your own.
If you want to find out more about branding you can check out one of our other blog posts on establishing good brand values.
Or if you would like to talk to us about how we can help you develop your own brand, please don’t hesitate to reach out.