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  • Writer's pictureNat Sharp

What is a brand partnership?

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Katherine, founder of KT Partnerships

Katherine, Founder of KT Partnerships launched her business over five years ago. She is a partnerships consultant working with the likes of Butlin's, Chester Zoo and Newbury Racecourse and Travelodge and creates new relationships between brands, enabling them to work together for mutual benefit.

Who is your target audience?

It’s pretty broad as any brand can benefit from partnering with another. From holiday companies to beer brands, tech organisations to racecourses, and beyond.

What are brand partnerships?

Brand partnerships are when two or more brands partner together for mutual benefit. Their brands share a target audience. Partnerships are most successful when there is a natural fit and a clear narrative between the brands which the target audience can instantly understand.

By working together, whether it’s a promotional marketing campaign, sponsorship or a strategic partnership, they can broaden their audience reach, raise brand awareness, drive consideration and shift perceptions. For example, I worked with Butlin's and Little Tikes to create a 'Tikes Town' experience at each Butlin's resort.

Children driving Little Tykes cars at Butlin's

What made you go into brand partnerships?

I spent the first part of my career working at promotional marketing agencies, including working on brand partnerships for my clients. I worked on the UK's biggest ever third-party partner promotion for Walkers Crisps and went on to become Partnerships Manager at Butlin’s where the power of true brand partnerships became evident. This made me realise that was where I wanted to focus my career.

Why should a small business use brand partnerships and how can they help?

Small businesses can use brand partnerships to drive awareness and consideration of their brand by associating with a partner already trusted by their target audience.

It can be a very cost-effective way of promoting your business when explored on a contra-deal basis, whereby the partners create a mutually beneficial campaign that’s promoted via each partner’s existing communications channels.

How long does it take to get a partnership live?

The lead times vary, from a couple of months to longer, depending on the objectives of the partnership and the plans the brand partner may already have in place. A tactical social media prize draw or special offer promotion negotiated on a contra-deal basis can be quick to negotiate and turn on, especially when working with smaller, more nimble brands. A sponsorship involving a major corporation can take a lot longer to plan, negotiate and deliver.

What sort of brands can use brand partnerships?

Any brand can benefit from a brand partnership. What they need to consider is what they can offer a partner - this is just as important as understanding their own objectives for a partnership.

What makes a great brand partnership?

Each partnership will have its own objectives and KPIs, but all successful partnerships need to make sense to the target audience and have clear benefits for all partners involved. For example, I partnered Newbury Racecourse, who wanted to attract more women to organise a day at the races with their friends, with Karen Millen. The partner brand was very relevant to getting dressed up for a day at the races. Each brand was able to promote to the other’s audience with relevant content, added value offers and prizes. The partnership was very successful with both brands achieving increased awareness, consideration, sales and audience growth.

Gummy Bear sweets lined up in a row

Are brand partnerships predominately used for brand awareness, not lead generation?

They can be used for both - for example, you can generate leads via data capture opt-ins when running competitions with a partner.

What can brands typically offer back to a potential partner?

Brands can offer their partners access to their audience via messaging about the partnership. This could be through social media, email, in-store, on their website, whichever comms channels you choose to use.

Can brand partnerships work in B2B?

Yes, I'm currently working on a project to find partners for an education product to be sold into schools, for which a brand partnership could provide endorsement and credibility.

Can businesses work without a partnerships expert?

A small business that can't afford a partnerships expert can, of course, negotiate opportunities themselves. To ensure success, you need to know what you want a partnership to achieve, what you can offer a partner in return, allocate the time to negotiate, develop the opportunity and project manage the partnership.

Often the challenge is dedicating the time to do this. You also need to understand what the partner would like to achieve from a partnership and ensure each brand's objectives are achievable and delivered. Goodwill and mutual understanding is essential to any successful partnership.

How do you measure/quantify the value it can bring?

It depends on the objectives. Are you looking to grow your database? Measure the number of opt-ins to hear more about your brand. Are you looking to drive sales? Use an offer code and track redemptions. Are you looking to raise awareness? Look at how many of your target audience were reached and engaged with your partnership comms.

How much should small businesses typically budget to develop and implement a partnership?

This is as broad as it is long and very much down to what you'd like a partnership to achieve. You need to budget for your / a consultant's time to develop and manage the partnership, as well as the cost to you to communicate the partnership (you may choose to communicate only via your existing channels to your existing network or put additional budget behind promoting in social media, printing POS etc.). Plus, for promotional partnerships, you'll need to budget for the cost of any prizes/product discounts. Remember though, you will be achieving value via your partner's comms so this should all be factored into the value versus spend equation.

What tips would you give to a business that are looking to develop local partnerships?

Target brands that are speaking to the audience you want to reach. These should be brands that the audience already trusts, by aligning with them you’ll enhance your credibility with that audience. Understand what you’d like to achieve from a partnership, and what you can offer in return. Then get in touch and explore the opportunities.

For more tips on all things marketing then please visit our blog the Sharp End

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