Chris Reed
Nov 28, 2013

Partnerships make brands sexy

How do you make cloud computing sexy? Add Stephen Fry. How do you make Starwood sexy? Add Bayern Munich. How do you make The Hard Rock sexy? Add Linkin Park.

Partnerships make brands sexy

Brand partnerships are an amazing way for one brand to leverage the positive brand values of another brand to 1) target a new customer audience 2) reinforce loyalty in the existing customer base 3) change brand perception 4) double marketing and brand power.

Cloud-computing brand Databarracks would not have gained nearly 40,000 views for its YouTube video without Stephen Fry narrating the explanation of the history of technology and inventions. He hardly mentions what the company does and could do for you, but it works in terms of capturing your attention and becoming interested in the brand and what they do. People shared it with me and I have shared it with other people. It’s cloud computing. But it’s cloud computing made sexy.

One new partnership that did surprise me was between Starwood Hotels and European Champions League Champions Bayern Munich. Brands like Thomas Cook sell Manchester City European packages, but they don’t market it to people in Asia. As a Starwood Preferred Guest member, I received an email offering me the chance to go and see Bayern Munich in Germany.

While I admire Starwood’s optimism, it’s very broadbrush marketing. Bayern Munich are not Barcelona or Real Madrid or Manchester United in global popularity and brand appeal. They are very much a German brand trying to become a Manchester United or Barcelona, to become desired to be associated with, a popular truly global brand. They have an uphill battle.

Every taxi I get into in Singapore, the driver, without fail, asks, "You English? Which Premier League club you support?" They usually support 1) Manchester United 2) Liverpool 3) the whole of the English Premier League  (EPL) – they just love the action and of course the chance to gamble. Not once have I ever met a taxi driver who says that they are a keen Bundesliga fan.

EPL trumps every other league in Asia by a million to one. That includes La Liga because they like the variety of teams in the EPL over the two dominant teams in La Liga. Bayern Munich have reached out to Asia through football schools in Indonesia and have in the past done tours of places like China but they didn’t do anything this year, for example. Unlike the La Liga giants and most of the EPL you don’t see people wearing Munich tops here in Asia. I once saw someone wear a Dortmund shirt—but they were German.

I can see what Bayern Munich gets out of this partnership. Money and marketing and the ability to have its tickets sold globally. Starwood presumably thinks that it can sell accommodation off the back of the partnership but I think it’s a struggle in terms of brand reach of Bayern Munich and appeal in Asia.

The Hard Rock Café always strikes me as a brand that people who drive Harley Davidson’s visit. Old Americans with too much time and money on their hands trying to recapture their youth. So it’s surprising that Linkin Park have chosen the brand as a partner. The partnership works in a couple of ways.

Firstly Hard Rock acts as a distribution partner for the launch of the limited-edition Linkin Park t-shirts benefiting Music for Relief and its “Power the World” initiative to create awareness that over a billion people in the world don’t have any power. The exclusive t-shirt line features artwork by Linkin Park member Mike Shinoda. A portion of the retail price from sales of the t-shirts will benefit “Music for Relief”, a non-profit organization founded by Linkin Park, and its “Power the World” campaign.

Linkin Park and Music for Relief launched Power the World to raise awareness about what it means to live without energy access and to highlight innovative clean energy solutions. Linkin Park’s latest single “A Light That Never Comes” was all about this issue and they used gamification to market it and raise awareness for “Power the World” through parts of the gamification rewards.

The second part is that the Hard Rock global network of venues acts as location for Linkin Park Underground (their fan club) members to meet up across the world. In a quite clever move on both sides. Linkin Park promotes the event through social media and arranges for videos to be shown along with an exclusive episode of its video blog. Although no Linkin Park member is there fans feel connected and closer to the brand as a result of meeting other fans and going to an official event.

Hard Rock clearly benefits as the events tend to be done on off peak days and the fans spend money on drink and food. Once fans try the venue they may also be back and recommend the venue through social media to their friends. It’s a way for Linkin Park to engage fans without having to tour the same city. With Hard Rock having global outlets it allows Linkin Park to cover the world by using content engagement and increase fan loyalty in the process.

Partnerships really do make brands sexy and drive business through win-win agreements.


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