Whatever the industry, brands go through peaks and troughs, depending on the time of year. Brand collaborations are a clever way to amplify a brand’s presence through quieter times and help it to connect with a different market. But many brand partnerships fall short of maximising their full potential by failing to keep momentum after the main event.
The seasonal calendar, focusing on events such as Christmas, can play a big part for some brands, whereas others may capitalise on events like the Olympics or New York Fashion Week.
Which brand you collaborate with will determine your marketing schedule. Brands in the sporting industry can enhance their calendar of activity around tournaments and crucial matches, and fashion brands will have a market advantage around the global fashion weeks twice a year. Either way, there will still always be an element of ‘downtime’, so one of the biggest challenges for brands is how to maintain the buzz and share of voice after the whistle blows.
Create consistency, but don’t let it get stale
The benefit of having set dates in the calendar is that it allows forward-thinking brands to plan ahead every year.
The fashion industry celebrates its ‘big four’ fashion weeks – in New York, London, Milan and Paris – twice a year. Brands regularly use this platform to work together and amplify their presence in the marketing.
But, as with all marketing campaigns, if consumers get used to what you are doing and start to second-guess your next move, your message becomes diluted. A new stream of content is key to sustaining interest and building anticipation.
Converse is a great example of doing this well. It regularly collaborates with different artists to create limited-edition items and bespoke lines. These are then further amplified by launches and other bigger events such as Fashion Week.
Create your own calendar
For its "Breaking2" campaign, Nike created its own event to drive interest in its line of road-running shoes over a six-month period. Driven by the brand’s advertising agency Wieden & Kennedy, the activity brought together elite long-distance runners Eliud Kipchoge, Zersenay Tadese and Lelisa Desisa to attempt to break the marathon world record and run the distance in less than two hours.
During those six months, content was produced that followed the three athletes through training, race strategies and, of course, the gear they would be wearing when they attempted to make history. Unfortunately, marathon veteran Kipchoge missed out on the two-hour time by only 25 seconds.
The achievement still demonstrates how humans and Nike’s running shoes are capable of achieving great things. Nike had successfully created an event that gave it an owned space within the world of sports. Any conversation about running a sub two-hour marathon could be linked to Nike during that time.
Rather than competing with other sponsors at one of the world’s big marathons, the spotlight was consistently on Nike, making the brand and the campaign more memorable.
Share the same values
To give a partnership longevity, brands should look to have similar or complementing values, otherwise the campaign runs the risk of becoming a one-hit wonder.
Camera brand GoPro and energy drink Red Bull regularly work together, creating action-packed sports events and stunts such as the record-breaking Stratos. Both companies have established themselves as lifestyle brands that are adventurous, fearless and extreme.
Their similar ethos gives them an advantage when appealing to thrill-seekers through experiences, while their difference in product ensures there is no direct competition.
Take a holistic view
So how can brands maintain solid coverage throughout the year? Marketing portfolios can cover multiple industries, so it’s crucial to take a holistic view when looking at long-term partnership strategies. Deciding which industry to cross into, and why, is key to creating a fulfilling union.
Whether the goal is to reach a different demographic or just amplify share of voice, a partner should have peaks in activity that complement those of your brand, and have the potential to create more noise than by going solo.
Where possible, it is wise to invest in more than one collaboration as this will allow a wider reach and allow you to engage with multiple target audiences over a long period. Adidas, for example, partners fashion designers, artists, sporting events and celebrities to ensure it is represented throughout the year and can reach different audiences, fans and followers.
Clever brand collaborations will enhance and offer longevity to marketing campaigns. We will soon see more and more brands following in Nike and Red Bull’s footsteps by taking control of their own calendars by creating their own events.
This will cost more to begin with, compared to piggybacking an existing event, but maintaining momentum beyond the main show will guarantee a more lasting impact and deliver a better ROI.
Luke D’Arcy is president – UK at Momentum Worldwide.
This piece is part of a special report on cross-brand collaborations