Unexpected brand collaborations show way to revive X Factor
A view from Sarah Marshall

Unexpected brand collaborations show way to revive X Factor

It looks like Simon Cowell needs to find some inspiration after the first episode of BBC's Strictly Come Dancing beat The X Factor's ratings by 8.7 million to 7.5 million, says Sarah Marshall, board account director at Arc London.

There's nothing to love or even to hate very much in spreading another helping of Louis Walsh over The X Factor

He could do worse than look back through a selection of the most surprising brand collaborations.

When Stella McCartney and Adidas joined forces in 2004 to create a sports design collection for women the unorthodox fusion of sport and fashion rocked the marketing world. 

More than a decade later, McCartney has an Olympic commission for Team GB under her belt and the Adidas Ultra Boost x Stella McCartney shoes retail for £220 a pair at Harvey Nichols.

Everybody here is a winner. Adidas finds a new revenue stream and fashionable edge for its brand while Stella McCartney courts a new audience with something a bit more "street". Retailers have a new, premium, product on their shelves.

Cowell has stated his ambition is to beat Strictly, saying in August: "If it's us versus [Strictly contestant] Peter Andre, I'm going to put my money on us."

He needs to find a big surprise. Boy band impresario Louis Walsh was linked with a return, but he doesn’t spark our imaginations in the same way as, to use a brand example, Marmite and Guinness.

Such was the success of the tie-up that Marmite attempted other alcohol-related limited editions with a Marston’s Pedigree Marmite and a Champagne-flavoured variant. 

Brand learning

But there's nothing to love or even to hate very much in spreading another helping of Louis Walsh over The X Factor.

It could be time for Sharon Osbourne’s husband Ozzy to step into her shoes and divide public opinion. Or how about a personality diametrically opposed to Cowell to act the Corbyn to his Cameron? 

Perhaps Pete Doherty is the one to shake up Saturday nights. Too big and leftfield a gamble? Then a truly egotistical, and excruciatingly controversial, judge like Russell Brand would be guaranteed to get people talking about the show again.

One thing is clear. If Cowell wants to restore The X Factor to its former glory and regain his crown as the king of Saturday night TV, his next partnership should be the one we least expect.