Brands sharing the spotlight to be centre stage


In a modern marketing world where money tends to talk, brand partnerships are increasingly important to stay competitive.

To be centre stage you have to share the spotlight.

The marketing war for people’s time, attention and wallets rages across a million different battlefields, every minute of every day. The biggest brands and organisations tend to fluctuate between each other at the top of the pile; juggernauts ‘duking it out’ in their own league - while competitor, or challenger, brands snipe away at their heels and fight among themselves for a place on the playing field. Whilst there are newcomers that have gone from zero to hero status on their own, they are increasingly rare.

Let’s take a look at a few examples where brands have partnered up and the mutually beneficial reasons why…


Music builds emotional responses and preference. Spotify, the world’s leading music streaming service, has boxed clever in its quest to be number one by partnering smartly with other sector leaders. The platform fully understands two of its listeners’ need states – on-the-go and ambient listening.

One of my personal bugbears is when you get in a taxi and the radio is either turned off or tuned into some awful radio station, and I’m not alone in this. In 2014 Spotify and Uber joined forces to allow passengers to control and personalise their own journey playlists while being transported between locations. The integration meant users were more inclined to use Uber to hail their ride home, meaning larger revenue for the taxi-app, whilst the convenience and reported safety of Uber’s offering would drive Spotify downloads and memberships in return – a complimentary value exchange.

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The same complimentary value exchange was incorporated into the Spotify and Starbucks partnership in 2015. Coffee and music go hand-in-hand (okay, depends on the music) but the person’s need states crossover from ambient listening, ie: in a coffee shop, to on-the-go, ie: walking to work – two key touchpoints for both brands. In the partnership Starbucks employees, all received a Premium Spotify membership and the opportunity to select music for their store from 20 years of Starbucks culled playlists. Spotify users in turn were able to use stars as currency in the Starbucks rewards platform. Again, a complimentary value exchange where both partners reap the rewards.

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The fashion industry is coming under increased scrutiny about its sustainability, which prompted one of its biggest brands, adidas, to create a product line which directly targeted the problem of plastic waste in our oceans. Okay, so we’re not fully convinced the apparel and footwear behemoths aren’t taking part in a little “greenwashing” here but any effort at all is better than none, right? It teamed up with Parley for the Oceans to create its Parley range, made from thread directly derived from ocean plastic and illegal deep-sea gill nets. This eco-friendly range was a huge seller, in 2017 over 1m pairs of Parley footwear were sold, in 2018 over 5m pairs were produced, and this year the target is 11m. The partnership leaned on a huge cultural benefit and while its making millions of dollars for the brands, the sustainability in the practise is a win for both brands and the world alike.

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One of the most slap-yourself-in-the-face obvious yet effective brand partnerships in recent memory is that of GoPro and Red Bull. Is that a collective “aaaahhhhhh…. duhhhhhhhh!” I hear?

Yeah, GoPro makes video recorders; little, amazingly tough video recorders. Red Bull is an energy drink brand. But both brands are just as well known for the perceived high-octane, adventurous and extreme lifestyles that they constantly feed.

Red Bull has been the halo-brand of sponsorship marketing, perhaps in the history of marketing. It has literally created sports just so that it could sponsor them itself. Genius. GoPro, has a really durable product that perfectly marries itself to the extreme sports and outdoor leisure that the energy drink provides. The cultural partnership result – a brand marketing content making machine that sells a lifestyle, a sponsorship, an energy drink and a hell of a lot of cameras, all while having what appears to be the most fun you could have with your clothes on?! I mean, they strapped a GoPro to a guy’s head as he jumped from space… from SPACE!


One of our favourite partnerships of the last decade is when US retailing giant Target teamed up with UNICEF to create the “Kid Power” campaign. In a nutshell, target sold “Kid Power Bands” much like Fitbits, with activity and energy trackers built in. The watches were given to American kids and paired with a child friendly app which set challenges and prompts to get active, the more they exercised, played and generally moved, the more meals were donated by UNICEF to malnourished children in the third world.

The campaign, albeit not perfect, promoted exercise and healthy living whilst directly benefitting those in need – mutual cultural benefit. In March 2015, participating students in Boston, Dallas and New York schools walked more than 500,000 miles, unlocking 188,850 therapeutic food packets—enough for 1,259 children to receive a full course of life-saving treatment. Target, being the exclusive retailer of the watches, cashed in at the same time making donations close to 25% of sales to the charity. No more excuses for little Timmy to be cultivating that puppy fat any more.


Closer to home the 20x20 campaign for has managed to partner a multitude of brands and media organisations to promote an increase of 20% across participation, attendance and coverage of ladies sport. With the likes of AIG, LIDL, Three, KPMG and Investec all adding their significant weight to the campaign and key media houses such as TG4, Maximum Media, Newstalk and RTE working to amplify as far an wide as possible, there is a massive cultural relevance that will benefit all sponsors and partners. We don’t need to go into the research that shows sport benefits all of society, as is clearly the case. More females participating means stronger competition, higher attendance and viewership means bigger return for sponsors, bigger sponsorships and coverage feeds the conveyor belt of talent and participation – everyone’s a winner.

What all the brands and organisations mentioned above are looking for is relevance and/or authenticity. People are wiser now to the main reason brands partner up (hint: to eventually get your money!), so if the partnership lacks either it is doomed to failure. Where the partnerships are at their most impressive is when these partnerships have a cultural benefit to society, the return on investment is rewarded with not only financial gain, but overwhelming positive sentiment too – priceless?

- GC

Take a look at some of our clients and case studies here. If you spot a brand you think you could partner with don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

Gavin Coffey