UK

Leftfield Business Partnerships That Actually Made Sense

Unusual yet profitable combinations finding common ground.

05/09/2017 15:42 BST

When one established company promotes another, tapping into each other’s markets and generating sales to a combined audience, it makes good business sense.

Companies are now eager to join forces after seeing the success of power couples such as BMW & Louis Vuitton, Nike & Apple, and UNICEF & Target, realising the financial benefits and kudos that comes with a happy pairing.

And, by and large, the consumers love it – think H&M collaborating with brands like Versace and Alexander Wang to bring high-end luxury to the high street.

Not all brand partnerships work, of course. Some for ethical reasons – Lego famously broke ties with Royal Dutch Shell after mounting pressure from Greenpeace; others because they’re ridiculous – KFC’s well-intentioned partnership with Breast Cancer Awareness ended after being criticised for selling fried food to fight cancer.

Some co-branding opportunities don’t come to fruition because one side isn’t sold on the idea, as with Burger King inviting McDonald’s to join forces to create the now mythical McWhopper. Meanwhile, fashion giant Vetements, who partnered with 17 different brands to be voted fashion collaborator of the year by Vogue, has been asked to team up by Papa John. Yup, the pizza people. Vetements are yet to take up the offer.

Here are a few other instances that might have seemed too out there to work, but came together beautifully.

  • Star Wars & CoverGirl
    Lucasfilm CoverGirl
    It wasn’t in a galaxy too far away that the Star Wars franchise, in fact sci-fi in general, focused its marketing strategy primarily towards men. But as the genre developed, with strong female roles a regular feature, cosmetics brand CoverGirl approaching Lucasfilm to help promote the seventh Star Wars movie was a game changer.

    It introduced two different make-up styles: the Light Side and the Dark Side. Fashion and movie fans considered this a stroke of genius.
  • Pizza Hut & FarmVille
    Pizza Hut/Zynga
    Games giants are known for stylish collaborations – Super Mario Brothers & Moschino, Louis Vuitton hiring Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII as their model – while team-ups with food brands is par for the course: Burger King has just launched its first video game food delivery service in Spain.

    The one that captured everyone’s imagination was when Zynga, responsible for a string of games including FarmVille, teamed up with Pizza Hut to sell in-app purchases that went towards the World Food Programme. The pizza chain dedicated an entire website to it ‘Share a Slice of Hope’, with both sides raising millions of pounds for the cause.
  • AC Milan & Hello Kitty
    Sanrio/Adidas Italia
    When it comes to marketing, global lifestyle brand Sanrio knows exactly where to position its biggest draw, Hello Kitty. With partnerships ranging from Universal Parks & Resorts to being emblazoned on aeroplanes owned by Eva Air, the Japanese cartoon kitten makes it mark across the board in style.

    Jaws dropped and eyebrows were raised when Adidas Italia announced Hello Kitty would feature in AC Milan’s sportsgear, but having an iconic girl character become part of a top level male sport appealed in a big way to the team’s legion of female fans, as well as those wishing to rid the game of its macho image.
  • Levi’s & The Museum of Contemporary Art
    Levis/MOCA
    Designers have been teaming up with artists since the dawn of high fashion, but once in a while, it’s the art world that calls upon fashion – V&A’s exhibition of David Bowie’s wardrobe being the most famous example of recent times, The Museum of Contemporary Art and Levi’s coming a close second.

    Custom artwork celebrating the modern lifestyles by street artists printed on the classic denim jacket boosted Levi’s sales worldwide, and put the museum on the map.