Brands increasingly realize benefit of strategic alliances

One of the increasingly popular methods used by companies and PR firms to reach more audiences is the development of strategic alliances.

Businesses always look for ways to reach more audiences. One of the increasingly popular methods being used by companies and PR firms is the development of strategic alliances.

"With marketing budgets tight and brands under pressure to demonstrate ROI, marketing executives seek every edge they can find," says Joe Cohen, SVP of MWW Group. "Smart agency executives are always looking for ways to provide added value and clients appreciate when you can bridge an alliance that will help them maximize their budget and deliver better results."

A common cause
At the BlogHer '11 Conference in August, MWW Group brought together clients Samsung Mobile and Sara Lee's Jimmy Dean brand for a cause marketing effort, Delivering Great Days, to support nonprofit Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry initiative to end childhood hunger by 2015. For each pledge collected at Blog-Her on a Samsung Galaxy Tab, Jimmy Dean would donate 10 breakfasts to hungry children.

"It was a great win for both brands," says Sara Matheu, communications director at Sara Lee of the alliance. "We set an ambitious goal of 500 pledges in just two days to support No Kid Hungry. Leveraging the new Samsung Galaxy technology, we were able to secure more pledges in less time than was previously possible, enabling us to double our goal and deliver up to 10,000 breakfasts to kids in need."

Weber Shandwick also recently helped facilitate a partnership between clients Holiday Inn and Major League Baseball. Holiday Inn has been an MLB sponsor since 2006, but this year the entities united for the Pay it Forward campaign, which benefited MLB's philanthropy Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI).

The effort launched April 28, International Pay it Forward Day, and ended on July 9, during which Holiday Inn and MLB donated 5,000 baseball tickets to children in the RBI program - one ticket per good deed posted on Holiday Inn's Facebook page.

Del Ross, VP of InterContinental Hotels Group North America, says the alliance worked well for its Holiday Inn brand because baseball season matches up with its peak travel months and the company has hotels in all of MLB's major cities.

"We almost doubled the number of likes for the brand on Facebook," he says. "We also generated 500 million-plus media impressions and more than 16 million Twitter impressions."

Potential Pitfalls

Marcus Peterzell, EVP of entertainment at Ketchum:
"The challenge is finding the right match and making sure the brands are not competitive. You want an audience with a similar demographic, but not a competitive one."

Allyn Magrino, president of the Susan Magrino Agency, which successfully paired clients Sandals Resorts and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia:
"You can put two big brands together, but they can be oil and vinegar. It's about speaking to the consumers' lifestyles, understanding each company's ethos, and asking, 'Do these brands make sense together?'"

A broader audience
To extend beyond its niche audience of adolescent gamers, KingsIsle Entertainment's Wizard101 video game teamed with the NOW music series this summer with the help of Ketchum, which works with Wizard101.

"We sought an entertainment partnership to create excitement and awareness as we build the Wizard101 brand," says Marcus Peterzell, EVP of entertainment at Ketchum. "It was a nice match in terms of audience reach."

As part of the alliance, the NOW CD released in August offered free codes to access the Wizard game online, and the cover art supported the game. With social media a strong platform for teens and tweens, both companies also used their social networks to promote the partnership. In the next phase, they plan to explore ways to continue the relationship, such as potentially incorporating music from NOW into the Wizard101 gaming experience.

Fred Howard, VP of marketing for KingsIsle, says the alliance has worked because it fits the criteria the company looks for when connecting with other brands.

"For us, brand perception is critical," he says. "A company has to have the reputation that makes it an appropriate partnership. Then it's about ensuring there's a mutual benefit. We must understand the value we bring to the table and we look to companies with something in return to bring to us."

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