Can you imagine if you sat down to watch WWE and you heard the announcer say, “This match is brought to you by The Gap – give love; give gap”? Not gonna happen, right? And why is that? Because a partnership between a fun, friendly clothing store and a knock-down, drag-out professional wrestling organization doesn’t make sense. Crisp khakis and bright golf shirts don’t mix well with pro wrestling!
Marketing partnerships are built on affinity: that mutual respect between a company and an organization that’s built on shared interest and beliefs. Some of them are obvious: a restaurant and a food bank. But some of them – and often the best of them – are subtler.
If you were a child or parent in the 80s, you’re probably aware of Pizza Hut’s Book It! program. The partnership encouraged children to read more by incentivizing them with pizza: read a prescribed number of books, get a free personal pan pizza.
This partnership was a success. Pizza Hut wanted to boost its image among families. BOOK IT! wanted kids to read more. Both achieved their goals on a massive scale, thanks to Pizza Huts’ popularity. And ultimately, the consumer won, too, because children read more and got a free dinner.
Affinity marketing is all about getting consumers to feel good about your brand, so it’s best when the brand and its partner feel just as good about each other. Consumers will see it and feel it.
Another example is Allstate Insurance and college football. You’ve probably seen the Allstate hands printed on dozens of field goal nets across the country. For every field goal kicked into one of these nets, Allstate makes a donation to the particular school’s scholarship fund. Through this program, they’ve contributed millions to collegiate scholarships since 2005.
This partnership works really well because the supplier (Allstate) gains a reputation as a company that is caring and genuine, and the affinity group (colleges) benefit from the financial contributions toward scholarships. It’s mutually beneficial for both parties, and it’s a win for the consumer.
So what’s the moral of this story?
Find a partnership that fits.
No matter what, above everything else, there has to be a connection. If you’re the supplier, your brand needs to borrow something from the affinity group that you couldn’t buy. And if you’re the affinity group, you need to get something out
of it, too.
And don’t underestimate the power of passion. I’d be willing to bet the people who came up with the marketing idea of BOOK IT! had a kid who wouldn’t read books … but loved pizza.