Last week saw three of the strangest brand tie-ups for a while.
The first was that Nike Starbucks shoe, retailing at $100, the second, a strained Wayne Rooney cameo (see below) in an X-Men adventure (and some blue-faced mascots at a United game), the third, green and red Angry Birds burger buns at McDonald’s.
This got me thinking – what are the best brand tie-ups of the past few years?
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 20, 2016
1. Spotify and Starbucks
Doing research into brand tie-ups, I found Spotify popping up time and again. Its Starbucks deal was the one that struck me as cleverest.
Starbucks promotes Spotify in its stores (incentivising customers to sign up to Spotify by offering Starbucks loyalty points). Meanwhile, Spotify includes Starbucks playlists on its music-streaming platform.
As of January 2016 Starbucks Mobile App customers could also discover music playing in store and save these Starbucks-curated songs.
This makes perfect sense – Starbucks is synonymous with music (albeit the occasional limpid cover version), has enormous footfall and sports another shade of green branding.
Other notable tie-ups for Spotify include Uber, which allows Spotify customers to listen to their personal playlists during their journey.
2. Zoolander 2 & assorted
This (IMHO) is the holy grail of brand tie-ups – a film that creates such a successful pastiche of an industry that the very same industry is desperate to be involved with a sequel.
Zoolander 2 tie-ups including a Blue Steel Snapchat filter and photoshoots with Vogue and Anna Wintour.
3. The McWhopper
Though this never made it to an official tie-up, it represented a triumph for Burger King.
The maker of the Whopper invited McDonald’s to bury the hatchet and create a super burger, combining the best bits of the Big Mac and the Whopper.
It was a PR stunt, yes, but by including a charitable element (proposing that proceeds go to Peace One Day) Burger King pitched the idea perfectly, creating buzz and a reputation as a fun brand that McDonald’s failed to realise.
As Patricio Robles points out in an Econsultancy article, McDonald’s’ failure to accept the proposal, whilst offering no idea of its own but vaguely affirming a commitment to the cause, led to ridicule on social media.
Burger King benefitted from its rival’s branding and reach and placed McDonald’s firmly in the shade (though Patricio rightly states that McDonald’s could have raised the stakes in some way).
4. O2 Academy
This is an eight-year-old deal now, and is so simple that some may call it old fashioned. However, music’s power to infuse a brand with personality should not be underestimated.
Though stadium sponsorship may not feel as progressive as championing new artists, it is surely more effective when it comes to sheer brand reach.
O2 paid Live Nation £22.5m to rebrand its Academy venues, complementing the telco’s previous sponsorship of the Millennium Dome (now The O2).
The brand’s Priority Moments campaign also incorporates music, giving customers tickets to gigs.
5. Warburtons and Stallone/Muppets
I’ve included Warburtons and its fairly straightforward celebrity TV commercials because the execution is so slick.
Although many believe that celeb tie-ups for TV are uninspired, Warburtons surprised with its choice of Sly Stallone and The Muppets, stars that exist in a world apart from the Bolton bakery.
It was this surprising juxtaposition that made the ads so successful and a reminder that it’s horses for courses when it comes to advertising.