Partnerships: Matchmaking 101

Spring is upon us and love is in the air, which in the sports marketing dating game means brands and prospective endorsers are looking to partner up. 

Aligning with an asset provides your brand an elevated platform from which to amplify messaging to your core audience. If executed correctly, brands can breakthrough the clutter and generate a disproportionate amount of buzz, awareness and traction comparative to spend. If not, they can simply end up with a very nice metaphorical yacht in the harbor to show off to their friends a couple of times a year.

So in the spirit of matchmaking, here are a few suggested hookups that could lead to some fun work:

Simply Orange Juice with Carmelo Anthony & Jim Boeheim 

Two of Syracuse University’s most famous Orangemen alum, this modern-day odd couple won an NCAA championship together in 2003 and still remain close to this day. Combined, they can resonate with 7-77 year-olds for a brand looking to “own” the OJ category. There is some rich creative territory in which to utilize them together in a fun campaign (and extra points for Melo, who wears an orange headband to his day job).

POWERADE with Guan Tianlang 

POWERADE, a challenger brand competing against the established category leader, meet 14-year-old prodigy, Guan Tianlang. Bursting onto the golf scene with his dynamic performance at the Masters, there’s equity teed up for a brand that embraces an underdog like this teenage phenom.

Skittles with Dwight Howard

This was Lamar Odom’s category to be had for many years, but for some reason it never eventuated for the “Candy Man” (nicknamed for his notorious sweet tooth). All those weekly runs to fill his car with candy would have been great commercial fodder. So now Dwight is the guy. Whether by design or just a huge fan of the rainbow, D12 has been giving much love to Skittles over the last couple of years, often dropping their name in post game interviews. The brand even sent him a Skittles machine last year. Maybe next season they can stop flirting and officially start dating.

Purell with LeBron James

Hard to find a better brand ambassador for a hand sanitizer than the guy everyone wants to give daps to. LeBron already has a Carmex partnership and publicly acknowledges that he is very mindful of his personal hygiene (famously keeping his fingernail clippers on him at all times). This is a category untapped by athletes, who are understandably exposed to a lot more germ-covered handshakes and high fives every day – so there’s a natural lifestyle fit here. This angle was touched upon by Steve Nash and Co. a couple of years ago in this digital short.

Here are some rules of the dating game to keep in mind when playing brand matchmaker:

  1. To find the right “fit”, align with a property that intersects your brand and resonates. This could manifest itself by way of a key insight, perception and/or a lucky happenstance.

  2. Ultimately, you’ll be charged with telling your brand story by way of this union, so the more fertile the partnership (organic, authentic, potentially unexpected, etc.), the better the chance your creative will break through and generate equity for the brand.

  3. Don’t be a hero. Although it may generate a lot of equity for you to partner with a relatively up and coming unknown athlete, don’t build their brand at the risk of sacrificing yours.
2 comments about "Partnerships: Matchmaking 101 ".
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  1. Shaun Healy from U.S. Cellular, April 17, 2013 at 12:31 p.m.

    All to often I have had clients say that they want to sign X athlete to a sponsorship agreement. Upon hearing this my question back to them is always the same thing, does a marketing plan and budget exist in which this sponsorship will be leveraged? In many cases after some pushing the answer is always the same, “we were going to create the campaign after the athlete is signed”. I always tell my clients first you spec out the car (design the campaign and create a wishlist) then you find a driver (what athlete is the best fit for not only the brand but the campaign). Millions of sponsorship dollars are wasted each year because the athlete came before the campaign. Follow me on twitter @shorterthan140

  2. Harry Hutt from Hutt Sports Marketing, April 17, 2013 at 4:27 p.m.

    Wow, what a incredibly sophomoric article full of assumptions and statements that can be classified as " No Spit, Sherlock". In addition to the fact that for sure, the listed brands have already thought of attaching to these star athletes. This was such grade school quality I am surprised Media Post would even print it. Sorry, nothing personal, just business.

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