Winning together with content: what successful brand partnerships look like in an “Agency Next” landscape

Brand partnerships have been around forever. In the race to stay relevant and competitive, established brands often co-brand and co-market their products to get maximum reach from their shared audience groups—a tactic that’s only become more common in the age of distraction, where new trends reign on TikTok for a day at a time.

This can be great news for flashy product partnerships—the highly successful Doritos and Taco Bell collaboration comes to mind. But in this “Agency Next” landscape, brands need to be more strategic than ever to make a long-term impact.

It’s the strategic co-marketing initiatives I want to focus on. I’ve learned that you don’t need to create a whole new product suite to run a successful partnership—you just need to know how to win with authentic, original content. This approach can amplify the value you’re already providing to customers while creating surprising, memorable content that neither brand could’ve produced on its own. Here are some of my favorite examples of these next-level content partnerships.

A content series that bolsters existing strengths

Arguably, every co-marketing opportunity comes from both a place of excess and lack; your brand could be killing it on one front, but may need help with another. Partnerships should help address these gaps—to both brands’ mutual benefit.

Business Interrupted is an excellent example of this. Spurred by the COVID-19 crisis, CNBC and EY saw a need to provide tactical advice to business owners, helping them navigate their companies in the short term as new regulations caused seismic shifts across industries. Run as a series of daily videos on, Business Interrupted featured seasoned EY experts who were equipped to speak to these changes.

Here, it’s clear that both parties benefit from each other’s strengths: EY gained the visibility and credibility of CNBC’s platform while providing a level of thought leadership and expertise that may not have been available to CNBC otherwise. Through this insightful storytelling series, both bolstered one another’s credibility at a time where audiences were hungrier than ever for reliable sources and actionable advice.

The takeaway: Before going after a co-marketing partnership, identify your strengths and weaknesses. Are your channels seeing the organic traffic you crave? Do you have thought leaders who have already established credibility with your audience? Knowing what you bring to the table—and what you want to add to it—will steer you toward content partnerships that benefit everyone.

A long-term partnership that expresses shared values

It’s not enough to simply decide to join forces with another popular brand—your partnership needs to be believable and rooted in shared values and customer experiences.

Let’s look at GoPro and Red Bull. When considering their product suites alone, pairing energy drinks with action cameras may feel like a stretch. But look a little closer and it’s clear that both brands share an ethos centered around adventure, living in the fast lane, and maintaining a high-intensity lifestyle.

Their partnership is particularly successful for how it leverages content to relay these mutual values. Take the GoPro and Red Bull-sponsored free-fall of Felix Baumgartner, who ascended more than 20 miles above Earth’s surface and then safely fell back to earth (breaking the speed of sound en route). Using seven HERO2 GoPro cameras, the brands co-created The Full Story of this epic, record-breaking stunt. Sure, this may have been an extravagant and costly mission—but remember, two marketing budgets make high-quality content a lot more possible than one.

With over 23,000,000 views on that video alone, it’s safe to say the risk paid off. But more importantly, the success of their shared content set GoPro and Red Bull up for long-term success, with the brands announcing an exclusive global partnership in 2016.

The takeaway: In entering content partnerships, look beyond your immediate product suite and ask: what are the values driving your brand to success? Which ones are shared between parties, and how can content and storytelling communicate them in genuine, memorable ways? Building authentic content partnerships will not only appeal to your audience(s), it’ll set you up for longevity—it’s better to invest your resources into partnerships that are built to last.

A shared resource that answers pressing questions—and taps into audiences’ curiosity

We’ve said it a million times at Quietly: the best content will provide something of value to your audience. And there’s nothing more valuable than helping them answer a pressing question or concern.

One example I keep coming back to is the partnership between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Bloomberg Media Studios. Dubbed “Transformation Tokyo“, the campaign outlines how Tokyo plans to upgrade its natural disaster readiness. For citizens—many of whom have experienced the city’s many earthquakes, floods, and fires first-hand—the well-researched, dynamic content likely provides some peace of mind. For others, it gives a futuristic view on how new technologies might be used by urban planners and governments to create safer cities worldwide.

Through interactive graphics, video, audio clips, and responsive web design, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government outlines forward-looking plans in a way that appeals to curious residents, urban planners, and the public at large—while showcasing Bloomberg Media Studio’s artistic and effective application of proprietary data.

Again, this is a great example of combining forces to create content that neither party could’ve delivered solo. By merging the creative and journalistic prowess of Bloomberg with the city of Tokyo’s challenges and data, the two were able to create a well-researched asset that delivers information clearly and creatively.

The takeaway: Content partnerships are most powerful when they create something neither party could’ve done alone. Whether through resources or data, your co-marketing efforts should open up new possibilities for your brand, allowing you to amplify the power of your data, skill sets, and team alongside those of your partner.

It’s not just about the end result, but how you get there

In an Agency Next landscape, innovation and value reign. Your content partnerships should be as agile as your brand, addressing the trends of the time while capitalizing on your organic channels, existing successes, and established positioning. In a world that changes faster than you can say “NFTs” and with the digital landscape more saturated than ever, it’s well worth the effort to find that partnership that will take your brand to the next level—and keep it there.

Image: Clark Van Der Beken/Unsplash

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