Brands & Merch Business News Labels & Publishers Management & Funding The Great Escape 2015

Five steps to better brand partnerships

By | Published on Friday 15 May 2015

Marc Robinson & Jack Fryer

In 1960, Elvis’s first performance after he returned from army service was a televised collaboration with Frank Sinatra, which saw the two singers duet together on each other’s songs. That event was created as a partnership with Timex.

Kicking off the ‘How To Sell Out Gracefully: Better Brand Partnerships’ strand at CMU Insights @ The Great Escape, Marc Robinson, MD of Universal’s partnerships division Globe, and Jack Fryer, Head Of Insight at Universal Music, imagined that Elvis, Frank and Timex were being brought together in 2015 to show how such deals are done in the modern music industry.

Here are five things we learned about how Globe and Universal ensure that both artists and brands get the best out of their alliances.

1. It’s not about selling out anymore

The music industry has changed, and where artists’ income comes from is perhaps not as clear as it once was. Whereas there may have been a time where placing a song in an advert or endorsing a product would be a quick cash grab in the past – an added extra more than anything else – partnerships are now about ensuring that both artist and brand get something mutually beneficial out of coming together.

“Brand partnerships aren’t about selling out anymore”, said Robinson. “It’s about how you can connect to create something that music fans really want. By working together, we deliver better work for our artists, and the brands get something that makes them keep coming back for more”.

“First, we are nothing without great musical talent. The power of music will never be fully understood. Nor should it be. Secondly, the role of partnership is not to be the saviour of the music industry, it’s an additional stream. And third, music and brands are separate. No two bands are the same, no two brands are the same. The key is understanding each other’s priorities”.

2. Data feeds, rather than leads the conversation

Analytic data is a key driver behind brand partnerships in 2015, but this does not supersede the human instinct that a partnership is the right thing for both artist and brand.

“When talking about data, it’s easy to assume it’s just the ones and zeros. But I’m talking about a far more human thing. I’m talking about qualitative, ethnographic, and attitudinal information”, said Fryer. “There’s a conversation between data and instinct. It’s not about being led by data, it’s about creating data”.

“We’ve done research into what makes Frank fans tick. Who are Frank fans? What’s Frank-ness really about? We’re a smarter business now. Our artists do have huge data sets around them. That’s very powerful. We know we can deliver granular focus for the people we want to speak to for Timex. If you begin to mash up the data, that becomes even more powerful”.

3. You need to lay the groundwork

“Research can be incredibly stimulating for creative people”, explained Fryer. “When presented right it can be a great creative launchpad. It tells a story that’s right for Frank, right for Elvis, and right for Timex”.

Using research from numerous sources, Universal has built an app which “tries to quantify the alignment of a brand and artist”, which from the start can inform how well the partnership is working and how it can be improved.

“One of the things we’re trying to do more of and are getting better at is building a framework right from the start. We work out right at the beginning of the campaign a way of measuring how well this partnership’s performing. It’s not about detracting from the magic, it’s about sharpening the magic”.

4. This data and research bolsters gut instinct

When Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker approached Timex and Frank Sinatra about their partnership, his aim was to try to reconnect the singer with an older audience.

“He was concerned that Elvis was going to be outflanked by new wave of teen popstars”, explained Fryer. “Parker, folklore has it, persuaded Frank to do the duet. We can now ensure that Parker makes the best possible call in choosing the right songs”.

“We can look at demographic data and see why songs resonate with which Elvis fans. We’ve got big data coming from partners like Spotify. Combining this with other data we can create pathways and connections around the people that listen to Frank’s music. Parker just has his gut to go on. We can now add our data to the conversation. It’s about sharpening it, and making a better conversation”.

5. Social media is key

Of all the channels through which an artist and a brand can broadcast their alliance, social media is currently the most powerful.

“Social media is the most powerful marketing platform of all the artist channels”, said Fryer. “Timex may have their own good social media channel too. The joy of the hashtag is that you can own a conversation without having one specific channel”.

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