Business development 24 May 2017

The key ingredients to a successful brand partnership

Advertising law
Believing that the “bigger” the brand you may be able to partner with the better is an easy trap
Here, Mike France, co-founder of premium watch brand Christopher Ward, outlines the important considerations for’small business owners looking to strike up a brand partnership to grow their company

Forming a successful partnership with a fellow brand has the potential to further your exposure, unlock new markets, spark innovation and potentially streamline your operations.

For any brand big or small, established or challenger breaking into new markets, and boosting brand awareness outside a core audience, can often prove a major hurdle. Partnering with a relevant brand is therefore one of the most effective ways of establishing greater brand visibility and traction.

Yet brand partnerships are also potentially perilous when they go wrong. Carefully choosing who, and who not to engage with, and ensuring you have both suitable resources and the rights partnership strategy, are therefore vital to ensuring the partnership’s success.

Choosing wisely

The first step towards a successful brand partnership is to establish exactly what you wish to achieve from a tie-up, and how these goals fit into your wider business strategy.

A partnership can never be central to your brand strategy but it is crucial that it supplements and complements your own values and goals.

When it comes to choosing your partner, the most successful partnerships are those that add a “halo” effect to your brand. This is to say, a partner shouldnt be so different they have no relevance, nor so similar they don’t bring anything new to the table.

The sweet spot is a partner that shares brand values and who compliments who you are – but is distinct enough to take your brand to new places.

One of the easiest traps to fall into is believing that the “bigger” the brand you may be able to partner with the better. At Christopher Ward, we have been approached many times in the past with offers of big partnerships, including from several Premier League clubs, Formula One teams and big rugby sides.

Such opportunities can initially be very enticing. Yet in none of these instances did we feel these brands were truly aligned with what we are about and that the relationship would have worked. This is why, rather than partnering with a household sports team, we have entered a partnership with Morgan Motor Company.

Our key messaging revolves around classical British design and heritage, and providing quality, Swiss-manufactured timepieces at affordable prices. Communicating a message of affordable quality would therefore seem hollow if we were partnered to a football club who regularly splashed tens of millions of pounds on new players.

Ensuring balance

A second potential pitfall of partnering with a far larger brand is that the partnership becomes imbalanced, with one company overshadowing the other in what should be a 50/50 partnership.

This could lead to you being drowned out and viewed as an add-on by the consumer, rather than being taken seriously as a company in its own right.

This is why it is important to do your due diligence and taking your time in forming the brand partnership, to ensure that you are on equal footing.

And, of course, this mantra applies both ways a partnership where you are a little more than a crutch for a smaller brand will bring you little benefit.


Partnerships require both funding and resources, and with it often difficult to tangibly forecast a financial ROI from a partnership, the potential returns need to be weighed up against the costs with a cold eye.

You also need to make sure, in advance, you have sufficient internal resources available to properly do the job.