Partnership marketing is on the rise in the partnerships ecosystem. Industry big dogs and junior partners alike are creating new value in the marketplace every day, and by carefully aligning themselves with like-minded businesses, they are unlocking brand potential and engaging new consumers through the magic of partnership marketing. 

When you found yourself filling a partnership marketing role, you likely realized that it was much more complicated than you initially thought. A marketing partnerships leader is not just about finding complimentary brands and slapping a few logos on some copy. 

Partnership marketing is a broad arc that extends from the top of the funnel all the way through execution. It’s a wild ride, but an exemplary one. When done right, partnership marketing can be hugely rewarding for a business, a career, and most importantly, the customers who ultimately benefit with value-added products and services.

And we’re going to break it all down for you with our Ultimate Guide to Partnership Marketing. 

Partnership Marketing: What Is It? 

Partnership marketing is a partnership strategy where the value for each side lies in the other’s brand and market space. Because marketing and branding are some of the most subjective—if not ethereal—aspects of any business, selecting the right partner requires a lot of analysis, introspection, and market awareness.

Let’s look at an example that gets it right.

Nike and Apple: As Big As it Gets

When these two get together, you know it’s going to be fire. In 2016, they partnered to deliver the Apple Watch Nike+, a sport-themed Apple Watch with a flashy Nike wristband.

On the surface it seems like cookies and milk, but not so fast. Appearances can be deceiving in partnerships. Sure, it’s sexy on paper, but what value does the partnership actually deliver?

A marketing partnership should ALWAYS pursue the following:

1. Value for both companies for their respective brands

2. Access to a new and valuable customer base

3. Shared marketplace goals

Apple was interested in engaging new markets with the Apple Watch, and sports was intriguing. There was only one problem. Although its hardware and software made it a digital doppelganger, people just didn’t view a wearable iPhone as something to get gross and sweaty. 

They needed some brand credibility with the sports crowd, so where do you go when you need that?

Nike. Obvs.

Nike is always down for the next edge in sports tech, but the game was changing. Nobody buys a stopwatch when they can get an app for their phone, so selling gadgets was looking like a dead end. If they wanted to be part of the next generation of workouts, they would need a tech liaison.

The Apple Watch Nike+ became the answer for both sides’ goals and the marketing was definitely dynamite.

But hang on a second. Was it really something new? Nope. It was the same old Apple Watch with a slightly different home screen, a sweat-proof band, and that sweet Nike swoosh plastered all over it.

And it didn’t matter because of partnership marketing.

It’s Apple and Nike. It’s a sports watch.

By aligning behind shared goals, mutual value for their brands, and access to their desired marketplaces, Apple and Nike forged a marketing partnership that produced a champion. 

Bookending the Deal

Obviously, being a company the size of Apple or Nike comes with advantages. Your partnership marketing pipeline is always going to be full, and you’ll have an easier time marketing your partnerships because everyone already knows what you’re about.

However, in most situations, partnership marketing is a bit more legwork. You’re going to have to concentrate on attracting leads, and invest in relating your shared value to consumers. 

Developing a Partnership Marketing Pipeline

Because branding and marketing is so nuanced, it’s desirable to have a broad swath of potential partners. To create volume, a marketing partnerships leader has to have a clear understanding of their own brand, a firm grip on their stakeholders’ values, and have a creative outlook on how a marketing partnership could enhance them.

Attracting partners toward your brand requires the ability to tell your brand’s story clearly and vividly to a potential partner who is wondering what value it can bring to their stakeholders.

If you paint a compelling picture, you won’t  just have a lot of partner leads. You’ll have better ones.

Selling the Partnership

After a marketing partnership is formed, the real work begins. Partnership marketing becomes not about telling your story to your partner, but telling consumers the story of your partnership.

It can be challenging with a general partnership marketing team to really dig down on content and explore the deeper value and messaging. It’s not uncommon in those situations for everyone on board to be wearing a lot of hats, and it simply may not be possible to craft messaging with the level of depth that would be ideal.

If there is a partnership that is particularly valuable to your company’s goals, it may be worth investing in a specialist, or…

…dare we say it…

…a partnership marketing partner? 

Oh my. 

Partnership Marketing Is Hard: Make it Easier With Firneo

Partnerships are complicated and there are few positions on any career path that require such a wide blend of intuitive people skills, marketplace calculation, and strategic awareness.

It’s stressful, but the truth? It’s not you. You need a playbook to develop your partnership marketing acumen, and that’s where Firneo’s got you covered.

With our 8-week, cohort-based program, you can unlock the full potential of your partnership marketing network. Our expert mentors teach you how to build partnerships that rev up your company’s growth and your own career.

Best of all? You'll be totally confident in your success, and so will your boss.

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