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Perfect partnerships…or not?

07 June, 2022 Reading: 3:48 mins
Beth Walters

By Beth

Partnerships are always a make-or-break endeavour. When the halves are aligned, mutually respecting, communicative and effective, it should seem as natural and synergistic as watering a plant.

Perfect partnerships…or not?

Partnerships are always a make-or-break endeavour. When the halves are aligned, mutually respecting, communicative and effective, it should seem as natural and synergistic as watering a plant. It’s only recently we’ve come to realise the astounding complexity of the ways water and plants benefit each other – plants purify and detoxify water, while water literally holds plants up and allows them to transport vital nutrients. A partnership must work the same way and be as in tune as caring for a treasured house plant, failure to read the conditions and recognise the unique needs can more than wilt a business, it can kill it altogether.

Just as we learn more about plants, we know the crucial tipping point we approach regarding biodiversity and insect life and the effects this could have on the world. Modern life, as it stands, is not compatible with insect life. The plight of bumblebees is especially well known and understood in the public eye. But how many bumblebee sympathisers would associate Sports Direct with them?

Sports Direct recently announced a partnership to support the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, offering limited edition ‘bee-dazzled’ bags and mugs that come with a free packet of seeds. Something about the partnership doesn’t quite feel authentic to me. It feels jarring and discordant, even if potentially well-intentioned – to give the benefit of the doubt. The association of a company with a complicated, often negative press with a small charity dedicated to saving bees, seems conflicting. It does neither party any favours, Sports Direct give the impression of an ulterior motive, a sticking plaster nod to corporate social responsibility, and the charity risks being tainted by association. Importantly, partnerships in bad taste do not leave public memory easily; how many remember the U2 x Apple deal which landed an unwanted album in everyone’s library, and Kendal Jenner's partnership with Pepsi and the media outcry for both?

Meaningful partnerships can be hard to find, simply because the very best ones sometimes seem like they have always existed and grown side by side. IKEA x LEGO's partnership brings the simplicity, flexibility and ingenuity of two well-loved consumer brands together in such a way that solves practical problems (storing LEGO, furnishing a house inexpensively for a growing family, nurturing said growing family) and is fun. LEGO also partnered with Stranger Things, capitalising on the dynamic, ever-shifting Upside Down of the shows and themes of imaginative play and childhood. For a toy brand to be able to partner with a hit TV series and a furniture brand effortlessly is quite astounding. However, digging deeper finds aligned target audiences, compelling narrative and a strong sense of the 'why'. Why IKEA x LEGO? – because furnishing is as easy as play, and play should be part of furnishing. Why Stranger Things x LEGO? – because the Upside Down is topsy turvy and imagination firing, peopled with a group of feisty young people who doubtlessly played with LEGO because it's that ubiquitous, universe-building and imaginative. LEGO feels contemporary to the Stranger Things universe because LEGO rocketed in popularity in the 80s, and Stranger Things riffs off the 80s constantly. Both parties benefit entirely from this partnership.

Other partnerships I love:

Partnerships I'd love to see:

  • Hawes Creamery Wensleydale cheese and Black Sheep brewery beer
  • Boursin cheese and Amie red wine
  • Galaxy chocolate and Tampax
  • Duolingo x Google Translate

And of course, KISS and isle, our favourite partnership of them all, formed from years of successful collaboration – like toast and jam or Lennon & McCartney, individually we were great – but together we’re better.

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