The power of cinema is undeniable and, despite doom-mongers proclaiming that online, on-demand services are the next big thing, the numbers say otherwise.

Cinema admissions in the UK rose 2.4% in 2017 to over 170 million people, and they are forecast to remain high over the next five years at least.

Cinema is the crafty veteran in the world of entertainment; regularly seeing off challenges from no-end of online streaming services, and drawing people in day after day, week after week.

So, with cinema’s power undiminished, you’d have thought that brands and marketers would have been keen to jump on the cinema bandwagon; partnering their brands with films to create astounding campaigns with real star power, right? Well, sort of…

The things is, partnering a film with a brand can be a tricky business, and whilst the rewards can be astronomical, partnership marketing with blockbuster films requires real discipline, collaboration and patience to work effectively.

To get the inside track on effective partnership marketing in films and how brands can truly capitalise, we sat down for a chat with Jo Coughlin, who sits on the recently launched UK Partnership Panel – a group of specialists dedicated to partnership marketing – which launched in March 2015.

Jo was formerly Head of Partnerships at The Times and The Sunday Times, and Promotions Manager at Universal Pictures, and is now New Business Director at partnership marketing agency, Mediator Communications Ltd.

We asked Jo about the importance of partnership marketing, and why film offers so many opportunities for brands…

What prompted the launch of the Partnership Panel?

Our research shows that there is a desire from ‘partnership experts’ for somewhere to share knowledge, best practice and insight into this discipline, all of which would help them deliver outstanding partnerships.

The purpose of the UK Partnership Panel, which is chaired by Tara Honeywell, managing director of Mediator, is to raise the profile of partnership marketing in our industry, ensuring it has a place among the wider marketing mix. A key aspect of this will be to work together to establish best practice guidelines, how best to measure partnerships and how we maintain outstanding creative among many other topics.

What key insights have you gathered so far?

There’s certainly an ambiguity in the definition of partnership marketing. A partnership can work in many different ways to solve many business challenges. Dependent on your experience, partnerships mean different things to different people.

The first thing that the Partnership Panel did, therefore, was define our discipline, which surprisingly hadn’t been done before:

Partnership marketing is the discipline of brands coming together to co create ideas that are collectively more effective for their business and more compelling for their audiences

Tap into people’s passions

Our recent research whitepaper found that one of the most important benefits of partnership marketing is its ability to tap into people’s passions, making an emotive connection to the modern consumer – which in today’s climate is getting more and more difficult.

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Not only is it about reaching consumers, but because of the level of engagement partnership marketing offers, strategies that use the discipline are more powerful than those that don’t. Over 70% of respondents agreed that it offers a ‘depth of communication’ traditional comms plans cannot deliver.

By partnering with a brand that is already integrated into your target audience’s life – for example, Barclays / British Summertime – there is the ability to drive authentic brand engagement that lasts way beyond more traditional marketing methods.

Partnership marketing is not a quick win

Another important insight was around measurement and the challenges we have as partnership marketing professionals in showing how effective our partnerships have been.

80% of respondents believe partnership marketing has a high ROI and 86% agree it is effective. However, with increasing pressure on budgets, the key is to measure and prove the ROI. There is a general consensus of opinion that partnership marketing has often been measured in line with traditional advertising.

Often the level of engagement, and how partnership marketing is used to drive perceptions of a brand, is not a quick win; results are seen over time. This makes it harder to see immediate, tangible benefits. The Partnership Panel is working towards finding ways to help the industry see the value of partnerships through a more universal metric scorecard.

Why aren’t brands capitalising on partnership marketing?

I think the main reason is down to lack of integration and understanding. Too often, partnership marketing is implemented as an afterthought, and as a result is not integrated into the wider marketing mix. To fully maximise partnerships and to ensure the process of delivering them is efficient and effective, they should be integrated into brand plans from the outset.

Better investment needs to be given to the discipline, both financially and timewise. In terms of the monetary investment parties are willing to make, pound for pound it is one of the most effective marketing tools available. (However, that doesn’t mean brands should skimp on how much budget they allocate to a partnership.)

Timewise, brands need to commit to being truly collaborative; too often they have an aspiration to deliver partnerships yet don’t have the infrastructure or allocate the resource to gain the full benefit.

Collaboration is key

The Partnership Panel came together and created a Best Practice Checklist to help brands ascertain how and when to use partnerships. It’s not as simple as you may expect – each party has to be willing to compromise, offer creative flexibility and also discretion. Not only is collaboration key in terms of the benefits, but it is also crucial in terms of the success of a partnership.

Head of Filmology, Paul Parry, recently wrote about how cinema appeals because it enables escapism: “Partner up with a new release and, as long as it’s relevant, you’ll super charge your customers’ enthusiasm to the next level.” What opportunities do you feel partnering with film offers brands?

The beauty of film is that it appeals to everyone. It’s one of the strongest passion points for consumers. In 2014, more than 24 million people bought a film, far more than visited the cinema.

Film is simply an excellent way to tap into a consumer’s psyche to build brand equity and loyalty using content, relevance and storytelling. Just look at how many brands have jumped on the Minions trend, from fashion, to bananas, showing just how a film and its IP can create ongoing and valuable connections.

With their universal appeal, high-value offering and complementary nature, movies can be a great vehicle to solve brand’s business challenges.

Can you share any recent examples of brands that have partnered successfully with the film industry?

How Google and Paramount teamed up…

For the release of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ film, Google and Paramount teamed up on a multi-platform partnership that featured initiatives delivered across Google platforms, including Google for Education, Google+, Google Play and YouTube.

The companies worked together to help moviegoers connect to the film via immersive experiences and exclusive content, launching with the Interstellar Space Hub, a first-ever digital initiative supporting a film on a Google domain.

As the official website for the film, the Interstellar Space Hub featured a Space Hunt content discovery feature as well as links to a Solar System Builder app available via Google Play.

How Pringles tapped into film

Pringles captured the ‘night in’ experience by offering a free movie when you purchased two cans of Pringles, with the strap line ‘You don’t just eat em, you night in with om’. Using film enabled Pringles to drive differentiation at point of purchase as well as driving frequency of purchase.

And Under Armour partnered with Matt Damon…

One of my recent favourites is the collaboration with The Martian and sportswear brand, Under Armour.

The partnership saw Matt Damon undergoing a gruelling training session, sweating in Under Armour, which happens to be dubbed the “Official Training Partner of the [NASA] Ares Program”. The brand tie-up was relevant, integrated and subtle in its execution, which not only promoted the film but also added authenticity to the audience’s experience of it.

Navigating the film landscape can be tricky, and Filmology has recently blogged about the complexities of such partnerships and the finer details every brand should know. Where do you see the key challenges?

Film is a sector that carries some restriction but usually everything is workable. Film studios are much more flexible now than they were in the past. They are seeing the real value of integrating a brand partnership from pre-shoot, through to using talent, and offering film tickets.

There are talent restrictions, naturally, when working on film brand partnerships.  Alcohol and beauty brand tie ups are usually the most difficult.

Film studios are also incredibly protective of their IPs and naturally remain very close to the execution of a campaign and how the assets are used. Managing expectations and careful planning is key.

Are you seeing any trends within partnership marketing?

I think a lot has changed since I started in partnerships. Back then I was putting a movie cover mount on the front of a newspaper every Saturday and creating 50,000 Mr Bean Chocolate Easter Eggs for consumption!

We are now seeing lots of innovation. Brands understand that they can’t do everything on their own. By collaborating with the right partner, they are able to truly enhance a customer’s interaction with that brand.

Brands are also becoming aware of the assets that could be deemed valuable to the right partner and how, if leveraged smartly, they can achieve more effective marketing campaigns. Generally, we’re seeing a more open culture.

Brands need to do something unexpected

There are also much more creative and innovative partnerships out there that are pushing boundaries, such as Pharrell Williams and his partnership with G Star Raw and the Raw for the Oceans campaign.

Brands need to do something unexpected, worthy and standout rather than a tactical piece and storytelling is crucial within the collaboration.

Filmology works with brands in many different industries – as diverse as Carphone Warehouse, Peperami and P&O Ferries. Do you agree that partnership marketing can work for all brands, in all sectors?

Yes. Forget sectors, it’s about challenges.

Partnership marketing helps businesses grow – whatever the sector, whatever the brand. It may be about having a reason to engage with your audience, reaching a new audience or simply saying thank you.

Partnerships are a powerful tool that can be employed by all brands.

Want to know more about partnership marketing with films? Get in touch today!