Unlocking The Magic In Brand Partnerships

Partnership. It’s a term that continues to grow in popularity among marketers, particularly those in the sporting and entertainment community. In the eyes of Aalum Jaffer, Strategic Marketing Manager,Global Sponsorships with MLSE, it’s the next stage in the evolution process of the traditional sponsorship model we know today. All great partnerships are built on strong relationships that are mutually beneficial to both parties. Aalum, and Jordan Vader, Senior Director of Global Partnerships at MLSE, recently discussed how to unlock the magic in brand partnerships at a Toronto Region Board of Trade Young Professionals Network Event in Toronto.

It’s a concept that has seen rapid growth over the past five to ten years. With dedicated job titles, newly formed positions, conference and tradeshows all focused within the space, partnership has become an industry all on its own. Once falling under the portfolio of the VP of Sales or Marketing, it’s now an integral part of the core business model within many organizations, particularly those in the entertainment space, and for good reason. As traditional and digital advertising continue to become white noise in the lives of consumers, brands are forced to evolve their approach. Partnership is becoming a major piece of the “how to engage consumers” puzzle and It’s this growing value organizations are placing in partnership that has led it to becoming a key revenue generator for brands that already have an engaged audience or fan base. Partnership isn’t a new concept. The Toronto Maple Leafs first started selling rink boards in the early 80’s. To say the space has evolved since then would be an understatement. In its early days, it was a simple relationship; brands paid the teams for the impressions they provided. But over the past decade, we’ve shifted to growing the platforms in which we can deliver these partnerships. From in-game activations, to social media contests, it’s really about been finding innovative ways to create value between two brands. Hence the evaluation from sponsorship to partnership. Now, the shift is on to data. Brands are looking for ways to leverage data from one another in an effort to engage the audience not only on premise, but on the way to and from the game, and beyond.

All great partnerships are built on passion. For Vader and the MLSE team, every partnership in which they engage requires four key characteristics: It has to be authentic, it has to drive sales, it has to build loyalty, and it has to be exclusive. Without these traits, you struggle to transfer the passion from one brand to the other.

Some great examples of this include the partnership between 7up and Martin Garrix, which improved the brand image for both parties, generated awareness and aligned each brand with a new demographic. The not-for-profit space also puts major emphasis on partnerships for a variety of reasons, primarily because their budget limitations for mass media campaigns, and the fact that for- profit organizations are always looking to align with them in an effort to build good will. We saw this with Becel and the Ride for Heart, in which the Heart and Stroke leveraged the resources Becel presented, while Becel was able to strengthen their position as a healthy butter alternative. The Toronto Region Board of Trade relies on brand partnerships to reinforce its thought leadership position. Partnering with organizations such as MLSE ensure that the Board’s podium continues to be an influential platform to move the dial on critical conversations to be had and heard in the business community. "Prominent political and business leaders tell us we are their go-to podium when they want to engage with the business community," says Jan De Silva, Board President & CEO. “This credibility, combined with flawless event execution, makes our podium the platform to be seen and heard by both attendees and speakers.” The evolution of partnerships is on a fast track, but it’s only just begun. Its clear that MLSE has come a long way from selling just rink boards, and it is this type of progressive thinking that will see the industry progress towards realizing the true power of strategic partnership.



Chris Dunne is Business Development Manager for Elemental, a full-service advertising agency

based in Toronto. He’s also an active volunteer with AMA – Toronto, Young Adult Cancer Canada,

Toronto Region Board of Trade, Conservation Corps of NL, and Big Brothers Big Sister. One of

Marketing Magazine’s 2015 Top 30U30 and 2015 St. John’s Rotary Young Professional of the Year.