Hooking up with another brand can be a great way to grow your market share. But the trick is finding the right partner
Like any business, a franchise’s growth depends on building up a solid base of customers and keeping them engaged with its brand. But while the temptation might be to throw money at a digital marketing campaign, there are plenty of alternative avenues available to franchises when it comes to creating some additional exposure.
One of the most popular options is to partner with another brand that shares the same values and target demographic. Not only can this position a franchise in front of the right kind of people but it can also elevate it in the eyes of consumers and franchisees alike.
However, despite the clear benefits of joining forces with another brand, it doesn’t reduce the need for an ample amount of due diligence before making a commitment. And that’s regardless of the size of the company in question. Ultimately, if the chemistry isn’t right, a brand partnership can do more harm than good.
With that in mind, we hear from three franchises that have seen collaborations work in their favour.
The Creation Station, the children’s arts and crafts franchise, has partnered with a number of national and international brands since launching in 2002. “We like to associate with other great companies,” explains Sarah Cressall, The Creation Station’s founder and managing director.
Most recently, the company teamed up with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, running creative workshops to tie in with the release of Hotel Transylvania 2 on DVD. The partnership was sparked after a member of the PR team working on the film took their child to a Creation Station class. “It literally happened because of the positive impact being made by our franchisees,” says Cressall. “Childhood creativity is being crushed by the education system, so people are attached to what we are trying to do.”
However, despite the allure of working with a global brand like Sony, The Creation Station is careful not to rush headlong into new partnerships. “The most important thing is brand match,” says Cressall. “It’s about finding a family-friendly brand that ideally has a link with creativity.” As a result, the company has also had to turn down a few brands. “We are very selective over who we partner with,” she adds.
Other brands that The Creation Station has partnered with include Lego and Aardman Animations. As part of a collaboration between itself, Aardman and the Intellectual Property Office, the company ran a week of innovation-themed workshops based on the animator’s popular kids’ TV show Shaun the Sheep. “The children were making little contraptions, thinking about patents, innovation and how creativity is critical in our society,” says Cressall.
Not only have these partnerships aided The Creation Station’s mission to get children thinking creatively, they have also been well-received by franchisees. “It’s a very good brand-positioning tool,” says Cressall. “Our franchisees love the fact that by being part of The Creation Station, they can be involved in partnerships that a one-man band down the road couldn’t do.”
Ultimately, Cressall concludes, the success of such collaborations hinges on trust. “If we’re putting their brand in our hands, we just need to be very careful to respect it,” she says. “And we would expect them to do the same.”
Breaking the ice
Pizza franchise Papa John’s has enjoyed some impressive growth on these shores over the past 15 years – reaching the landmark of 300 outlets in July 2015. But while most people will be used to seeing the brand on their local high street, the partnership that Papa John’s struck last year with Planet Ice, Europe’s largest ice leisure brand, highlighted another part of its expansion strategy.
The collaboration has thus far seen Planet Ice open Papa John’s outlets in its Milton Keynes, Uttoxeter, Coventry and Basingstoke centres, all of which host professional ice hockey matches. “It’s good for prospective customers to see our brand in association with some high-level ice hockey,” says Anthony Round, business development manager at Papa John’s. “We have had some success in the States doing the same kind of thing, so it is a good fit with the business.”
And, as a Papa John’s franchisee, the partnership has also delivered tangible benefits to Planet Ice. “Having a branded food offer has helped them develop and grow their business,” says Round. “Hopefully they are seeing increased revenues from the association with a national brand.”
Beyond Planet Ice, other Papa John’s partners include Welcome Break service stations, as well as a handful of holiday parks and universities. However, Round explains that partnerships of this kind will continue to represent a small slice of the company’s overall UK presence. “We are not actually seeking a lot of partnerships,” he says. “We are more selective on who we want to work with because they have got to offer the same quality as us in terms of product and service.”
Suffice to say, Round has some sound advice for franchisors who might be eyeing up a brand collaboration or two. “As well as doing your due diligence on a proposed partner, you should also pick the market segment that is most aligned with the demographic of your own business,” he says. “And don’t take the first offer that comes your way.”
A taste of the limelight
There’s nothing quite like hooking up with Hollywood when it comes to boosting your brand. It’s certainly proven fruitful for Sports Xtra, the children’s activity franchise. Last year, the company joined forces with Warner Bros. to help promote Tom & Jerry: Spyquest, which was released to mark the 75th anniversary of the classic cartoon. “They were looking to promote it through different on-the-ground activities, which is how they found us,” says Rob Oyston, managing director of Sports Xtra. “Our ethos is all about engaging children to enjoy physical activity.”
Although Sports Xtra was already running a Spy Xperience course, it was evident how partnering with Warner Bros. would help elevate the brand. “By joining up with Tom & Jerry and Warner Brothers, we saw that we could engage a different type of child and have a positive impact on children who might be more inactive,” Oyston explains. Attracting more children to the classes also brought a healthy uplift in revenue. “The more participation we have, the better the franchises do as well,” he adds.
The company has since gone on to strike a deal with Sony – and its experience with Warner Bros. was the perfect preparation. “We learnt a lot of lessons,” says Oyston. “A lot of work goes into designing lesson plans exclusively for a film, so we made sure we could deliver them for longer and promote them better.”
As well as advising other franchisors to treat their first brand partnership as a pilot, Oyston says companies need to ensure they are partnering with the right type of company. “If you are going to enter a partnership, particularly with brands that are bigger than yours, you just have to make sure that the fit is right,” he says. “Despite any temptation we have been careful to only enter into partnerships with brands that will reinforce the values of Sports Xtra and encourage children to have a positive experience in physical activity and sport.”