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Unexpected Inspiration from Brand Partnerships

Published on November 19, at 12:36 p.m.
by Gabrielle Sirois.

Collaborations have long been used to benefit brands by giving them the chance to be exposed to different audiences. Oftentimes brands tend to collaborate with those who are similar to them because it normally makes for an easy and convenient partnership.

However, when brands dare to take risks and work with companies that are completely different than their own, it can produce extremely interesting and exciting results. Let’s take a look at some brands that were able to think outside of the box and create unexpected, yet successful, partnerships.

Courtesy of the American Red Cross

Game of Thrones x Red Cross: Bleed for the Throne
Preceding the premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones on April 14, 2019, the show collaborated with the American Red Cross to both promote the final season and to give back to a good cause. The brands teamed up for the Bleed for the Throne campaign, which was a part of the larger For the Throne global marketing campaign that was used to promote the final season. The campaign urged viewers to donate blood by saying, “For seven seasons characters of Game of Thrones have bled for the throne. Now the Red Cross is joining the battle for the living by asking all eligible individuals to help alleviate blood shortages in the real world.”

The campaign kicked off with an immersive event that took place March 7-9 at SXSW 2019 where participants could donate blood and then experience an activation that featured notable moments in the show’s history, including Cersei’s walk of shame and the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Attendees also got the chance to bend a knee to the Iron Throne and interact with actors portraying roles from the show, such as wildlings, Dothraki, Unsullied and Lannister soldiers.

Following the SXSW activation, the blood drive was held at locations across America, as well as in 15 international countries. The drive ran past the season 8 premiere all the way until April 30. Participants received exclusive Bleed for the Throne T-shirts or posters. People who participated prior to March 17 were also entered for a chance to attend the season 8 premiere. Those who participated from April 1 to 30 were entered for a chance to win a full-size replica of the Iron Throne.

This partnership was the “largest blood donation promotional effort by an entertainment company in American Red Cross history,” and resulted in both positive publicity for the season premiere as well as life-saving donations for patients across the world.

Courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks x Bill Nye: Nitro Cold Brew
When you think of Starbucks, science probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, the company’s 2019 partnership with Bill Nye promoting its Nitro Cold Brew led consumers to look at their coffee on a more molecular level.

Starbucks launched its Nitro Cold Brew in 2016, but the drink was only offered in a select amount of stores. In 2019, the company decided to expand the drink across America and has now implemented the tap system in 80% of stores, with plans for it to be available nationwide by the end of the year. However, the increased reach of this drink came with confusion from consumers about what it actually is. They weren’t sure how Nitro Cold Brew differed from iced coffee or regular cold brew.

In order to clear up any confusion, Starbucks enlisted the help of America’s favorite scientist, Bill Nye. They teamed up to create a series of videos explaining the science behind Nitro Cold Brew, while highlighting the drink’s smooth and velvety taste. The partnership garnered media attention from outlets like Fast Company and Adweek, and made sure that everyone knew exactly what Nitro Cold Brew was.

Courtesy of Lyft

Lyft x Netflix: Strange Mode
To promote the premiere of Stranger Things Season 2 on Oct. 27, 2017, Lyft and Netflix teamed up to give fans of the show terrifying rides into the Upside Down. On Oct. 27 and 28, individuals in LA and Philadelphia had the opportunity for a free ride using Strange Mode on their Lyft App.

The ride included a variety of phenomena that were characteristic of the show, including static noises, lights turning on and off, a driver who vomited up slugs, and what apparently was a being trapped in the ceiling of the car. The ride concluded with passengers being approached by people in hazmat suits who offered them an Eggo waffle (a product that has now become iconic to the show).

This collaboration provided a thrilling and memorable experience for fans of the show. In addition, since the premiere lined up with Halloween, it was perfect for those who were looking for a holiday fright.

Courtesy of Airbnb

Airbnb x Barbie: Malibu Dreamhouse
2019 marked the 60th anniversary of everyone’s favorite toy doll, Barbie. To celebrate this milestone, the Barbie brand partnered with Airbnb to offer four lucky guests the chance to stay in Barbie’s iconic Malibu Dreamhouse.

The rental was treated like any other on the site, with a listing that seemed to be written by Barbie herself. The property was available to book for a one-time-only stay from Oct. 27 to 29 for $60 a night. The listing for the rental went live on Oct. 23 at 11 a.m. PDT and was simply first-come, first-served for who got to book the Dreamhouse.

Barbie is known for being a woman of many careers, so the stay also offered guests the chance to experience some of the more famous ones. Guests were able to fence on the Dreamhouse rooftop with Olympic fencing medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad, who was honored with her own Barbie doll, the first hijab-wearing doll from the brand. The stay also included a private cooking lesson with famous Malibu chef Gina Clarke-Helm, a behind-the-scenes tour of the Columbia Memorial Space Center with aerospace engineer and pilot Jill Meyers, and a makeover with celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin.

To celebrate the partnership, Airbnb also donated to The Barbie Dream Gap Project GoFundMe initiative, which helps to empower girls and provide them with the resources and support that they need to achieve their dreams. This partnership created media buzz and gained exposure for both brands involved.

All of these examples illustrate the power that unexpected strategic partnerships can have. Companies should view them as inspiration for how to advance their brands while creating something fresh and unique.

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