Brand Partnerships: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Jack Williams - Account Executive

Jack Williams – Account Executive


Let’s talk about boobs.

This week, breast cancer charity CoppaFeel announced its new brand partnership with national newspaper The Sun, and more specifically the paper’s infamous Page 3. This got us thinking, what makes a good brand partnership? And is this pair one to be proud of?

Partnerships are the bedrock of business. Often a good partnership will result in significantly increased revenues, more savings, improvements to a product or service, or maybe access to a wider customer base. It’s because of these same reasons that brands come together in partnership. At first glance the above partnership – Coppafeel and The Sun – seems like a perfectly reasonable union.

CoppaFeelinfographic1As the infographic on the left quite clearly shows, CoppaFeel has thought about its reasons for entering the partnership – to potentially save the lives of 63,000 women.

The Sun’s editor, David Dinsmore, said the partnership will see the newspaper deliver £1.5m of free coverage for the charity. But what does it get? Since 2012, The Sun has been lobbied by Lucy-Anne Holmes and her ‘No More Page 3’ campaign to banish its ‘traditional’ Page 3 to Room 101 – topless photos of invariably young women, she says, uphold 1970s sexist values. The campaign has since garnered more than 22,000 likes on Facebook and close to 26,000 followers on Twitter.

Whatever your stance on Page 3, those numbers aren’t insignificant. And, with other social campaigns, such as @everydaysexism, also amassing huge followings, it’s clear that now more than ever we’re living in a world where the objectification of women is something up with which we shall not put. It seems to me that The Sun’s goal with this partnership was to lend legitimacy to its Page 3 and perhaps detract from these increasingly effective campaigns against it – and I’m not the only one.

So where does this leave CoppaFeel? A brand partnership is about brand association – and that means the good, the bad and the ugly associations. When your brand character is caring about women, lending legitimacy to a brand accused (rightly or wrongly) of the sexual objectification of women to me does not chime well and is certainly an ill fit. However, you can’t deny that it has got people talking about the issue and has arguably boosted the profile of the charity way beyond The Sun readership, which may have been part of the strategy all along. This would not be the first charity using an edgy and unexpected campaign to stimulate conversation – take a look at Barnardo’s.

What makes a good brand partnership?

Brand partnerships should always be mutually beneficial and when looking at a potential union, it’s vital that you consider the negative implications of association as well as the positives. You should always consider having a get out clause should brand reputations take a turn for the worse.

An example of a brand association we at Acceleris have recently helped foster is between our two clients the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO). The society is a charity that provides financial support to retired or permanently disabled seafarers and their families and the NFFO is the representative body for fishermen in the UK. Working together is a natural fit and both brands were able to leverage the other for mutual benefit.

So, will The Sun and CoppaFeel partnership irreparably damage the brand?

We can’t be sure, but I’d guess probably not. The truth is, CoppaFeel is getting its extremely important message to a wide and relevant audience, which is great. But this partnership is not the only way of achieving a widespread reach and the risk to reputation may certainly not be worth it. Especially with potential celebrity endorsements already failing …


That said, opinion really does seem to be polarised and official brand ambassadors have retained their support of the charity …

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