STRATEGIC PARNERING LIKES…..Dom Reilly and Michael Johnson partnering for your comfort and elegance in travelling 

Dominic Reilly, founder of the eponymous leather goods label and Michael Johnson, winner of 13 Olympic and World Championship gold medals have co-created the “perfect” travelling bag based on Michael’s average day.  Resulting from their partnership, the finished “Michael Johnson Performance” bag delivers a long wish list of requirements making it a unique, practical, light weight, as well as elegant and stylish bag for travellers.

Strategic Partnering had the great privilege to talk both with Dominic and Michael about their partnership.  Starting with Dominic:

Strategic Partnering – Dominic, why is a partnership and to what extent are partnerships critical to your business?

Dominic Reilly – I spent many years developing partnerships in Formula 1 for Williams F1 and also for Mercedes F1.  Having seen and experienced how powerful collaborations can be with brands, individuals, teams and sponsors, I wanted to use partnerships to develop our brand.  Only 2 years old, we are still a new brand and therefore, partnering with bigger entities like Williams F1 or individuals like Michael Johnson provides a halo effect to our brand.  As both Williams and Michael are renowned for performance, a global approach, success, intelligence etc., this was all very relevant to our brand and how we wanted to be perceived.  In short, they provide a fantastic amplifier of our own brand values.

Strategic Partnering – Why Michael Johnson and is the partnership an outcome of science or intuition?

Dominic Reilly – It was more intuition to be honest, although I know Michael very well and perhaps this makes it less an intuition?  And I would say that I generally tend to work with people I know and trust.

Strategic Partnering – What do you consider are other key factors to succeed with partnerships, beyond knowing people well?

Dominic Reilly – I look at this from two angles:  the brand and the rights holder.  From a brand perspective, there is certainly the ability to benefit from who the partner is, their profile and qualities. So, we specifically targeted key individuals or teams such as Michael or Williams F1 but we also looked at key categories such as travel and media.  For example, we partner with the FT and with Raffles Hotel in Singapore.  For us the key is to share brand values, have similar target audiences, and build on a clear partner brand strategy, so whatever they do reflects positively on us and vice versa.  The second key factor is that they are all truly global: we are a travel brand, so each of our partners needs to have a global footprint.

Strategic Partnering – What type of brands or organisations wouldn’t you partner with?

Dominic Reilly – Certainly those brands who don’t represent a premium position.  We position ourselves as a luxury brand and the products we make are beautifully designed and created.  Hence our partnerships need to be at the upper end of luxury.

Strategic Partnering – What is there for your partners in the co-operations you develop?

Dominic Reilly – It varies with who they are but there is a common point, which is that they like – and like to use – our products.  As for Michael, he frankly doesn’t need to partner with a brand like us.  But our relationship includes that he liked the concept, the idea, he was interested in our category and he liked the design process.  Thankfully we are also friends so it was very easy to agree with him and also find ways that he benefits from our success.  He is able to meet some interesting people through the various events we plan with him and he also maintains his media profile through our association as we arrange various media activities.  For example the interview we did with Bloomberg TV.  See: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2015-02-10/dom-reilly-brings-olympic-gold-to-luxury-man-bags 

Strategic Partnering – What do you believe are some of the qualities or practices necessary to succeed with partnering?

Dominic Reilly – Be very serious about the partnership.  For example, the person who was my main contact at Raffles Hotel moved and I thought the relationship might be at risk.  As it turned out, his successor wants to grow the collection further but it shows how important it is to create a strong base. Also, be frank and open with your partners.  You need to say when something works or does not work. It is a bit like with your spouse:  work hard on the relationship and hopefully it will create a long and rewarding marriage.  But having said this, ultimately, it comes down to what you do together, the product and the purpose.

Strategic Partnering – So as this is so core, what was precisely this purpose, this substance with Michael Johnson?

Dominic Reilly – When Michael asked me to create a bag for him, I knew to expect a demanding wish list!  Although I have learned now that there is no such thing as a perfect bag, the inspiration for Michael’s “perfect” travelling bag was based on his average day.  This often includes different events such as a trip to the gym, a TV appearance, a conference, a business meeting, a dinner and a stay at a hotel.  Michael wanted one bag to satisfy all these occasions, to replace the 3 different ones he used most of the time.

We went through an iterative process with Michael, starting with identifying the need, going then into the shape, following with material selection, colors etc., all resulting in the prototypes.  Michael was involved literally at every step of the process, saying what he liked and didn’t like.  And what was ideal for us is that he is a truly international traveller, hence he knows what works and doesn’t work when travelling.  Thanks to this process, the finished “Michael Johnson Performance” bag delivers everything on the wish list and more and we have achieved a practical, light-weight as well as elegant and stylish bag for travellers.

Strategic Partnering – So what’s next with partnering for the Dom Reilly brand?

Dominic Reilly – We are already thinking about our next partnerships very carefully.  On the one hand, partnerships as with Michael are fantastic. On the other, we can’t have too many, as it might risk diluting our own brand.  This is a challenging balance, which we will continue to monitor.

Dom Reilly’s MJP bag is available to order at www.domreilly.com

Michael Johnson generously shared a few additional remarks with Strategic Partnering.

Strategic Partnering – Michael, why a partnership with Dom Reilly from your perspective?

Michael Johnson – I first met Dom when he was Head of Marketing at the Williams F1 Team a few years back.  His work in F1 has instilled in him a great attention to detail and a design philosophy that is both meticulous and minimal, so I knew he’d create a great bag. Personally, I’m a pretty organised person and I really like all the bag’s separate compartments.  Why carry a briefcase, back pack and over-night bag when all you need is this one hold-all?”  So I liked the idea!

Strategic Partnering – What is there in the partnership for you?

Michael Johnson – Initially, it was mainly an act of support to Dominic and I could see how acting as an ambassador for his nascent brand and business might help a little bit.  I was also guided by my belief in Dominic’s capability, thinking that if anyone could make this work, it would be him and it would be fun to be part.  So we developed this relationship where I would be an ambassador for the brand in exchange with a participation in the company.

We then started talking about the different types of bags that Dom Reilly would produce and we happened to come to the bags I carry and if he wouldn’t develop one for my needs and those of people like me.  So what’s in it for me?  Really helping Dom is one thing but also attach the Michael Johnson Performance brand to the bag, as we could then mutually benefit from the PR, us of Dom Reilly’s and vice versa.

And it was a lot of fun to design the bag and to work with Dom.

Strategic Partnering – And what’s next between the partners?

Michael Johnson – Outside of the PR, we need to work and see the success of the bag and how it sells.  There are many aspects to this and a lot will depend on the commercial performance.  I wish Dom Reilly every success with their intelligent and beautiful products.

Notes for Editors

Michael Johnson – During his career Michael Johnson won 13 Olympic and World Championship medals – all of which were gold!  He currently still holds the World and Olympic records in the 400m.

He is the founder and leader of Michael Johnson Performance, an organization that provides world-class training for youth, college and professional athletes & teams globally.

Dominic Reilly – After spending 15 years travelling the world as part of the Formula One circus, Dominic Reilly gained an appreciation of luggage and travel accessories.  He founded the Dom Reilly brand in 2013, pioneering ‘engineered style’ by combining the highest quality traditional craftsmanship with the precise design acumen of a Grand Prix racing team.

Dominic Reilly, the eponymous creator of the brand, spearheads a business consortium of individuals, each of whom share a philosophy of striving for perfection in their chosen field.  The consortium is made up of Patrick Head – joint founder of Williams F1 team, Martin Bartle – Global Communications and ecommerce Director of Agent Provocateur and Michael Caines MBE – one of Britain’s most acclaimed two Michelin starred chefs.

In addition to Dom Reilly’s core collection, the company has collaborated with and produced exclusive collections for Williams F1 and Raffles Hotel in Singapore.