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Strategic Partnerships and Marketing Zeitgeist - Strategic Partnering

Strategic Partnerships and Marketing Zeitgeist

By Angela Dalrymple, Programme Director & Principal Teaching Fellow Imperial College Business School – London.


The first half of 2014 has already spawned a burgeoning “collaborative Zeitgeist” in marketing worldwide, with companies scrambling to partner up on global stages such as the Winter Olympics, the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.

Just to pinpoint a few shining examples, we’ve seen USA Basketball forming a strategic marketing partnership with Samsung in preparation for the 2014 FIBA games in Spain, and Dunkin’ Brands forming a strategic branding partnership with Liverpool Football Club in the UK for multi-brand promotional benefits.
Marketers seem to be finally coming to terms with the fact that strategic partnering, if handled effectively, is a proverbial no-brainer – not only in terms of knowledge transfer and two-way cost rationalisation around campaign spend, but also to increase brand awareness exponentially, and to gain rapid access to new customers.

Indeed, the drive to find new customers is recognised by up to 80% of businesses as one of the biggest challenges to marketers in achieving growth (Richardson, 2014).

The technology infrastructure underpinning strategic partnerships is also proving a powerful catalyst for marketers to identify and buddy up with potential partners.

Co-creation of innovative digital campaigns, attention-grabbing mobile apps and social media feeds are enabling successful marketing partnerships to reach more customers than ever before with compelling content, and to grow their mutual customer base accordingly.

Given this enthralling backdrop, recent projects carried out around strategic partnerships in marketing by postgraduate students at Imperial College Business School in conjunction with Strategic Partnering Ltd could not have been more pertinent or timely.

Moving beyond basic measurements of return on partnering investment such as cost rationalisation or product development, the Imperial student teams analysed new and compelling areas of value-add for marketers engaging in strategic partnerships.

For Starbucks and Yahoo, for example, partnering has enabled both companies to leverage digital technology and location-based targeting to develop and engage the concept of “community” around Internet usage in coffee shops, adding real value to the customer’s daily life through new services offered via this partnership.  As Yahoo put it:  “Think of it as premium content to go with premium coffee”.

Similarly, by partnering at a global level, Thai Airways and Air Canada grew mutual customer loyalty and advocacy through increasing availability of worldwide flight destinations, and made significant improvements to their customer experience via enhanced frequent flier programmes and process-based customer service initiatives.

Further innovative case studies around strategic partnerships in marketing explored by Imperial College Business School can be found on the Strategic Partnering website (www.strategic-partnering.net).  Such examples make it clear that the current partnership environment is buoyed by digital and mobile transformative capabilities in marketing, the ability of marketing senior management to recognise win-win value-add, and vast opportunities for marketing partners to “find” each other in the global Olympic swimming pool in which they swim.

Strategic partnerships in marketing are therefore a firm part of the current collaborative Zeitgeist being embraced by organisations worldwide.  As Luc Bardin points out in his book (Bardin, 2013), the need to learn how to partner effectively has never been greater for marketers looking for rapid growth and customer advocacy. More successful marketing partnerships clearly lie ahead of us – in Olympian proportions.


Richardson, C. (2014) How to set up a successful marketing collaboration [Online].  Available from:


Bardin L, R & G (2013) Strategic Partnering, remove chance and deliver consistent success.  Available from:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Strategic-Partnering-Deliver-Consistent-Success/dp/0749468807 or http://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Partnering-Deliver-Consistent-Success/dp/0749468807

 (Accessed 28th August 2014)

Angela Dalrymple
Programme Director & Principal Teaching Fellow
Imperial College Business School – London
Email: a.dalrymple@imperial.ac.uk

 28th August 2014

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