purposeful partnerships: a change for the better

Brand sponsorships are common in today’s world, but more than two years of riding the pandemic tidal wave has dramatically changed the landscape. Sports and entertainment cancellations worldwide meant marketers had to get creative and find new ways to engage their audience.

The pandemic also accelerated a shift in people’s mindset towards brands, part of a move towards a more conscious-minded world. Consumers want brands to stand for something, with research from Zeno in 2020 stating they were four times more likely to purchase from a brand that demonstrated a strong sense of purpose. This does not end there. Loyalty to the brand was also strengthened, with consumers feeling protective of them, advocating for them, and building a deeper level of trust with them.

If this shift to more purposeful partnerships was already happening, what impact did the pandemic have? It exposed the rigid structure of partnerships, forcing brands and sponsors to adopt new, non-traditional approaches. We saw a more significant emphasis on the message, demonstrating the importance of taking a stance and not fence sitting.

Taking A Stance Through CSR

In the current financial climate, one area organisations might look to cut is CSR. While this can offer short-term savings, it can also have a more significant long-term impact. Research by Partner on Purpose with leaders in the sponsorship and marketing industry found that CSR is more important now than before the pandemic, and that this will continue to increase. In a world where one bad decision can leave a mark, organisations that cut their CSR budgets may find this hurting brand value, making them less desirable to consumers, stakeholders, and potential employees.

One brand that is not shy of purpose-driven partnerships is Airbnb. Aiming to achieve responsible tourism and tackle homelessness, they have partnered with non-profit organisations worldwide. Their most notable partnership is a nine-year, five-Games agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), working together to promote travel options that are economically empowering, socially inclusive, and environmentally sustainable. The partnership will create hundreds of thousands of new hosts, giving community residents the opportunity to earn extra income by providing accommodation and local experiences to visiting fans, athletes, and members of the Olympic Movement. Airbnb has also launched Airbnb Olympian Experiences to provide direct earning opportunities for athletes. According to ProQuo, a sentiment measurement tool, the announcement of this partnership significantly increased Airbnb’s popularity (particularly among 21-40-year-olds) and drove stronger positive perceptions of the brand.

Another great example is IKEA and the Jordan River Foundation (JRF), who partnered to create employment opportunities for vulnerable groups. IKEA’s know-how helped JRF scale its operations, empowering women (especially those with traditional family responsibilities), to earn money and control their own finances. This partnership shows the best of both worlds, delivering outcomes that neither entity could have accomplished on their own.

Where To From Here?

Consumers believe brands have the resources to lead, and that it is part of their social responsibility to do so. Industry leaders agree and are focusing on partnerships that promote diversity, the environment, governance, transparency, and sustainability. While some of these may force internal change, they also create opportunities to partner with non-profits or rights owners/sporting organisations in creative and innovative ways. Sponsorships have evolved, becoming a partnership that delivers more than just a financial benefit.

Will your organisation be part of the change?