When it comes to reppin’ your fashion brand or label, strategically partnering with other brands, especially on events, can help turn a lackluster event into a star-studded affair. Not to mention that there is power in numbers, banding together can help encourage press interest and you can combine PR efforts and share contacts for greater reach. The occasional partnership, whether its with a local fashion magazine, a jewelry designer to accessorize your line, a fashion photographer working on her portfolio or up and coming club looking to make its name as the must-go venue, sponsorships and collaborations exposure your brand to new audiences, expand pitch opportunity and can generate additional revenue.
To begin, put together a sponsorship kit, using your press kit as a jumping off point. Include a cover letter which states the specifics of your event. Frame the letter in terms of how it benefits your potential partner – exposure, connections, are all important. Ask yourself what would make something worthwhile to you. Make a specific ask – could be money, trade advertising, or stuff – gift bag stuffers, appetizers, video equipment and again, highlight what your sponsor will get in return. Then ask to set up a meeting to go over the particulars.
Here are some tips to consider when collaborating with others:
- Clarify Expectations – Clearly outline what you expect and hope to gain from your partnership. If you are looking to host an event with another designer, vendor or venue, carefully consider your benefit from the alliance and also the benefit for your partner. What will you bring to the table, and what will your partner bring to the table? If the partnership is too one-sided, negotiate again. The true advantage (and purpose) of a partnership is that it is mutually beneficial.
- Do Your Research – Research your alliances. Be sure that the collaboration promotes the image you desire for your fashion line and/or brand. People have different interpretations of ‘upscale’ and ‘high-end.’ Be diligent and become familiar with your proposed partner prior to entering into an agreement, and ask for references when possible.
- Get It In Writing – Once your expectations are clearly outlined, put it down on paper for both parties to review and have on hand. Sometimes what was said is not what was heard or understood. Describing the discussed details in writing will help both parties have a foundation to work from and give each side an opportunity to clear up any possible misinterpretations. This will avoid any confusion as both sides move forward. If you are presented with a contract from your potential partner – READ IT CAREFULLY and bring up any questions or concerns you may have immediately. It doesn’t matter how well you get along, it’s ‘show-biz, not show-friends.’ If the contract/written agreement is difficult to understand, it was likely written by a lawyer so you may want to get a lawyer to review.
- Negotiation – Strive for the win-win. When looking to collaborate many will only keep their best interest in mind. This can result in misunderstandings, trust concerns and ultimately, a poor partnership. If you are expecting to take, you must be willing to give, and vice versa. Let’s say you have partnered with a lounge for a VIP clientele reception. You would like to have a full bar, but only have a wine and beer budget. You can negotiate a discount with the bar, but you may have to be open to only having name and not premium brand liquor. Are you alright with serving name brand to your VIP clients? Or would you rather ask your lounge partner to consider serving his/her best wine and beer selections? You want to partner with someone who is committed to having a successful partnership and one who is open to negotiations that are beneficial to both in the long run.
- Learn from the Experience – Don’t let one poor collab prohibit you from working with others. Not all relationships are good ones, and sometimes they’re just downright bad. We all make mistakes so don’t let a bad experience rule out potential future partnerships that may garner better results. Learn from your faux pas and move on. Perhaps agreeing when your whiskey sponsor encouraged you to use live models at a local bar wasn’t such a good idea after all.
- Think Value not Money – It’s not always about the money – GASP! In this down economy it may not make sense (or cents) but sometimes strategic partnerships do not result in immediate monetary gain or may not involve monetary contributions. If you are looking to host an event, and a partner is willing to foot the bill in exchange for ticket sales – a designer’s line may receive an opportunity to gain exposure which may lead to sales/monetary gain down the line. Be careful when it comes to bartering, which is not uncommon in challenging economic times. Again, it needs to be mutually beneficial (see item 1). One cannot gain at the expense or detriment (or sweat and tears) of another.
- Stay Flexible – Be open to creativity. The beauty of teaming together is that something new and different can be created. You can try something neither of you have ever done before. For instance, perhaps your fashion mixers, shows or meetings are always in an auditorium or night club – try an aquarium, a museum, or an event on the water.
Think of Marc Jacobs (an established fashion brand name on his own) and his role with Louis Vuitton. He has used his collaborative style to partner with Takashi Murakami, Stephen Sprouse and Kanye West for Louis Vuitton, which has definitely helped his credibility as a designer and not hurt his own brand image in any way, shape or dress form.
The PR Power of Partnerships
Most recently our firm landed a strategic partnership between our jewelry designer client and an award-winning dress designer. The dress designer was putting together a large show and needed some jewelry to go with his garments. Our jewelry client agreed to provide the jewelry for his show, and in exchange she would receive a mention on all advertising/promotional materials, as well as in press releases for the dress designer’s event. These two individuals have never worked together before, but receive a great deal of media coverage individually. Together, they’re sure to create a buzz!
Be on the lookout for opportunities and be open to strategic partnerships because the right fit can make a world of difference.