Co-branding, when executed correctly, can be a powerful vehicle for generating brand awareness, building a franchise owner’s customer base, and ultimately boosting revenue. The impact of a well-executed strategic partnership can also increase overall value –for the customer’s experience, the franchisee, and the franchisor. While creating strategic partnerships that deliver multi-layered value may seem like a daunting task, they’re extremely rewarding and provide benefits at both the corporate and franchisee-level.
So, where do franchisors begin? Before diving into a brand partnership, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Be Strategic & Selective
Think about the long-term benefits and purpose of a partnership, not just the potential short-term gain or ease of execution. Nearly a decade ago, The Little Gym had routinely entered into several short-term partnerships. The rotating menu of partner logos was a low-effort, but also low-impact approach that yielded very little benefit for everyone involved. After evaluating the results of these efforts, the decision was made to dedicate resources towards building strategic, long-term, and value-adding relationships. Ultimately, we found that more meaningful relationships not only generated brand awareness but could also boost revenue and diversify our program offerings.
When The Little Gym partnered with LEGO Systems, Inc., the relationship was structured so that the partnership added new layers to our Three-Dimensional Learning approach to skill development. Partnering with educational specialists and play consultants from The LEGO Group and integrating products from the LEGO DUPLO and LEGO Juniors line of building toys expanded and enhanced program offerings. One of the most successful examples has been WonderKids Club, a preschool prep program that includes LEGO building activities that complement and enhance in-gym learning. Beyond just building, LEGO DUPLO bricks are incorporated into learning activities that foster color recognition and sensory development and provide children with new ways to creatively boost their problem solving, imagination and socialization skills. In addition to WonderKids Club, program integrations include “Let’s Build, Let’s Play” Parent/Child events, Awesome Birthday Adventure parties, Camps, and Parents’ Survival Nights.
The partnership has not only brought LEGO product into the gyms, but it has done so in a way that has driven new members. It’s also strengthened member retention as customers have found increased value in the variety of special opportunities available for their families. For all families participating, it’s shown them new ways to play with a product they already know and love.
Ensure Core Value Alignment
Being selective and strategic is the foundation for a successful partnership but is by no means the only key to success. The best business partnerships are between brands that share core values and have similar overarching visions. This allows for greater integration and sets the stage for deeper, more impactful partnerships that can evolve over time.
This concept has been key to the success of The Little Gym’s philanthropic efforts, “The Little Gym Big Hearts.” Consumers place higher expectations on brands now than they had in the past. To win their loyalty, brands must deliver more than just good products and services. They need to show that they’re supporting the community and positively contributing to the world the consumer lives in. Partnering with a charity or a brand with shared philosophies can allow you to do well by doing good.
Most recently, The Little Gym has entered into a unique partnership with Entertainment One to begin offering Peppa’s Muddy Puddles Party, a one-of-a-kind birthday party that takes kids on an imaginative adventure with Peppa Pig, George and all their friends. On behalf of every party booked, The Little Gym will be making contributions to The Muddy Puddles Project, the official charity partner of Peppa Pig dedicated to supporting childhood cancer research. This unique partnership is designed to introduce kids to the idea of using their birthday as an opportunity to give back, while providing franchise owners with a unique themed birthday offering and supporting a very worthy cause.
Business partnerships, like all relationships, require constant and open communication, hard work, and a desire and willingness to support each other. Defining partnership goals early-on is also vital. These goals must be clear, relevant and attainable for both companies involved.
Partnerships take a lot of effort, but the rewards have the potential to be tremendous. Ultimately, it’s important that franchisors be prepared to put in the work. You may only have one chance to successfully launch a partnership with customers. You need to ensure that every campaign is well thought out and impactful. The most fruitful business partnerships are generally the ones that require the most work and have the highest degree of integration between brands. Through mutual understanding and strong work ethic, both companies will be able to capitalize upon each other’s expertise and leverage each company’s successes to increase brand value, enhance customer experience, and drive revenue.
Heather Anderson is the Director of Marketing for The Little Gym International, Inc. She oversees all consumer, franchise development and partnership marketing efforts and has held multiple roles since joining the company nearly a decade ago. She played an instrumental role in the development of the “Serious Fun” branding campaign and is currently spearheading the company’s efforts to build authentic relationships with Millennial Moms, their largest group of current and future customers.