Despite lockdowns around the globe, 2021 was a fabulous year for brand partnerships. Collaborations platform, Collabosaurus, saw a whopping 216% increase in brands tapping into partnerships, swiping right on a record high amount of partnership opportunities.
If I could sum up brand collaborations of 2021 into a theme, it would be ‘Nostalgia.’ It’s possible that, as a ‘90’s kid’ myself, these collaborations particularly struck a chord, but there’s no denying that this year was jam-packed with 90’s throwback partnerships. We saw Benefit x Crocs team up on 90s footwear, Mentos x Sally Hansen collab on a nail polish range, Allens revamped the classic Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book and even Taika Waititi led an all-star reading of James & The Giant Peach, in partnership with the Roald Dahl Story company. Oh, the memories!
So, which brand partnerships were better than the rest? As someone who has built a business on collaboration marketing, I found whittling down a list to my top 5 as difficult as picking a favourite child. Nevertheless, here we are!
Aime Leon Dore x Porsche
Effortlessly cool, Aimé Leon Dore (ALD) is a New York fashion and lifestyle brand that has repeatedly captured attention for their stunning collaboration and partnership pursuits (New Balance and Woolrich, to name a few). This year, their collaboration with Porsche on a limited edition, fully restored vintage Porsche was no exception and kept popping into day-dreams around the world.
The Porsche itself, while core to the partnership, wasn’t the only campaign feature that shot this collaboration to success. The campaign video transported viewers to a Tuscan-esque getaway, ALD released a matching capsule collection, and Porsche leveraged the stunning one-of-a-kind car by showcasing the vehicle via a flagship store display.
Bistro Morgan x Bumble
Singles navigating (and often abandoning) dating amidst 2021 COVID lockdowns deserve a medal, or at the very least, a free breakfast. This partnership ticked all the boxes for engagement plus experiential. Bumble users could skip into Bistro Morgan, flash their app and nab a free breakfast inside a deliciously co-branded Bistro Morgan venue.
Pastries and partnerships are quite possibly my favourite collab combination of all time, so this pop-up activation was something I considered downloading the Bumble app for (much to my boyfriend's dismay).
Dolce & Gabbana x Baci
La Dolce Vita, much? Dolce & Gabbana recently teamed up with Baci for a limited edition, show-stoppingly designed chocolate. Hazelnut and lemon Baci’s, wrapped in a colourful Dolce & Gabbana print are complemented by a collectable tin that is unmistakably Italian. The campaign content didn’t disappoint either, both brands maximised the partnership by sharing a robust series of bold content across their social media.
This particular partnership came at the perfect time, with plenty of lead time to Christmas and a gift-able, festive vibe with their perfectly executed co-branding.
Allens x The Australian Women’s Weekly
Take me back to being six years old, flicking through my mum’s AWW ‘Birthday Cake Book’ to make the most important decision of the year, as far as I was concerned. So, it was absolutely genius for Allens to partner with the Australian Women’s Weekly on a new take - the ‘Party Cake Book’ - reinventing the classic birthday cakes using Allens lollies.
The partnership ignited inspiration, fond memories and a brand affinity that’s incredibly hard to tap into within such a saturated marketing landscape. At the heart of this partnership was nostalgia and it no doubt deserves a place in the top 5 partnerships of 2021!
Kip&Co x Babbarra
This stunning artist collaboration took over two years to bring to life, and it was well worth the wait! Kip&Co partnered with five artists from the Babbarra Women’s Centre in the Northern Territory to release one of the most beautiful ranges of bed linen I’ve seen. Each of the sets feature a unique artwork cemented in story, created by one of the five artists and profits are split 50/50 in a best practice collaboration.
Kip&Co are no strangers to collaborations either, placing partnerships at the heart of their business and stating that collaborations have “become part of the DNA of the brand.”
As we leave 2021 behind, the opportunity for brands to get creative and maximize their marketing efforts with partnerships has never been better. Collaboration marketing has now become a staple in every forward-thinking business’s marketing strategy, and the possibilities truly are endless. Will we see more 90’s inspired collabs in the new year? I for one can only hope so! What I’d also love to see are collaborations that bring socially driven brands into the mainstream arena, brands making considered engagement choices with meaningful experiences and IRL activations, and can someone please do a collaboration that includes croissants?
Partnerships are here to stay as brands continue to reap the rewards of sticking together. I can’t wait to see what 2022 has in store.