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Unlikely Pairings: 6 Brands, 3 Partnerships, Surprising Success

July 16, 2018 Digital Media Solutions

Sometimes powerful marketing calls for bold measures and unlikely pairings.

Many brands choose partnerships based on industry correlation, like the Target and Lilly Pulitzer collaboration, because pairings like these seem to make sense. Target, a department store retailer, partnered with Lilly Pulitzer, a high-end, luxury clothing designer, to produce something new: the brand name at affordable prices. The H&M/Alexander Wang collaboration and many others followed a similar path.

But by defying the rules and partnering with brands in contrasting industries, surprising partnerships can strategically shock audiences, garner media attention and provoke consumer engagement. Branded experiences like the following plane premieres, workout classes and pop culture commercials did all three.

Entourage and Virgin Airlines

When the beloved HBO show, Entourage, concluded its fourth season, the show was off the air for more than a year. Looking to make a bold statement, the Entourage season five premiere was hosted on a Virgin Airlines plane, co-branded to Entourage Air.

Why the Entourage and Virgin Airlines Partnership was Unexpected:

Hosting the season five premiere in the air en route from New York to Vegas was a groundbreaking marketing strategy. A premiere in the sky offered an isolated and exclusive event.

Why the Entourage and Virgin Airlines Partnership Worked:

Virgin Airlines was open to a partnership with Entourage because the brand was looking for a way to announce their newest route: New York to Vegas. With press at the take-off and landing of the Entourage Air flight, the collaboration was deemed successful.

Equinox and Delta: Sweatlag

To help consumers beat jetlag, Delta partnered with Equinox to scientifically design a workout inspired by Delta Airbus A350  — with panoramic windows, enhanced air quality and altered lighting. Sweatlag, the workout performed immediately after landing, is giving individuals a better chance at avoiding jetlag and maintaining normal life.

Why the Equinox and Delta Partnership was Unexpected:

The job of any airline is to get consumers from point A to point B. Delta took their customer service a step further when they introduced the A350 aircraft, which helps consumers beat jetlag while in transit. Delta continued on their path of improved customer service when they partnered with Equinox to provide Sweatlag workout classes.

Delta’s dedication to consumers’ comfort went further than many could have predicted, pleasing customers with workout sessions and health-focused aircrafts.

Why the Equinox and Delta Partnership Worked:

As the Sweatlag classes gained traction, the A350 aircraft, which flew from LAX to Shanghai on July 2, 2018, gained publicity as well, increasing product awareness for Delta.

The limited-time Sweatlag classes, which have been crafted to improve circulation, heighten heart rate and amplify energy, are available only at Equinox gyms in LA through August 2. Plus, SkyMiles Members can receive a complimentary training assessment and seven-day trial at Equinox gyms worldwide, giving Delta consumers incentive for visiting an Equinox gym.

Budweiser and Burger King: Whassup

Budweiser and Burger King partnered to recreate Budweiser’s 1999 ad, “Whassup.” In the nostalgic 2018 version, “the king of burgers meets the king of beers.”

Why the Budweiser and Burger King Partnership was Unexpected:

Consumers can’t purchase Budweiser at Burger King and can’t enjoy a Whopper at the local bar, so the partnership seemed disjointed on paper.

Why the Budweiser and Burger King Partnership Worked:

Nearly identical to the original, the new “Whassup” video includes The Burger King, resulting in a pop culture hack, as MarketingDive says. While neither brand can sell the other’s product, these two brands boosted exposure by combining audiences on a classic marketing catchphrase. Consumers can order their favorite Whopper to go and enjoy it while “watching the game, having a Bud.”

From plane premieres to anti-jetlag workouts to burger and beer recommendations, brands need to think out of the box to create buzz-worthy campaigns.

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About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Digital Media Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: DMS) is a leading provider of technology-enabled digital performance advertising solutions connecting consumers and advertisers within auto, home, health and life insurance plus a long list of top consumer verticals. The DMS first-party data asset, proprietary advertising technology, significant proprietary media distribution and data-driven processes help digital advertising clients de-risk their advertising spend while scaling their customer bases. Learn more at

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