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Top co-branding and affinity partnerships
/Partners/By Streamline Marketing

The Top Co-Branding and Affinity Partnerships – Why They Worked

“Affinity partnership” may be a new term, but the concept behind it isn’t new at all. Brands have been partnering with other brands for decades.

Sometimes they cross-promote each other’s products. Sometimes they create exclusive products for one another. And sometimes, they collaborate to create a co-branded product line.

Today we’re taking a look at some of the most successful partnerships that have happened in recent years.

Here are the top co-branding affinity partnerships — and why they worked.


Co-Branding vs. Co-Marketing: What’s the Difference?

When we talk about co-branding and affinity marketing, we’re referring to two individual brands that partner together to create a product. Whatever that new product is, it’s a representation of both brands involved.

The Taco Bell/Doritos partnership detailed below is a perfect example of co-branding. Or, for instance, when Nike partnered with Apple for Apple Watch Nike +. A common example is when your favorite brand or retailer partners with a credit card company for a co-branded credit card like Bloomingdale’s American Express.

This type of affinity partnership differs from co-marketing. With co-marketing, brands align their marketing efforts to promote one another’s products. It doesn’t involve creating a joint product of their own.

The Uber and Spotify partnership is an example of co-marketing. With this partnership, Uber passengers have the ability to create their own Spotify playlist for their ride. There is no new product involved, but together, their services offer added value to the customer.

Related: 5 Ways Affinity Marketing Will Boost Your ROI


Co-Branding Benefits Both Parties Involved

The key to successful co-branding is to make it beneficial to both partners. Both partners need to have something to gain and need to be able to provide some value to each other. Brand partnerships need to be a win-win for both parties involved.

One way to do that is to partner with a brand that shares and understands your target audience. But that’s not all. You’ll also need to have a co-branding strategy and agree upon co-marketing techniques. This can be tricky, especially when you have two large brands with a high level of brand awareness and market success.

Here are five examples of co-branding partnerships that made sense and made a mark on their specific industry.


Taco Bell and Doritos

When Taco Bell partnered with Doritos to create Doritos Locos Tacos, they probably never imagined their co-branding campaign would be the success that it still is.

Taco Bell sold more than 100 million Doritos Locos Tacos in its first ten weeks. They even had to hire an additional 15,000 workers in its stores to keep up with the increased traffic and high demand.

Now that’s the true mark of a successful co-branding partnership.

So why did this work so well? Because both Taco Bell and Doritos share the same consumer. Young people with a penchant for cheap, fast, junk food — which is exactly where both brands excel.

The marriage between the two companies was and remains a perfect pairing. The original Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco that debuted in 2012 is still on their fast food menu today.

Betty Crocker and Hershey’s

From cookie mix and cupcake mix to ready-made frosting, the pairing of Betty Crocker and Hershey’s is nothing less than super sweet. And it makes perfect sense.

Reese’s dessert bars. Hershey’s S’mores cupcake mix. Almond Joy frosting. The product line-up continues to change but continues to be a success. And that’s because it’s natural.

Betty Crocker and Hershey’s are leading brand names in their respective industries, making this a powerful duo. Both partners have integrity and authenticity, and both know how to create products that people love to eat.

There’s nothing about this partnership that seems unusual or forced. These two brands have gone hand-in-hand long before they ever pooled their brand equity to launch a new product.


NBA and Beats by Dr. Dre

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The Celtics, 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and the Lakers all have their own one-of-a-kind headphones made by Beats by Dr. Dre.

Beats by Dr. Dre added team logos and colors to their Studio 3 Wireless Headphones, making them a must-have for b-ball loving Beats loyalists.

The NBA partnered with Beats to debut this new line of headphones in 2018. But that’s not all they did. They also made Beats the official supplier of all audio products for the NBA — a deal that transcends a product line of just six specific headphones.

Again, the perfect pairing of products. Why? Because athletes aren’t just athletes — over the years, they’ve become style icons as well. And the most stylish way to listen to music (loudly) is with a pair of Beats.


H&M and Luxury Fashion Designers

Since 2004, H&M has collaborated with top designers to release limited edition co-branded collections. Jimmy Choo. Marni. Stella McCartney. Kenzo. Maison Martin Margiela. Versace. Lanvin. The Swedish retailer has worked with all of these designers (and others) in the past.

And they continue to release collaborative collections with new designers every single year.

But perhaps the best example of this rotating partnership model is the collaboration between H&M and Balmain. The Balmain collection debuted in H&M stores and online in November 2015. At their brick and mortar stores, lines stretched around the block. Online, their website got so much traffic it wasn’t even accessible.

What makes these partnerships such a success is that the H&M customer has the same taste as the customer that buys those designer brands. They just can’t afford them.

H&M’s annual collaborative collections offer men and women the chance to buy a designer piece for a fraction of the price. For the designers, it’s simply more exposure for their own brand in a new market.


BMW and Louis Vuitton

The partnership between BMW and Louis Vuitton is effortless, and it’s obvious why. They share the exact same customer base with the same desire for luxury and demand for superior products.

These two giants partnered together to create a four-piece luggage collection. The collection, which retailed for $20,000, was designed specifically to fit into the trunk of the BMW i8. The idea of having that luggage in the trunk of that car was to create the ultimate luxury travel experience.

Exceptional materials, expert craftsmanship, and sleek, modern style are at the heart of both brands. And while the partnership was based on specific products, their marketing strategy was more about selling a lifestyle and an experience.

Related: What is Partnership Marketing [And How Can It Increase Sales?]


In January 2002, Beyonce dropped a new collection of Ivy Park, her co-branded athleisure line with adidas. It sold out online almost instantly, proving that consumers have a thirst for co-branded products when they make sense, and they’re done right.

And that’s the point — a co-branded partnership needs to be logical.

You don’t have to be Beyonce or Mastercard to have a successful co-branding or affinity partnership. A small business can make a bigger splash when they team up with a large brand that is working toward a similar goal.

For a co-branding relationship to work, both partners need to have a shared set of values. Their marketing campaigns need to project the same vibe and appeal to the same type of customer. They need to understand each other and have a certain level of compatibility for it to work.

It can’t be forced, it shouldn’t have to be explained, and it shouldn’t be a stretch. For a co-branding partnership to be a success, it has to make sense.

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