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By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

April 1, 2021 | 7 min read

A new era of pandemic-propelled brand partnerships has arrived. Brands including Lyft and Tinder, Lysol and Tripadvisor and Zoom and Formula 1 are creating new value propositions for the cross-sections of their respective audiences. Here are the strategies behind the latest team-ups and what’s next.

Taco Bell and Doritos. Red Bull and GoPro. Alexander Wang and H&M. Co-branding has been a go-to tactic for marketers forever. However, as we emerge from lockdown, new partnerships have already proven to be a sign of the times. More surprising pairings are sure to arise in the coming months.

In the past two weeks alone, a slew of new brand partnerships have been announced. Lyft has teamed with Tinder, while Reckitt – the maker of Lysol – has joined forces with travel giant Tripadvisor and Formula 1 has inked a multiyear partnership with Zoom.

The pandemic and its rippling social and economic effects have marketers reimagining how we consume entertainment, socialize, travel and navigate life with a new emphasis on health and safety. Brands are taking note and moving to address consumers’ recalibrated demands.

These new crossovers represent a convenient means for brands to extend their reach in a way that’s beneficial to consumers, says Robert Passikoff, founder of Brand Keys, a consultancy based in New York. “These partnerships all seem to have a marketing objective that one could agree with… you know, there’s nothing wrong with ‘doing well by doing good.’”

Tinder enables the lovelorn to seamlessly catch a Lyft

Tinder and Lyft revealed a new partnership designed to help their shared customers “ease into making new connections IRL again.” The brands unveiled an integration that enables users to buy their date a Lyft ride from directly within the Tinder app.

“Like any relationship, it’s about the right place at the right time and there really is no better moment for our brands to work together,” says David Wyler, senior vice president of business development and partnerships at Tinder, said in a statement.

tinder press release

And he may be right. As the world emerges from the pandemic, it seems that both Tinder and Lyft users are more eager than ever to get back to socializing. In fact, Tinder reports that mentions of the phrase “go on a date” in user bios reached an all-time high in February. And Lyft recently witnessed weekly ride rates reach numbers not seen since March of 2020. The new deal is likely to prove advantageous to both brands.

Julia Parsons, head of partnership marketing at Lyft, said in a statement: “Although the world has been changed forever, people are yearning for human connection, cities to reopen and the moment when we can all socialize again.” She also notes that Lyft values the partnership in part due to “Tinder's inclusive policies and diverse community.”

The company announced that additional features will roll out in the coming months and exclusive perks may be made available through the partnership.

Lysol and Tripadvisor hope to build travelers’ confidence

Global travel company Tripadvisor announced its new partnership with Reckitt, the makers of Lysol, in anticipation of the post-pandemic travel surge.

Tripadvisor says that in light of the Covid-19 crisis, cleanliness has become among consumers’ top concerns. In fact, according to a 2021 consumer sentiment survey conducted by the company, 64% of US travelers feel that businesses having good sanitation measures in place — such as enhanced cleaning — is more important to them when making travel decisions today than it was when traveling pre-pandemic.

Per the announcement, both brands aim to help disseminate scientific, evidence-based advice in order to “educate accommodation providers and restaurants on best practices within their environments."

Additionally, Tripadvisor will promote five different Lysol kits – ’Restroom rescue,’ ’Disinfect & protect,’ ’Germ busters,’ ’Lysol on the go starter pack,’ and ’Lysol on the go large pack’ to businesses across the travel company’s expansive network. Business owners can also visit a dedicated landing page to purchase Lysol Disinfection and Sanitization Kits and access educational materials.

The partnership will “help travelers feel more confident and safe to travel and dine out again as they see the travel and hospitality industry take these extra steps in the disinfection of their businesses,” says Christine Maguire, general manager and vice president of global media business at Tripadvisor.

Rolled out in the US this month, the education efforts and kits are slated to expand globally in the coming months.

F1 zooms into new season with video partnership

Formula 1 and Zoom announced a new partnership, on March 25, that will bring live sports events to viewers at home via video conferencing – and will create new hospitality and business opportunities with in-person lounges at select races.

Viewers can watch 21 races via the Virtual Paddock Club, experiences that will include a variety of virtual hospitality offerings, including live updates and insights from former F1 drivers. For select races — in accordance with CDC guidelines and other regulations – guests will be able to attend F1 events onsite in new Paddock Club Business Lounges to conduct other business. Whether guests attend online or in-person, the partnership is designed to deliver “a seamless, exclusive experience.”

This is an expansion of a partnership with successfully launched last year, says Mallory Wells, brand partnerships manager at Zoom. “Looking at 2021, both parties agreed that it would be beneficial to extend the virtual experiences into the new season, as well as a variety of new ways to deepen the partnership.”

The partnership makes sense since “Formula 1 Fans globally are 53% more likely than average to be in management, senior management, or executive management positions at work. And what do professionals in the workforce rely on in their day-to-day now more than ever? Video conferencing software like Zoom,” says Chase Buckle, head of global trends at audience targeting firm GWI. "This partnership takes advantage of the intuitive crossover between Formula 1 fans and the types of consumers who are regularly using Zoom.”

For Zoom, says Wells, “the partnership showcases how our platform provides unique solutions to all types of businesses and can keep everyone connected and communicating, regardless of location.”

Looking to the future of post-pandemic partnerships

As brands across sectors continue to team up in creative bids to expand their reach and inform consumer decision-making, they will certainly be subject to scrutiny. Research indicates that consumers are more savvy than ever, which informs the way they navigate the market.

In fact, the authors of the Walker "Customer 2020" report concluded that today’s business leaders struggle to keep pace as “interactions at every stage of the [customer] journey are becoming more complex,” challenging decision-makers to lean further into “the big three: personalization, ease, and speed.”

By and large, consumers will no longer fall for cheap gimmicks; there needs to be a real value-add created by branded partnerships in order to convince consumers to engage, says Passikoff.

He anticipates that brands considering partnership will have an uphill battle ahead of them to prove their value to target audiences once the world opens up. Passikoff emphasizes that any brand partnership must be “the right fit” and provide a seamless experience.

“There’s the unwritten law: thou shalt not piss off the consumer.”

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