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By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

July 2, 2024 | 6 min read

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Partnerships are an incredible tool to help brands find their voice in culture, say MoneyGram’s CMO Greg Hall and Cutwater CCO Chuck McBride – but what lessons from the iconic MoneyGram brand’s F1 partnership can help other brands drive genuine engagement with fans?

MoneyGram Haas F1 team was more than about just visibility; it was about shared values

MoneyGram Haas F1 team was more than about just visibility; it was about shared values / MoneyGram

In an era where traditional advertising methods are often tuned out, brands are tuning in to cultural partnerships to connect with their audiences. But mainstream sponsorships can often get lost in the noise. Instead, brands who look for “eyebrow raising marketing strategies” and opportunities in “novelty areas” can create clear, impactful connections with fans.

That was the driving thought behind Greg Hall’s strategy, the chief marketing officer of MoneyGram – the 80-year-old global cross-border payments company – in the organization’s transformation from a retail-focused legacy brand to a digital-first company.

In a landscape saturated with sponsorship opportunities, finding a distinctive and relevant partnership was essential. For MoneyGram, F1 offered a unique platform, around the world and especially in the US where the sport’s popularity is burgeoning. This strategic choice allowed MoneyGram to stand out, leveraging the novelty and growing interest in F1 to gain traction and visibility, as well as gaining access to new audiences.

But its partnership [note: not sponsorship] with the now MoneyGram Haas F1 team was more than about just visibility; it was about shared values. As Hall explains, “Haas and MoneyGram have a lot of similarities: two US companies with global businesses, underdogs pushing higher, growing fast, and having high aspirations. People get behind it because it’s genuine.”

Genuine fan engagement

The use of the ‘partnership’ vernacular is “a clear indication that it's different than a transactional sponsorship,” explains Chuck McBride, founder and chief creative officer of creative, media and digital ad agency Cutwater – and the creative agency of record for MoneyGram. In conversation with The Drum in Cannes, McBride and Hall explore the power of cultural partnerships in helping brands find their voice in culture.

Key to MoneyGram’s approach is the importance of alignment between a brand’s values and its chosen partnership. “It’s really a strategic alignment between a brand and an audience they’re seeking to associate with and become part of their lives,” explains McBride, creating a more authentic and resonant connection.

It’s this genuine engagement that is evident in MoneyGram’s strategy, which leveraged the global appeal of F1 to reposition itself as the company it is today - an innovative, high-tech company. The partnership with Haas has enabled MoneyGram to associate with F1’s attributes of speed, innovation and global reach, aligning perfectly with its own brand transformation.

“Sponsorships can be a badge on a jersey, a sticker on a car, but when you talk about partnership and getting the true value out of it, speaking of it in such a way, and having that partnership, to us is really fundamental,” says Hall. “And when you look at some of the best ones, historically, they’ve always had that partnership. One thing we aim to do with the cultural partnerships we have is to meld the brand and the activity together.”

Audience accelerator

And it’s vital that a successful partnership needs to be seen as authentic by the audience. “If you get the alignment of values wrong, even the consumer sees it isn’t there,” says McBride. Authenticity and genuine connection are critical, as they help ensure that the partnership resonates well beyond the immediate audience of the sponsored event.

“Cultural partnerships are an accelerant to help a brand participate more with an audience than just a transaction or sale – so it’s a really powerful tool,” adds McBride. “If it’s not a part of your toolkit, you're probably not participating with culture as much as you possibly could.”

“Sport helps transcend so many things in the world from political to social issues. People can rally around it. For us, being a global company, leaning into that sport and that ability to transcend was very important,” concludes Hall.

Checklist for successful partnerships

As MoneyGram’s F1 journey illustrates, the right cultural partnership can be a powerful accelerant for brand transformation and growth, enhancing visibility and creating deeper, more meaningful connections with audiences. So, what lessons can other brands learn from this?

  1. Align values: ensure that the partnership aligns with both the brand and the partner’s values to create an authentic connection.
  2. Define clear KPIs: establish comprehensive KPIs that measure both immediate visibility and long-term brand impact.
  3. Seek fan engagement: focus on creating genuine and authentic engagement with the target audience.
  4. Find unique opportunities: look for partnerships in areas that offer novelty and the potential for distinctiveness.
  5. Leverage shared attributes: choose partners that amplify and reflect your brand’s attributes and aspirations.

For more about MoneyGram’s F1 partnership, the right cultural partnerships and how to measure success, watch the full interview with Hall and McBride now.

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