Modern Marketing M&C Saatchi Client Relationships

Long-standing agency-brand relationships are impossible without trust

By Melanie Baroni | Business director

M&C Saatchi Group

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The Drum Network article

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July 15, 2022 | 6 min read

Establishing a strong client-partner relationship is essential for good business. M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment’s business director Melanie Baroni shares why trust is such an important but undervalued quality in building business relationships.

M&C Saatchi on how to build better agency-brand relationships. Image credit: Cytonn Photography/Unsplash

M&C Saatchi on how to build better agency-brand relationships / Cytonn Photography via Unsplash

As in all walks of life, trust is the most fundamental part of any successful relationship. Agencies and brands must work together to maximize outcomes, as neither is wholly responsible for success.

Some of the greatest long-standing brand-agency partnerships are ones that offer the freedom to challenge each other, encouraging both parties to take creative risks and go beyond the expected. It’s not only vital for brands to challenge agencies, but for the agencies to back themselves in order to change the game for their clients. Underpinning the best relationships is the trust that both are doing so with the best intentions.

At M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, we have multiple long-standing relationships with clients including Coca-Cola, Reebok, Ballantine’s and Virgin Media O2 that, in some cases, have endured for more than a decade. They work because we truly embed ourselves into the client teams so that we become an extension of them. It means we can be much more in tune with the business, which inevitably results in campaigns that are a credible and authentic fit for the brand. Of course, there is a risk that over time briefs and ideas can stagnate, especially in sponsorships that have perennial cycles, which is why challenging each other in the right way helps keep things fresh.

We also can’t always view the success of a brand-agency relationship without considering the impact of third parties. In sponsorship, rights holders also have a huge impact on the effectiveness of campaigns. If the brand, rights holder and agency aren’t aligned on vision, values and objectives, then that will limit the potential of work from the outset.

This is why, most importantly, before any campaign is developed, it is essential that a medium- to long-term strategy is in place that meets the objectives of the brand, rights holder and agency. Only complete alignment between these parties can give a campaign the best possible opportunity for success.

How best to achieve this? When it comes to new partnerships, the immersion process is vital. Getting to know your partners quickly is a vital task, whether it be between agency and client, or client and sponsorship partner.

Our approach has always been to ensure we have a robust plan in place to set the course for the first 100 days. This helps us to really get to the heart of a client’s business and lays solid foundations for the relationship moving forward, enabling campaigns to be on point strategically as well as enabling a process where creativity can flourish.

As specialists in passion point marketing, where a client seeks to engage audiences through the things they love, we are acutely aware of the need for their presence in a sport, entertainment or lifestyle sector to be credible. Involving partners in the immersion process as early as possible ensures that the intricacies of a particular passion sector are reflected in a client’s strategic approach.

The best possible outcome of this process is authentic work with the potential to provide a long-term brand platform.

Two of the best examples of this are O2 – a long-standing partner of the RFU – whose Wear The Rose proposition has become synonymous with supporting the England rugby teams, and Ballantine’s True Music, a partnership with Boiler Room, one of the world’s leading dance music platforms.

Although the nuances of these platforms evolve on an ongoing basis, each has made a significant contribution to driving significant brand differentiation.

This is all down to the continued vibrancy and dynamism of the long-term agency-client-partner relationships that underpin them.

Modern Marketing M&C Saatchi Client Relationships

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M&C Saatchi Group

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