Let’s start off with that most obvious of questions what is a marketing partnership? I like to define it as…

“Where two or more brands collaborate via strategic joint marketing campaigns to help each other achieve their objectives.”

A partnership campaign is just like any brand marketing campaign yet there are twice as many objectives to consider, your own and your partner brands. Most partnership campaigns aim for new acquisition, loyalty or brand awareness.

A joint campaign can be one offering a discount when you purchase the other. It can be a mutual campaign where each promotes the other via their social channels. It can be a sponsorship with a major sports brand or latest movie release. It could be a joint product where both have been fused together to create a new one and marketed accordingly.

Choose your tracking

First things first, it’s pivotal that we track effectively as we have two brands marketing under one campaign. Online we can use cookies and tracking codes implemented at different touch points along the user journey. Offline we can use codes, loyalty cards or purchase actions. When it comes to tracking you want to select a process that works for both partners:

  • Promo ID – linked to your internal data or CRM.
  • Promo codes – using codes such as ‘TicketSale’ or ‘CheapTrains’.
  • Third-party tracking – affiliate tracking, Adservers, Doubleclick.
  • UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) – tracked via Google Analytics.

Analysing the campaign

Measuring results means gathering the data from your data-warehouse, Google Analytics, affiliate program, DTM (Dynamic Tag Manager) or Adserver. Once extracted you will need to slice and dice customer data to pull conclusions and illustrate the results accordingly.


As performance marketers accurate analysis is the commandment of our industry, what makes our marketing unique over offline is that we can prove success. Using our tracking links and pulled data we can take the customer IDs and draw conclusions from their activity. Did the display ads, social posts, or newsletters attract the forecasted customer numbers for both sides? Did both achieve the CPAs (Cost per Action) they were aiming for at a positive ROI (Return on Investment)?

A good example of this is when I worked on a joint content campaign with Xero, an emerging accounting technology, we promoted their content via our communication channels and vice versa. Both embedded affiliate trackers and analysed the number of customers clicking through. A very simple digital partnership that was effective at attracting each other’s audience to our propositions.


Away from the devices it’s a different kettle of fish. Any brand that advertises offline experiences the ongoing problem of tracking their outcome. Some popular solutions include; media value, promo codes or mobile data. Media value is an industry agreed figure allocating a value every time a logo was viewed, sometimes five times the spend. Channels such as PR tend to rely on such measurements. The problem is rather obvious, it’s a fictional valuation and simply not good enough in today’s digital age.

Mobile data is more interesting in that electronic billboards might in the future start to sync with our mobile activity using geolocation, tracking those who search for a brand after they have walked passed an ad’s location. Again though it’s based partially on assumptions.

A suggested way is to use a promo code where one can verbally, via receipts or loyalty cards take these into stores for additional benefits from a partner brand. It is most effective when overlapped with media value and location based data to provide a full picture for both brands to know when actions have been taken. It is also a great way of taking offline activity online, by entering the code via onsite checkout pages. I can’t sugarcoat it though, we still don’t have a clean answer but it can be done far more effectively than ever before and especially for partnerships.

Aside from acquisition or retention, brand impact can be measured through industry surveys or focus groups. Has the partner brand created an uplift in your popularity? Is your proposition now clearer due to being alongside a well-known brand?

Analysing the partnership

Aside from customer and brand impact the partnership itself can also be evaluated. Both sides should ask themselves whether the partnership was a success and whether to move forward with future projects or end collaborations. Such questions to ask are:

  • How cooperative was the partner to work with?
  • Did they ensure a stable relationship?
  • Were full contractual terms met?
  • Were payments made and creatives delivered on time?
  • Did the partner brand work well with third party agencies?
  • Was the partner brand useful in terms of knowledge sharing?
  • Do both brands envisage running the campaign again?

Partner scorecard

Some brands like to rate a partner, especially if working with several at a time. Partners can be rated based on answers to certain questions, like the ones above, to determine a score. If the campaign analysis is then placed alongside these answers it can provide a useful picture of an entire partnership.

The campaign vs the partnership

There will be instances where a successful campaign can still mean a failed partnership and vice versa. It is possible for a highly profitable campaign to have been fraught with difficulties; an uncooperative unresponsive partner can mean a difficult partnership and one that you may not wish to run again. On the contrary, a negative campaign with a positive partner means they’re the right fit but there might be issues to overcome for future success.

James Cristal will be sharing more of his affiliate marketing wisdom in October at PerformanceIN Live. For a taste of his session, click here