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10 Successful Marketing Collabs—and How They Changed the Industry

Ever wonder what led to Taco Bell partnering with Frito Lay? Or why a luxury brand would team up with Target? Some marketing partnerships just make sense; others may feel like they came out of left field.

ClickUp compiled some of the most iconic marketing and branding collaborations from various sources, exploring what happens when a fast food chain works jointly with the hottest talent in the music industry—or whether a beloved product can continue to thrive when the packaging changes due to a new partnership.

Some alliances proved hugely profitable: One collaboration opened doors for college athletes to generate income off their personal brand; another curated an experience for concertgoers that changed the trajectory of an entire industry. These collaborations are more than marketing tactics and strategies: They shifted elements of our culture and community.

Keep reading for a high dose of nostalgia with 10 successful brand collaborations.

1. Marshmello and Fortnite

Marshmello performing at an event
via Johannes Eisele and Getty Images

With 62 million views on YouTube as of October 2022, the coming together of electronic dance music artist Marshmello and the multiplayer online video game Fortnite in February 2019 revolutionized the concert experience thanks to the metaverse.

The in-game virtual concert proved a massive success, bringing in 11 million players for the 10-minute show. Since then, Fortnite has created other groundbreaking collaborations with other artists, including Travis Scott and Ariana Grande.

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2. Travis Scott and McDonald’s

Travis Scott in front of a red car and McDonald's
via Jerritt Clark and Getty Images

McDonald’s is no stranger to celebrity and meme collaborations, from the “Rick and Morty”-driven revival of the chain’s Szechuan sauce to a meal launched with K-pop group BTS. In September 2020, the Cactus Jack meal with rapper Travis Scott became among the most successful partnerships in McDonald’s history.

Known for his record-breaking merchandise sales, Scott proved to be the perfect collaborator for the fast food behemoth, which saw a 4.6% increase in sales. Demand for Cactus Jack meals—which included a Quarter Pounder with cheese and fries with barbecue sauce—left some restaurants running out of ingredients, and netted Scott $20 million from the partnership.

3. GoPro and Red Bull

GoPro athlete holding a camera holder
via Mark Thompson and Getty Images

GoPro and Red Bull forged a gravity-defying union: an energy drink that “gives you wings” partnering with a company known for airborne stunts.

The two brands, which had co-sponsored events previously, made their partnership official via a multiyear deal in 2016. Those terms included Red Bull gaining equity in GoPro and GoPro serving as Red Bull’s exclusive provider for point-of-view imaging technology at all of Red Bull’s media events.

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4. Mastercard and Apple

A person holding an iPhone with Apple Pay on the screen
via Hadrian and Shutterstock

With security top of mind, Apple partnered with Mastercard in 2016 to bring a secure, contactless payment system to life.

Mastercard delivered a Digital Enablement Service allowing Apple Pay users to conveniently make safe and seamless transactions. Strategic marketing tactics led to massive success through social media, which increased its popularity and user base.

5. Isaac Mizrahi and Target

Target executives and Isaac Mizrahi  posing for a photo
via Stephen Lovekin and Getty Images

Named one of Target’s most influential design partnerships, the alliance between Target and Isaac Mizrahi in 2003 ushered in an era of high-low collaborations.

The designer was reportedly uneasy at first about the partnership, given a failed attempt by his idol Halston who collaborated with JCPenney. Luckily for designers—and fashionistas on a budget—the collab between Isaac Mizrahi and Target was massively successful and popularized the movement to bring high-end designer names to a wider consumer audience.

6. College athletes and a variety of brands

Collegiate athlete wearing green Nike pants
via Icon Sports Wire and Getty Images

College athletes can finally profit from their likeness thanks to the NCAA’s adoption of the name, image, and likeness opportunities policy in June 2021, which has led to a surge in brand sponsorship deals for student-athletes nationwide.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young benefited from a brand deal with CashApp in 2021, while UCLA quarterback Chase Griffin secured multiple deals with top brands like Boost Mobile and Discord in October 2022, solidifying his personal brand. And who could forget the partnership between Nebraska freshman Decoldest Crawford and a local air conditioning company in the summer of 2022?

7. Lip Smacker and Dr. Pepper

A can of Dr. Pepper soda
via Anet_S and Shutterstock

Any brand looking to market to teenage girls may want to take a few notes from the longstanding flavor partnership between Dr. Pepper and Lip Smacker, whose collaboration began in 1975. This unlikely duo established brand loyalty among celebrities and beauty brand addicts alike.

Lip Smacker discontinued its Dr. Pepper-flavored lip balm in July 2022 without much fanfare, much to the disappointment of longtime fans who loved its iconic scent.

8. Taco Bell and Doritos

Taco Bell and Doritos taco
via Joshua Blanchard and Getty Images

When fast food brand Taco Bell sought to reinvent its signature hardshell taco, it had to think outside the bun. The partnership between Taco Bell and Doritos led to 500 million Locos Tacos selling within 14 months of the item’s release.

This collaboration wasn’t just a brilliant idea that revitalized Taco Bell’s marketing to younger consumers: It also created 15,000 jobs when demand skyrocketed.

9. Beats by Dre and the NBA

Kevin Durant wearing Dr. Dre headphones
via Sean Gardner and Getty Images

Becoming the official partner of the NBA is no small feat. However, Beats by Dre has held its own as a top brand since Apple acquired it in 2014. The multiyear partnership even included merchandising deals with the WNBA.

Considering the established popularity of the headphones brand with NBA players and other athletes, the collaboration was ripe for success. Through the strategic partnership, fans could also purchase branded merchandise from their favorite teams.

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10. Chatfuel and HubSpot

Hubspot homepage on a computer screen
via Postmodern Studio and Shutterstock

Chatbots are commonplace for businesses looking to streamline the customer experience, from sales to marketing and beyond. So when customer relationship management platform HubSpot teamed up with chatbot platform Chatfuel, the companies set out to create a chatbot that made automated communication feel more personal and conversational.

The partnership proved so successful that Chatfuel created a free ebook to help other brands interested in chatbot integration.

Create a Lasting Legacy Through Collaboration

Younger generations are growing increasingly wary of traditional advertising due to concerns around data privacy and brand ethics alongside an oversaturated digital market. That means businesses need to come up with creative ways to stay relevant and capture their audience’s attention.

By collaborating with beloved celebrities and iconic establishments, these brands now have the ability to leverage a new audience while leaving a lasting cultural legacy, and building a loyal and trusting fanbase in the process.

Guest Writer:

Zanade Mann

Zanade Mann

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