We love a good brand mash up. Collabs have become a ‘go-to’ strategic move in recent years, a new way to see your favourite brand by combining it with another for a campaign – sometimes limited, sometimes for life.
We love the ones that surprise us, make us look twice, think again. We also love the ones that are pure power moves, two brands that were clearly meant to be, think Nike and Michael Jordan. There’s no denying it, but the brand collaboration is one of marketing’s most exciting strategies where two brands get multiple benefits from the partnership (reaching new audiences, strengthening their presence in a sector and more).
Taking the theme of brand collaborations for our latest ‘Red Setter Selects’, we asked the team to share some of their favourite brand mash ups. Starting with probably the world’s most successful collaboration…
Jack - Nike x Michael Jordan
“Mike & Nike: the collab that birthed a brand. Athlete shoe deals were nothing new, but when Nike teamed up with the basketball GOAT as a rookie in 1984, the world went wild. The Air Jordan 1s are iconic and grabbed headlines right away when they broke the NBA’s rules on only allowing white sneakers on the floor. But Nike paid every $5,000 fine Jordan received to make sure their red, black and white Air Jordan 1s continued to stand out from the crowd.
“From having never worn a pair of Nikes - which at the time were predominantly running shoes - to the Jordan brand of today which continues to launch collabs with the brightest stars from across the worlds of sport and culture, it’s been some ride. What did you expect from the GOAT baller and GOAT sports brand other than the GOAT collab, though?”
Josh - NHS x Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“The brand collaboration I have chosen is not an old, iconic campaign, but one that came into my peripheral only last month. This collaboration in question is between NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in the ‘Not Family, But Blood’ campaign.
“Launched in October 2022, this campaign sought to use the anticipation surrounding the film’s November release to recruit more young Black heritage blood donors as the NHS struggles to meet the increasing demand to treat conditions such a sickle cell (now needing 250 donations every single day to treat the disease, risen from 150 five years ago).
“The launch met an incredible response, with a 700% uplift in registrations recorded within the first week, with an average age of 31. Picturehouse cinemas is also hosting blood testing pop-ups at their Brixton, Hackney and Finsbury Park locations, with an exclusive pre-movie screening for invited NHSBT patients, donors and partners, alongside representatives from Black local businesses.”
Miriam - CK1 Palace: Palace Skateboards x Calvin Klein
“Palace x Calvin Klein. The collaboration that saw Pet Shop Boys, Willem Dafoe, Lourdes Leon (Madonna’s daughter) and Dame Joan Collins feature in the same promo video, cruising around New York eating pizza, driving taxis, and sharing the love. I mean, isn’t that the definition of iconic?
“Definitely ‘break the internet’ potential at least. That’s what it felt like to me anyway. Maybe not everyone gets it? I think it’s the film nerd and child tomboy in me that got super excited when the video and apparel capsule dropped back in April. I think that’s why I like Palace so much. They’re a British indie skate house who’ve grown to global recognition, but they’ll always hype their skate-culture roots, catering to the weird people and glamour gods alike.
“The capsule sees Calvin Klein’s classic underwear waistband tickertaped with ‘Palace’ in Futura font, and the new logotype itself is a merge made in heaven – the overlay of ‘Palace’ and ‘ck’ in the original ‘ck’ monogram serif font makes me go “ahhh, this was always meant to happen”, even if no one saw it coming. I think that’s the best type of brand collaboration – unexpected.
“Palace’s previous team-ups have included Moschino, Ralph Lauren, Stella Artois, Harrods, Adidas, and Mercedes-AMG to name a few, with the news of Palace x Gucci breaking on October 14. Surely, with names like these, Palace are the king of brand collabs.”
Kate - CAMPARI x Percival
“My favourite brand collaboration of late has been Campari’s collab with clothing brand Percival celebrating Negroni Week. Partial to a Negroni myself I was immediately drawn to the 60s inspired knitwear collection. Taking inspiration from Italian après sport, the collection features a selection of high quality and stylish looks, reimagined through a contemporary lens as a tribute to the iconic drinks brand.
“Percival founder, Chris Grove said: “We at Percival have been long-time fans of Campari and the Negroni. So, when the opportunity arose to partner with this iconic Italian brand, we jumped at the opportunity. Campari is at the heart of every Negroni, and we at Percival like to think we’re at the heart of British menswear—we are so excited to share with you the fruits of this collaboration.””
Elisha - Ben and Jerry’s x Tony’s Chocolonely Ice Cream
“Being a self-proclaimed chocoholic and having a penchant for all things indulgent isn’t the only reason I chose this as my dream brand collaboration.
“Earlier this year, Ben and Jerry’s joined forces with ethical chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely to deliver a limited-edition Tony’s Chocolonely flavoured ice cream, dubbed “Chocolatey Love A-fair”. As opposed to generating social buzz and sales, the primary goal of this collaboration was to drive impact. The chocolate industry can be a very inequitable place for cocoa farmers. These two brands recognised the similarities in their values and decided to join forces on a mission to raise awareness of the inequalities in the chocolate trade and make chocolate 100% slave free.
“Not only did this keep me company on many Friday nights at home, but it reminds us as champions for design pioneers about the power brands have in shaping culture and sparking movements towards the better good.”
Vicky - Hello Kitty x Cup Noodles
“When it feels like Hello Kitty has maxed out every single possible brand collab (Nike for the sports kids; Doc Martens for the goth kids; Converse for the skate kids; Pringles for the snackers; Häagen-Dazs for everyone!), it delivers the most obvious partnership yet. Cup Noodles x Hello Kitty.
“Both iconic Japanese brands born in the 1970s. Whilst many of the most successful brand collabs are the ones that surprise you, I love the ones that feel like they were meant to be. You could imagine that Hello Kitty would sustain herself only on Cup Noodles, the instant noodle brand. And their colours match! The Cup Noodles core colours of red and white match the iconic palette of Hello Kitty with her distinctive red bow.
“Whilst the collab offered up delightful merch of clothing, pyjamas, plushies, toys and games, it sadly didn’t deliver Hello Kitty instant noodles (what a culinary dream come true that would be!).”
Jack (again but he loved this theme so much!) - The Grateful Dead x Lithuania basketball team
“The US Dream Team was always winning basketball gold at the 1992 Olympics, stacked as they were with NBA legends. But the Lithuanian National Team enlisted the help of rockers Grateful Dead, who sponsored them in a campaign that saw them take bronze. They achieved the feat in tie-dye uniforms emblazoned with a dunking skeleton and it’s a design that I deeply, desperately wish to own to this day.
“Most importantly of all, this collab represented the freedom and liberation of the minnow nation from the clutches of the Soviet Union. Just four years earlier, four of the Lithuanian players played in the gold winning Soviet team, but the country received no credit – that went instead to their persecutors and oppressors.
“The whole world was talking about the Dream Team. But they were soon talking about The Other Dream Team, and their natty, psychedelic kits from the strangest of bedfellows.”