While traditional sponsorship is frequently the commitment of funds in exchange for straightforward alignment with a property, strategic partnership can take on many forms. That is why it is so much more valuable to both your brand and your consumers to move away from simple sponsorship dollars and toward partnerships that are unique and founded on objectives. In this week’s TACK10 Tuesday Top, we explore the Top 5 Types of Partners to Look For. Each of these categories of strategic partnership serve their own unique purposes, but are designed to provide added value to both sides of the relationship over the long term.

1. Technology Partners
Is your brand looking to design an app, or to develop software that could heighten customer experience and engagement? Oftentimes the best approach to leveraging new technology is to find a strategic partner that lives and breathes that technology every day. Not only can partnering with a technology company be more cost effective than hiring a developer to do the work, the expertise and co-exposure can open doors for both partners that would have otherwise stayed shut.

App or software development does not have to be the focus of a technology partnership. Take, for example, the partnership between our friends UP Express and Cisco. Cisco is a founding partner of the UP Express, the air rail link between Union Station and Toronto Pearson Airport, providing the infrastructure to ensure seamless connectivity at stations and on trains. In addition, Cisco powers the UP Express’ digital screen network, delivering content and information to travellers.

2. Distribution/Sales Partners
Partnering with a retailer, either online or brick-and-mortar, is more than simply selling your product in a specific store. A distribution partnership can ensure your product or service is marketed to its full potential, and being strategic in your search for a retail partner can allow you to reach either the broadest or most targeted set of consumers – whichever reflects the goals of your brand. Like in any partnership, a distribution partner can also expand its scope to include the production of new co-branded products and services to reflect your brand’s objectives.

Back in December, we did a round-up of the best partnerships of 2016. One in particular, between UNICEF and Target, made it into another one of our blog posts discussing the expanded retail partner relationship and the co-creation of the Kid Power Band sold in Target stores.

3. Media/Content Partners
Much like the importance of a technology partner in the use of new technology within your brand, a media or content creation partner can provide tremendous value in terms of social media content, public relations, marketing, creative campaigns and more. Even if your brand has in-house teams that are able to deliver in all of these categories, a partner can heighten the end result, bringing a new set of skills to the table and new audiences to the mix.

Influencer marketing is a great example of this type of partnership. Leveraging an influencer’s reach to help promote a product or co-create a campaign can lead to a return on investment that is much higher than a one-dimensional campaign. In 2016, Subway was able to expand its national Sandwish campaign into an integrated multi-channel success through a partnership with Food Banks Canada that allowed for social media influencers and Much Music personalities to join in on the promotion.

4. Product/Program Creation Partners
Sports leagues and events are notorious for utilizing traditional sponsorship in their materials. Think of the last hockey game you watched – you probably noticed the string of logos outfitting the boards around the ice, but the chances of you remembering each individual brand is slim. That is because the added value of a strategic partnership is missing. When a partner comes into an event or sports property with the ability to activate, to co-brand a product or service, or to create programming that is completely new and exciting, the partnership becomes a lot more valuable than a name on a board; to the partners as well as to the consumers experiencing the new programming first-hand.

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is Toronto’s marquee summer fair, bringing in over 1.5 million people annually within an 18-day period. With such a large presence, it is important to create programs that add value to the guests who attend the fair. There are so many great partnerships on site at the CNE, but just one example that reflects a good program creation partner is Pizza Nova. Instead of simply selling on site and paying for a logo on a sign, Pizza Nova has been activating at the CNE with interactive pizza-making workshops for kids who want to be chefs for the day.

5. Value-Providing Partners
Value-providing partners are the closest thing to traditional sponsorship, yet are still very different. These partners donate funds or in-kind contributions to a brand or a cause, but do so to reflect specific outcomes or to support certain initiatives. This is commonly seen in cause marketing partnerships in which a brand partners with a non-profit organization that relates to the brand’s values and objectives.

Going back to our friends at Food Banks Canada, we could pull multiple examples of partners providing value either financially or through in-kind contributions. One example is Walmart Canada, who works nationally and at the grassroots level to develop fundraising efforts, food drives, corporate donations, and provides tools required by the food banks to run smoothly including fridges, trucks and warehouse space.

Strategic partnerships work on a much deeper level than sponsorship, engaging the partners and their stakeholders in all aspects of the relationship – even if the outcome is still a contribution of some sort.