Paola Cuevas
Paola Cuevas

In today’s PR and marketing world, it takes more than traditional PR to drive consumers’ engagement and awareness for food & beverage brands. In an industry oversaturated with activations, media events, and co-branded partnerships, it’s crucial for food and beverage brands to execute strategic partnerships to increase customer base, drive depth of engagement, improve customer perception and increase brand loyalty.

Publicists are often faced with conservative budgets and have to find a way to do the most with the least. Securing a strategic partnership is a win-win situation for both participating brands and an effective way to share marketing resources, tap into existing audiences and boost brand awareness without breaking the bank. A partnership with the right company on the right project goes a long way in helping you tap into a new audience and strengthening the brand identity through association.

Great brand partnerships are a result of in-depth research, deliberate foresight and strategic planning, but most importantly, being transparent and completely realistic about the execution. Offering consumers a unique product, activation or experience that’s newsworthy and relevant can result in big benefits and ROI for the brand. But before embarking on a brand partnership, publicists need to keep in mind the following to guarantee a successful partnership and campaign:

Define your objective

The first step in creating a successful relationship with another brand, company or influencer is determining what you want to gain from this partnership. It’s important to be specific on your goals before embarking on a partnership. Your goal might be to get more engagement and visibility from a new audience or increase sales in a specific period. Determining your goals ahead of time will help you choose the best partner and allow you to structure your strategy and deliverables.

Outlining your goals to your brand partner ahead of time will also help the relationship and ensure both parties are focused on working together to achieve these goals. Partnerships require a lot of time and patience, so being transparent from the beginning and maintaining an honest and open communication opens up the possibility for more partnerships in the future, builds trust and creates a long-lasting relationship.

Find the right partner

There are many opportunities for brands, whether through a product, event, campaign or platform, where both parties can benefit from exposure and access to new consumers and markets.

The first step is to align with a brand that shares the same values as the audience, so the partnership is organic and authentic. Think quality over quantity. You don’t need to reach massive numbers, but rather reach the right people who will support your brand and become long-term loyal customers. Niche brands are becoming more popular as they create a deeper connection with their followers, resulting in a greater influence on their audiences’ purchasing decisions.

Our agency’s partnership with Bibigo, Korea’s leading food company, provides a great example of “outside the box” thinking. The goal was to create brand awareness in the U.S. and influence decision-makers. To achieve this goal, we collaborated with Bibigo’s marketing team in Korea to form a partnership with the renowned Culinary Institute of America. This partnership resulted in creating a Student Innovation Challenge Program with over 3,000 enrolled students across their three campuses. The CIA has access to some of the brightest young culinary minds who will become influencers and decision makers in the vast culinary world. Through executing the “Bibigo On-the-Go Culinary Challenge” we were able to showcase clients’ most popular food products in front of a large number of student / influencers. Each student chef was charged with creating a non-traditional recipe using Bibigo products for an opportunity to win a scholarship. This partnership with the CIA successfully provided Bibigo access to the CIA’s faculty and alumni while leveraging the CIA’s promotional efforts and channels—all to substantially increase brand awareness with minimum financial investment.

Think outside the box

The media landscape has changed. It’s no longer only about securing the print feature or the broadcast segment. A successful PR campaign is measured not only by impressions but by its engagement and long-term results. When planning a brand partnership, it’s important to establish from the beginning the different strategies and outlets where that partnership will live in the long-term. Consider all the different tools to expand your partnership’s reach, including influencers, editorial content, social media channels and more.

Enlisting influencers to assist in brand promotion and cultivating these influencers into genuine brand spokespersons is another important tactic in today’s ever-changing public relations landscape. In Bibigo’s successful collaboration with the CIA, another tool to add to the campaign’s success was the partnership that was created with digital media powerhouse Foodbeast. The goal with this strategy was to generate awareness of the campaign among Millennial consumers and create social media buzz online surrounding the “Bibigo On-the-Go Culinary Challenge.” Through the collaboration with Foodbeast, our agency enlisted three specifically-targeted influencers to serve as judges during the product cook-off. As judges, they were also tasked to promote the winning recipes on their social channels. We then tapped into Foodbeast’s audience and created a live stream of the cook-off onsite at the Culinary Institute. Foodbeast’s production team was responsible for filming the event live and coordinating the interviews with the judging panel, CIA and student chefs. Additionally, editorial articles were secured within top-tier publications as an added value. This multi-faceted campaign with Foodbeast garnered more than 21 million impressions and, most importantly, transformed the influencers we worked with into valuable brand spokespersons for Bibigo. This campaign successfully raised awareness for the brand by reaching their targeted millennial consumers and provided an open-ended platform for future partnerships with the CIA.

When working with influencers or media partners, it’s essential to keep in mind that just because someone has a large audience of followers doesn’t necessarily mean their audience is a good fit. Focus on a niche and more specialized influencers and brands that align with your company values and target audience.

Evaluate your campaign’s success

As with any PR and marketing initiative, it’s important to evaluate the partnership’s success during and after the campaign. Make sure before the partnership starts, you outline your metrics and expectations upfront and share the results with your brand partner.

Establish your KPIs from the beginning and keep track of your impressions and goals during the partnership to ensure you’re meeting them and your partner is delivering the expected results.

Brand partnerships must be carefully considered and responsibly implemented, but if done so, have the potential to propel a brand to new heights.


Paola Cuevas, Senior Director at Carolyn Izzo Integrated Communications (CIIC), is a bilingual public relations specialist with experience in food and beverage, travel, lifestyle and consumer brands.