If we pause, pivot, and partner, we may get through COVID-19

Right now, the best companies are forgetting about what they're known for, and becoming what they're needed for. Luxury perfume and alcohol companies producing hand sanitiser. Clothing companies manufacturing medical gowns. And entertainers connecting with audiences, remotely. More brands should follow suit, argues Havas Sports and Entertainment's Francis Coady.

COVID-19 has catapulted our agencies and clients into uncharted waters. However, partnerships still matter, connecting brands with people by delivering clear benefits: functional (the product or service delivers as expected), personal (it improves peoples’ lives) or collective (it adds value to the community or society).

In that sense, the current crisis represents a real opportunity for brands to double down on building out partnerships and campaigns that can deliver personal or collective benefits. In doing so, brands could become a point of connection in a period of isolation.

Absolut Vodka, Brew Dog, and luxury company LVMH have all started to produce hand sanitiser

Several of our clients have been focused on one thing during this difficult time: creating and maintaining meaningful partnerships, not ‘sponsorships’. The major change is that we are now communicating via different channels. Physical activations, launches and sampling have obviously been put on hold, however work streams across market research, insight, strategy, creative, content, talent partnerships, digital activations and contract and market auditing have come into focus.

Applying the same market rigour to research, analysis, selection and negotiation for our clients, when deciding on which CSR partner we should engage with, as we would do for any sporting code, film, music or lifestyle partner, has become an excellent differentiator.

Globally, we have seen companies pause and rapidly pivot to help meet the needs of thousands of people. Alcohol behemoths, Absolut Vodka and Brew Dog, along with luxury perfume brands Christian Dior and Givenchy, have all started to produce hand sanitiser. Spanish fashion giant Zara has begun sourcing material to go into large-scale production of medical gowns. There is little doubt that these actions will provide a long-term deep connection with current and future customers.

And then there’s the heightened importance of entertainment. We have all seen Chris Martin, along with thousands of small, medium and large-scale artists across the music and comedy landscape, develop intimate connections with their fans via live-streamed performances. These honest and raw moments are what people are desperate for in times of isolation.

A current example of a brand taking hold of this moment in time is Pepsi. This week, they have partnered with Global Citizen to produce a one-night, international live-streamed event to bring to light the amazing work being done by healthcare workers and to highlight organisations that are helping the most vulnerable during the pandemic.

Utilising the power and reach of digital, with an honest connection at the core of the content, is what brands need to immerse themselves in, in an authentic way. Partnering with platforms like TikTok, Spotify, Twitch, and Musical.ly, and building out relevant subject matter for podcast development and editorial integration, are all ways to genuinely engage, and connect with, consumers passions, in a time in which connection has never been more important.

So, let’s pause, pivot where required, and partner in a meaningful way. It’s what will allow us to guide our clients, and therefore our agencies, through this uncertainty.


Francis Coady is general manager of Havas Sports and Entertainment ANZ, the meaningful partnerships division of the global Havas Group


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