FORTNITE – a game of strategy and collaboration…  or so my son would have me believe!  Given the amount of animated yelling that this “collaboration” involves, I’m sceptical about his stated reasons for enjoying the extremely popular videogame, but when it comes to strategy and brand collaboration, Fortnite itself is a clear leader.

The game’s creators, Epic Games, this week launched a collaboration with 23 football teams from around the World to allow players to choose football strip skins and to win Pélé’s legendary Air Punch as a game “emote”.  They have also added game features enabling players to play their own in-game football tournaments.  And this is just the most recent of many successful collaborations between the world of Fortnite and “real world” brands in a variety of sectors.  From hugely successful film crossovers – the Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War being the first, with Star Wars, DC Comics and many others following suit – to in-game concerts by stars such as Marshmello, Travis Scott and Steve Aoki, collaborations in Fortnite have been a massive hit.

So, what makes these collaborations work, and can smaller organisations co-operate in a similarly beneficial way?

Clearly not every business has Fortnite’s estimated 350 million user base, so big brands may not come flocking in quite the same way, nonetheless, we have worked with many clients that have achieved very successful collaborations in a variety of fields – from a one-off event promoting both organisations’ services, to special offers aimed at each other’s users, to the mutual sharing of data to improve both parties’ technology, and many more examples besides.

Based on our experience, I have set out very briefly some of the key considerations to help ensure your collaboration is a success:

1)    Find the right partner.  This is a fairly obvious one.  A collaboration will only work if the parties are well aligned.  If your goal is cross-promotion, look for a business that is not a competitor but has a similar customer/client base to yours.  If your aim is data sharing, look for a partner that has already collected the data you need, but perhaps doesn’t have the processing power that your tech can provide.  Fortnite have expertly picked films, celebrities, musicians, and now sports teams, that are already popular with its target market, and has given them a platform that is different from anything they would otherwise have access to.  Win-win!

2)    How long will it last?  A 1 day event will require a very different set of obligations from an ongoing collaboration lasting for months or years.  You should carefully consider the length of commitment required from each party to make the collaboration work.

3)    How will each side benefit?  It is important to be clear from the start about what you hope to achieve.  Fortnite already has the user base, but crossovers generate additional engagement with their game and add interest to what could otherwise become repetitive.  The partner typically has something specific to promote, and in any case will increase brand awareness by being promoted to Fortnite’s players.  Your goals might be less lofty – perhaps you and a collaborator are running a joint event with the intention to cross-sell to a select group of customers, or you hope to train your algorithm using another party’s data – even so, identifying what “success” looks like will help ensure that both sides get what they’re looking for.

4)    What would each collaborator bring to the party?  As important as understanding the “benefit”, is to be clear up front who is responsible for doing what.  Key decisions might be taken together, but it usually makes sense to delegate some aspects of the project to each collaborator.

5)    What could go wrong?  The typical lawyer question!  We don’t just ask this because we’re negative by nature (honestly, we’re not!) but because we like to prepare for the worst and, hopefully, deal with issues before they arise.  With collaborations, issues usually boil down to communication failures, and often in respect of one of the items listed in 1-4 above, so detailed discussion (and, ideally, a clearly written contract documenting what you have agreed) is key.

However big or small your business, collaborating with others can be a good way to achieve more than either business could have achieved alone. And taking time to think through the above points will give the project the maximum chance of success.

As for Fortnite, I expect to find out this weekend whether the link with football has been successful (in the not-so-humble opinion of one British schoolboy).