During the past decade, there has been no shortage of brand collaborations, and the buzz around some of the biggest partnerships has been huge. From celebrity-endorsed trainers to high street- fast food printed garment pairings, we’ve analysed the audience insights and media coverage to reveal the most hyped, surprising and tastiest collections from the past 10 years to reveal what it really takes to make a successful brand partnership.

The most popular brand collaborations from the past decade

Image credit: ICON Printing

Using Buzzsumo to analyse articles written about each collaboration and Tagger to pull audience reactions on social media, we were able to rank the most talked about brand collaborations from the past decade to reveal the most popular.

Basketball superstar LeBron James has a long history of trainer collaborations with Nike however almost two decades into the partnership, the hype around his new releases doesn’t seem to be dying down. His 2019 edition drove 1,621,947 engagements with articles shared on social media, over 57,900,000 likes and a whopping 504,300 shares making the 2019 Nike X LeBron James brand collaboration the most hyped of the past decade.

But it isn’t just sports personalities that make for super successful brand partners. The 2019 Vans X Harry Potter collection came in 2nd position, raking in 1,727,572 engagements with articles shared on social media and 73% love reactions to social media posts. We can presume this was largely down to the movie franchise’s fanbase.

The first Nike X Apple watch was launched in 2016 to a rapturous reception from sports enthusiasts looking for a new way to track their activities. The collaboration between the sportswear company and tech giant generated 8948 referring articles and 9,400,000 likes on social media making them the 3rd most successful brand collaboration of the past decade.

Most hyped trainer collaborations

Over the past 10 years, sneakerheads have been vocal on social media, making their opinions known about new trainer collaborations. Unsurprisingly, the most popular brand partnership LeBron James X Nike came in first with their LeBron XVII. The release had fans divided on social which drove the highest social engagement and media coverage. The wizarding world went crazy for the Vans X Harry Potter printed trainer collaboration helping them claim 2nd place and Adidas X Kanye West’s Yeezy’s took the world by storm in 2015 placing them 3rd. Unexpected collaborations Nike X Hello Kitty and Adidas X Transport for London were also a hit based on social engagement and media coverage.

Most surprising brand collaborations

Analysing wow reactions on social media, we found the brand collaborations that were the most surprising- Nike X Levi’s secured the first position with their denim-clad, logo-printed trainers. Claiming 2nd and 3rd position were Lego collaborations. In 2nd came Lego’s partnership with the sci-fi series Stranger Things subsequently the toy brand’s more recent 2020 storage collection with IKEA wowed social media users. Claiming 4th and 5th position and taking fans by surprise was football club PSG’s streetwear with BAPE and luxury fashion brand Dolce & Gabanna’s colourful collab with SMEG.

Most successful food collaborations

We all love a tasty treat and when it comes to brand collaborations from the past decade this was no different. KFC’s finger-lickin’ collab with Crocs was the most successful collection based on their media coverage and social engagement. In 2nd came Cheetos cheesy clothing range with Forever 21. High street retailer Primark’s recent clothing line with bakery chain Greggs was perfect for their target audience making it the 3rd most successful food brand collaboration.

With 12 years in the merchandise printing industry, Alex Econs shares his thoughts on what makes for a successful brand collaboration.

Understand your target audience

“Brand collaborations can be a brilliant way to target a new customer base however step too far outside the realms of audience relevancy and your brand collaboration will be a flop. Greggs X Primark is a great example of how brands have understood exactly where their audience shop and launched merchandise that was guaranteed to get fans talking. There is almost no limit to what companies from different industries can come together to create. ”

Novelty works

“Some of the most iconic brand collaborations have come from the most seemingly unlikely partnerships. Whilst it doesn’t work for every brand, novelty merchandise like the KFC X Crocs limited edition fried chicken shoes or Adidas X TFL trainers can be incredibly successful. Understand your audience and their lifestyle before choosing your brand partner and you’ll create a collection that fans will clamour over, consequently we often see these novelty items selling for a much higher resale price.”

Smash the marketing

“The most successful brand collaborations are hugely varied in their product offering and price point, however one constant amongst them is how successfully their teams promoted the merchandise ahead of the launch. Social media marketing in particular can engage fans attention right from the conception of the idea and the engagement we saw from the launch of these brand collaborations proves just why it should be a vital part of launching any merchandise.”

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