TOMS Shoes Element Skateboard

Over 90 percent of co-branding ventures fail.

That’s a frightening statistic that Martin Lindstrom spit out in a ClickZ post on co-branding in March of 2002. My guess would be that this hasn’t changed much in seven years.

Most brand alliances are formed with the best of intentions but by the time they are put into action appear forced and contrived. To put it more bluntly, they just don’t fit.

Recently, I spotted a co-branding effort that I couldn’t help but take a shine to. TOMS Shoes, the shoe company built on a model of conscious capitalism, has teamed up with Element, a skateboard and clothing company known for it’s ethical approach to business and direction.

Their collaboration bonds the brands together through their core beliefs in community outreach. They have created a One for One skateboard program that is modeled after TOMS One for One program with shoes. It’s a perfect extension for Element, which through their non-profit organization, Elemental Awareness, regularly hosts after school skate programs that work with kids from local communities. This partnership provides Element a chance to take their mission to the kids of Durban, South Africa.

This is the description of the collaboration from the Element website:

When TOMS Shoes and Element joined forces to create a better tomorrow, the concept of a One for One skateboard was born. For every TOMS + Element skateboard purchased, Element gives a skateboard to a child outside of Durban, South Africa to provide refuge from the dangerous areas in which they live. As part of this collaboration, TOMS + Element created a limited edition collection of TOMS Shoes.

Toms Element Shoe 

TOMS and Element are hosting a contest, giving participants a chance to win the trip of a lifetime, to be a part of the shoe and board drop in South Africa. They are accepting entries in the form of videos and essays now.

So why does this brand alliance seem to be having so much success, while 90 percent of other co-branding efforts fail?

Martin Lindstrom lists three ground rules that both brands must abide by in order to form a successful alliance. TOMS and Element are dead on with each of these rules.

Equal Value for All Parties

There has to be clear equal value for both parties. Martin says that, “No relationship in which one of the two parties has a better deal has survived.”

Brand Value Match

The brands must share the same values from the inside out. If they don’t align at any level, this is a warning sign.

Easy to Understand

The relationship must be easily understood by both the brands and their customers. If you can’t explain the value then forget it.

If either brand can’t deliver on any of these three criteria, it’s time to rethink your co-branding alliance.


Do you have any examples of co-branding disasters?

How about co-branding matches made in Heaven?