Who can forget how the movie Wayne’s World parodied “product placement” in film?  The irony of course is that the companies that participated in the film paid to have their products in the film just as they would with any other movie where placement is often not as obvious.  The joke was that Wayne was “selling out”, and not really interested in the products that were being promoted.  “Contract or no, I will not bow to any sponsor…”

When we think about “affinity marketing,” I can’t help but think about the similarities to “product placement” – which in itself can be an affinity play.  Both are essentially leveraging the relationship one party has with an audience to promote another organization’s products.  In the case of a movie, the target audience is captive and studios know whom a film is likely to appeal to.  Advertisers who sell to that target audience can consider a product placement to promote brand awareness and affinity.

Having no apparent relationship or synergy with a partner organization could spell disaster for both parties.  The value of affinity marketing is based upon the inherent trust and passion that a member has for a given organization. The relationship can be devalued if members feel that the organization is “selling out” for financial reasons in partnerships with organizations that do not offer value or relevance.

Of course the strength of member relationships with an affinity organization is also critical.  Not all members of an affinity organization share the same attraction to a given affinity, or same level ofengagement.  The level of engagement or belief in the affinity organization’s mission, is likely to correlate with the likelihood to do business with an affinity’s partners. There are a number of metrics that are important to consider when considering an affinity partnership – including the size of the organization and the reach to its members.  Below are a couple that I would like to bring up for consideration and discussion.

Affinity Organization Strength
Different affinity organizations, elicit on average different degrees of passion.  I think we can agree that an NFL fan club or alumni organization, will exhibit a more passionate member base than some other types of organizations. How might we begin to measure affinity strength?

  • Velocity of social media interactions
  • Do you pay to belong to the association?
  • Do you actively participate in promotion? (i.e. donate to a cause, purchase apparel, attend trade conferences, or other evidence of engagement)

Partner Appeal to the Affinity Members
First and foremost is the profile of the membership organization, which is traditionally why banks, P&C insurance companies, and credit card issuers tend to play in the Affinity business.  These verticals appeal to the mass market, as opposed to a small segment.  This said, segments of the population that are large enough also may participate.  The obvious example being the pre-retired and retired population that baby boomers are currently cycling through.  Questions to ask regarding fit might be…

  • Is the partner category needed?
  • Is there any natural affinity that exists for the partner as a result of geography or community?

So what can we learn from Wayne?

  • 1.  Make sure a member knows the connection is sincere, and that there is a real almost “altruistic” benefit that can be brought to the member through the partnership of the two organizations.
  • 2.  Do not underestimate the power that the voice of an affinity organization has when offering up the benefits of a partner to its members.  This is almost “word of mouth”, the most powerful form of advertising and it should be treated as such.

Or maybe Wayne would just say, keep it real.