Developing Brand Collaborations

We asked the Freestak community what their best piece of advice was for developing brand collaborations. The response was nearly unanimous: Be yourself, be authentic and be selective. Be true to who you are and only work with brands that align with your values, beliefs, and passions.

In a previous post we discussed authenticity and working with brands. Now, we want to take it a step further and discuss factors to consider when forming relationships and how to get started.

‘Where do I start?’

1. Create a social portfolio.

First and foremost, in order to gain brand collaborations, you need to have a developed social platform that proves your worth, passions and abilities as a content creator. Put in the effort to show brands you’re interested in working with that you have an authentic story or cause to share and that you can produce compelling and engaging content.

“I honestly believe that any content creator’s first priority should be creating really great content,” @aprettyplacetoplay said. “If you can do that and share a compelling insight into your life and adventures then collaborations will follow.”

Your Instagram profile is what you make of it, according to @ultralan. After signing up for an account in 2017, he has organically grown his following and produced constant content around his races and love for being outdoors. As a result, brands began to notice his profile and the passion that went into it.

“Treat it as your mobile portfolio.” @ultralan

2. Reach out to the brands you want to work with.

Once you’ve created a social platform that showcases your abilities and have developed a strong organic following, the next step is to start reaching out to the brands you want to work with.

  • First, take the time to discover what types of brands you are willing to work with and what’s important to you in a collaboration. For @to_outdoors_and_beyond, it has always been important to her to work with brands that have some kind of social purpose, ensuring that the brand is not solely about making money but wants to put something back into the world and environment.
  • After she developed a focus, she started re-tweeting and engaging with brands that she felt a connection with and began to build up relationships. It’s all too easy when you start out to grab every opportunity that comes your way. Instead, think carefully about the types of brands you want to work with and products you want to align yourself with.

Also, remember to be clear with your objectives and what you’re aiming to accomplish before reaching out to brands. Know exactly what you want from them and what you can offer back. Be prepared with stats, analytics, external links to your work, or anything else you want to showcase.

Don’t get discouraged if you receive no response. Stay dedicated and consistent with your content while continuing to reach out. @runnersan contacted multiple brands before finding the right collaboration. “If you work well and are consistent, in the end, the results arrive.”

3. Utilize the Freestak platform.

Being active on the Freestak platform is a great way to get your content and social platforms noticed. By becoming involved throughout the community, creating pitches, and applying to campaigns, you are more likely to expand your collaborations and work with brands you may not have otherwise.

Additionally, there is the added security of knowing all collaborations are legitimate and verified. Since we work directly with the brands, you don’t need to question who you’re contacting or who’s contacting you when developing relationships with brands.

@2be_tobsen became aware of Freestak when he wanted to become involved with the 361° Europe Ambassador program. Despite not being accepted into the program, he later got the chance to test the 361° Spire 3 shoe. “I found it outstanding to test products and share them with people,” @2be_tobsen said.

‘I’m getting offers, what now?’

1. Be selective. From day one.

Create lasting relationships that have meaning to you, and avoid collecting as many brand collaborations as possible. Remember why you create the content you do, and be selective with the brands you choose to work with.

First starting out, @aprettyplacetoplay admits to making the mistake thinking that content creation was all about collaborations, which ultimately led to some poor choices around who she worked with. She now encourages everyone to be really choosy in regards to the brands they work with.

“When you work with a brand where there’s mutual adoration amazing things will happen,” @aprettyplacetoplay said. “You want your collaborations to enhance your content, not your collaborations to rule your content.”

In 2014, @jamesdpoole began collaborating with brands and would tell anyone starting out to “be excited, say yes to things and work hard, BUT also work out what you value early and be selective.” When you get approached by a big brand, he mentioned how it may be exciting and tempting to bend over backwards to be accommodating, but remember, “you may only be a commodity to them, so keep your options open and don’t go all in with one brand – unless they offer you the moon on a stick.”

2. Work with brands you already know and use.

Build relationships with brands that are familiar to you. Content will come naturally for products you already use on a regular basis and throughout your daily routines.

For example, @jo.runs.n.stuff started collaborating simply by commenting on a brand’s post about her experience with their products and how much they had helped her running. From that, the company offered her an opportunity to become a brand ambassador.

Make sure the collaboration surrounds something that you have experience with or you will give a fair trial to, and most importantly, be honest with your opinions – good and bad! “If you’re ‘faking it’ or just working with every brand out there, it’s pretty obvious,” @jo.runs.n.stuff said. “Be passionate about the products/brands you are working with/for.”

Stick to what you know and don’t try to conform your content to fit the ideals of a specific brand just for free product. Create relationships that already align with your own passions and values and promote products that you can identify with.

‘Should I seal the deal?’

Advice from a pro: @challengesophie

Sophie Radcliffe is an endurance athlete, blogger, and adventurer. With a combined following of over 90K throughout her social channels, Sophie has proven her dedication to creating great content. It is her mission to champion ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.

When collaborating with brands, Sophie takes a lot into consideration and recognizes the importance of creating lasting relationships. Below are a few of the factors she takes into account before committing to a new agreement.

  1. Brand/product alignment – Do I already use and love this product? Will my community like it?
  2. Creative control
  3. The right fee/content commitment
  4. Ease of creating the content – Can I do it from home? Do I need a photographer/videographer? Do I need to be in the mountains or travel?
  5. Good communication with the brand – What’s their sign off process like?
  6. When do they want the content to go live? Will it fit with my plans, travels, and other content at that time?
  7. How clear and well thought out is the brief? I want to avoid additional work by having to change the content after it’s been created.

Key Takeaways

Focus on your content and the sport that drives you to produce the posts throughout your social media. With dedication, time and initiative, brands will begin to take notice. Start with the brands you know and continue to be selective along the way. Most importantly, be true to who you are, and don’t lose track of why you create content in the first place.


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