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Market Voice 1 Mar 2022 - 3 min read

Big Red Group has 24x return on ad spend through partnerships, a ‘significant portion’ of revenue; why falling consumer trust is actually an opportunity for brands

By Ayaan Mohamud - APAC Marketing Director, | Partner Content

Over the last few years, political and social instability along with health crises, hacking events, and environmental fears have taken their toll on how much we’re willing to trust anyone, or anything, online.

The past two years haven’t been easy for experience-based companies like Big Red Group. But it has survived – and thrived – by linking up with travel sites, apps, publishers, and some high-profile YouTube and Instagram influencers. As’s Ayaan Mohamud writes, strategic trading in consumer trust in the form of partnerships can deliver a deep halo effect and big revenue boosts for brands that do it well. And more and more are.

Cast your mind back to the 1990s, when the internet was in its infancy. The New Yorker cartoonist Peter Steiner created one of the world’s first viral memes about internet culture, when he drew a cartoon of a dog using a computer, accompanied by the caption: “On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.” 

At the time, we had a quick chuckle and moved on. But looking back with the benefit of hindsight, Steiner’s cartoon was a scarily accurate picture of things to come. The flipside of no one knowing you’re a dog is that it’s very hard to prove that you’re not a dog. 

Over the last few years, political and social instability along with health crises, hacking events, and environmental fears have taken their toll on how much we’re willing to trust anyone, or anything, online. Consequently, consumers, readers, and followers are experiencing epidemic levels of distrust in brands, governments, publications, and institutions. Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer, for example, found that no media source is trusted for news and information by Australians.

With trust in advertising and media in freefall, traditional ads are no longer cutting it. Consumers, who have also grown tired of intrusive digital display ads with slow load times, are turning their backs on ads in droves. It’s little wonder that Gartner predicts that by 2024, 40 per cent of consumers will be able to trick behaviour tracking metrics into intentionally devaluing the personal data collected about them, making it difficult to monetise in the same way that advertisers, publishers, and tech giants do today.

However, while trust in traditional media and advertising is diminishing, trust itself is not lost; it's a complex and essential part of human life and it is constantly evolving. In its research study The trust imperative — New trust patterns will define the next decade, Forrester notes that: “Society isn’t suffering from a lack of trust; rather, individuals are constantly adjusting their trust. As people lose trust in organisations, they redirect that trust to other entities, which means trust is up for grabs — with customers, employees, and partners.”

Partnerships help create trust between brands and consumers

As human beings, we want to trust. Our brains are hardwired for it and we’re emotionally rewarded when we feel it. As such, trust itself cannot disappear - it simply moves to channels where customers feel they’re in control. 

This is where partnerships come in. We’re seeing more brands create partnerships with sources of information consumers already trust. These could be anyone from individuals like influencers and content creators to organisations, publishers, or companies that consistently provide valuable information they believe and find helpful. 

Consumers are now voracious content consumers. They do more research, read more blogs and look at more social media than ever before. We have access to peer reviews, product comparisons, and conversations about brands and products among influencers, opinion leaders, and publishers - all of which can help build trust. 

Brands need to look beyond their own marketing or advertising strategies to find the people, places, institutions, and organisations in which consumers are willing to trust. If a brand can be talked about by trusted sources, they become a part of that mutually beneficial relationship that builds trust and loyalty from all sides.

This strategy is paying off for The Big Red Group (BRG), the umbrella brand for Adrenaline, Experience Oz, Lime & Tonic, and RedBalloon, four pioneers in the experience marketplace. BRG has recently ramped up its partnership activity to help drive customer acquisitions off the back of a tricky period for an experiential company, bringing on board to help.

When BRG first started building its affiliate program, its partnerships were short on upper-funnel, value-led partners. It was vitally important for them to build trust with their customers through these partners – because who’s going to choose a skydiving company based on a coupon code? 

BRG’s head of marketing, Matt Gudge, said helped the business access an array of community-driven partnerships with influencers, content creators, mobile apps and brand partners.

“Today, partnerships contribute a significant portion of BRG’s revenue, with a return on ad spend at 24 to one,” he said.

“We’ve since onboarded a wide range of value-oriented partners, including travel sites, apps, large online publishers, and several high-profile YouTube and Instagram influencers and are able to manage these disparate types of partnerships in’s single partnership management platform.

“We’ve found that partnerships naturally lend themselves to the experience economy, because customers want and need authentic and trusted recommendations. Trust is the keystone of adrenaline-driven experiences such as skydiving, and it’s critical that our partnership strategy aligns with that.”

While the statistics about consumer distrust are confronting, it’s actually an opportunity to create a better way of connecting with consumers and building stronger brands. Marketers will need to rethink their strategies, but it’s a step toward providing more value and gaining more trust. Partnership management platforms like help on your journey to building trusted relationships at scale. 


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