Employer brand-building through partnership

May 2024

Why you should involve your communications team upfront.

It’s no secret that corporate partnerships can be great for your brand in all kinds of ways, offering increased reach for both partners and lasting legacy benefits for the communities you are seeking to serve, and positive PR.


But there’s another way they partnerships can benefit your business too. In a world where an increasing number of employees are looking for an employer who matches their values, and an organisation where they can make an impact, the right partnership can increase employee engagement – and do wonders for your employer value proposition.


What’s your purpose?

In fact, Harvard Business Review found that connecting what employees do to what they care about as one of the three most important drivers of employee engagement.[1]


If your corporate partnership, or sponsorship, is to deliver all these things, your employees must be involved from the start. They need to understand – and embrace – the aims and vision of the organisation you’ve chosen, and the purpose of your partnership. Its values should match their values.  And involving your communications and engagement team at the beginning of the process is crucial.

Having clearly defined ESG goals can help you to pick the right partnership – one which aligns with your own purpose and values. That means knowing what you stand for and the impact you can make – and making sure that your employees understand and support your purpose too.

As will tapping into your employee networks to make sure that you’re hearing from diverse voices and finding out what is important to them. You’ll need a selection process that’s fair and inclusive – asking employees to nominate and/or pick a partner is one way to get them on board.


Some purpose driven examples:

Asda’s Tickled Pink partnership with Breast Cancer Now and CoppaFeel! began following a campaign by colleagues to support the breast cancer cause.[2] Twenty-seven years later, are Asda employees still engaged? Google ‘Tickled Pink’ and the search results, filled with local news stories about colleagues’ raising funds and awareness, speak for themselves.

The Tickled Pink partnership moved to a shared purpose model in 2017,[3] making sure it stays relevant and engaging for employees as well as customers. Other organisations are also moving away from the transactional ‘charity of the year’ arrangement and building longer-term, strategic partnerships. Look for partners who offer quality employee engagement opportunities – for example, skills-based volunteering, opportunities for professional development and the chance to make a wider social impact. Be inclusive – for example, does your partner’s geographic footprint offer all employees an opportunity to get involved?

Bupa’s award-winning #1MillionMinutes campaign for Trees for Cities was transactional – but the benefit for employees was clear, and their engagement was central to the fundraising initiative. In 2022, the health insurance company challenged colleagues to spend a combined one million minutes doing something positive for their health, their community or the planet – and every minute ‘unlocked’ Bupa funding for the environmental charity.[4]

It was an inclusive campaign, clearly aligned to Bupa’s purpose and that of its charity partner – which made it easy to communicate. And when it comes to employee engagement in your partnership, the messaging is key.

So, get your comms and employee engagement experts on board early on. The selection process and launch communications are just the start: employees need to see the impact that the partnership is making and be excited by the opportunities to get involved.

Communicate often and don’t forget the data and insights part– bring it to life through storytelling and infographics. Create internal advocates to share content that builds and maintains engagement, and make sure your senior leaders are visibly supportive too – internally as well as externally.


Julie Humpherson


[1] https://hbr.org/2021/10/how-companies-can-improve-employee-engagement-right-now

[2] https://fundraising.co.uk/2021/09/22/getting-the-most-from-a-corporate-partnership-5-charity-views/

[3] https://www.businesscharityawards.com/finalists/asda-tickled-pink-v0019

[4] https://www.thirdsector.co.uk/business-charity-awards-employee-engagement-initiative-year-–-bupa-trees-cities/volunteering/article/1821727