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Here’s the other way Uber makes money

The Hamptons Lure Uber Top Drivers Amid NYC Slow Summer WeekendsThe Hamptons Lure Uber Top Drivers Amid NYC Slow Summer Weekends

Hardly a day goes by without Uber launching a new brand partnership.

On Oct. 21, the so-called Back To The Future Day, Uber offered users in London free rides in a DeLorean in collaboration with Pepsi, providing complimentary beverages en route. Earlier this week, Uber passengers in select cities were treated to free trips in the BMW 7 Series to promote the new car.

Especially for an on-demand taxi service, Uber has landed itself an impressive number of headlines (legal battles and negative press excluded). And while one-off stunts certainly help keep Uber relevant, there’s a broader marketing strategy in place that keeps the company top of mind—and others lining up to get on board.

Among the many brands currently running partnerships with Uber is Starwood, which awards passengers hotel points for each ride they take. There’s also Capital One, which gives Quicksilver cardholders 20% back on rides. Other partners include Amex, Hilton, and PayPal.

Of course, brand partnerships are nothing new, and Uber is hardly the first company to find great success with this method. And to be fair, it wasn’t even the only company to offer free DeLorean rides yesterday. However, it’s undeniable that the company has put its own spin on the strategy.

As Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter, says, “Since Uber is a software based platform that combines real-time, mobile, and social, it’s a catalyst for a new model for collaboration.”

Just as Uber hastened the arrival of the on-demand economy, it’s helping other brands parse the problem of reaching and retaining customers when they have more options (and are more mobile) than ever.

“[Uber’s challenge] is that it has to reach the masses,” says Solis. “At the same time, the challenge traditional brands and service face is that they need to reach new connected customers. At the moment, these alliances bring two disparate worlds together.”

In other words, its strategy kills two marketing birds with one stone: “It’s all very clever though and demonstrates how new platforms open new doors to creative possibilities. As an analyst, and also a Starwood member and Amex holder, these partnerships, like any loyalty-based program, do help me justify additional use of Uber,” says Solis.

For other brands, hitching their wagon to Uber, currently the clear leader in the on-demand ridesharing market, is a sound marketing decision. It gets them exposure to a sizable user base—while Uber doesn’t share numbers, it’s delivered more than 30 million rides in New York City alone—and allows brands to reach a mobile audience by adding value to their rides. While Uber also gets additional exposure from partnering with Starwood and others, it’s also poised to benefit in a much more tangible way.

As to how much the company pockets from teaming up with Amex and others, it isn’t hard to make an educated guess. “Judging by how much money I see brands spending on Youtube or Twitter or other new platforms, I can only imagine that it’s not inexpensive,” says Solis.

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