2023’s most unexpected brand partnerships

Barbie crocs, boozy pasta sauce, and Pokémon

Does X always mark the spot? As the year comes to an end we look back at some of the strangest brand partnerships of 2023. From nacho-flavoured spirits to Snoop Dogg going ‘smokeless’, here are the brand collaborations that made us scratch our heads.

Loewe x Dame Maggie Smith

Spanish fashion brand Loewe made headlines earlier this year when it featured 88-year-old icon Dame Maggie Smith as the new face of its spring/summer 2024 pre-collection campaign. Shot by cutting-edge photographer Juergen Teller, the Harry Potter and Downtown Abbey star donned items from the pre-collection, including a brown and khaki shearling coat, a navy silk shirt and a white ruffled skirt.

Empirical Spirits x Doritos

Doritos is no stranger to a daring brand collaboration. From Stranger Things to Call of Duty, the brand is infamous for its bold and unexpected partnerships. In its most recent collab, the brand has ventured into new waters, partnering with alcohol brand Empirical Spirits to bring the Empirical x Doritos Nacho Cheese Spirit, just in time for the festive season.

Snoop Dogg x Solo Stove

Snoop Dogg sent the internet into a frenzy when he announced on Instagram that he was ‘giving up smoke.’ The rapper is well-known for his marijuana use, and fans were a mix of shocked, sceptical, and inspired by his announcement. A few days later, it was revealed the announcement was part of a collaboration with smokeless fire pit company Solo Steve, who released the Snoop Stove, describing it as ‘hot enough to make the Doggfather go smokeless.’

Pokémon x Van Gogh Museum

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Van Gogh Museum, Pokémon and the Van Gogh Museum launched an official collaboration to introduce new audiences to the work of Vincent van Gogh. Why Pokémon? Both Vincent van Gogh’s work and Pokémon have a special connection with Japanese art and culture, with Japanese prints having a profound impact on Van Gogh’s art and worldview.

Nike x Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co. and Nike received mixed comments when they announced a collaborative version of Nike’s iconic Air Force 1 trainer. Regardless of the response, the shoe sold out instantly, along with a slate of accessories to compliment the sneaker: a silver shoe horn, a silver shoe brush, silver dubraes and a silver whistle, ranging in price from $250 to $475. 

Heinz x Absolut

In 2020, model Gigi Hadid made waves on social media with her viral vodka pasta recipe. Three years on, Heinz and Absolut made all our boozy pasta dreams come true with a tomato vodka pasta sauce. Within days, the vodka sauce sold out and the campaign was a viral success, earning 500m impressions on social media.

Barbie Movie x Everyone

Is it really a 2023 listicle without the mention of Barbie? With Mattel partnering with over 100 brands and a marketing budget of reportedly $150 million, choosing a single unexpected Barbie brand partnership seems near impossible. Some made sense, others less so, but we’ve rounded up some of the least expected: Burger King, Crocs, and Xbox.

Featured image: Dame Maggie Smith for Loewe / Photography Juergen Teller