TV ads for insurance companies that feature NFL quarterbacks greatly outperform other ads

Key Points
  • Insurance firms will see more attraction around their NFL ads, according to advertising metrics data firm EDO.
  • The firm, used by top networks to help track engagement around ads, told CNBC campaigns featuring Baker Mayfield, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes outperform other ads aired on TV networks.
Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 11, 2021 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Justin K. Aller | Getty Images

One-take bake. It's what Progressive's chief marketing officer Jeff Charney calls Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Charney praised Mayfield's sports marketing appeal, and with the team still in the National Football League's playoffs, the insurance firm is expecting a big weekend with its football ad spots.

"We're going to run heavy this week," Charney told CNBC on Thursday of the company's plan to run Mayfield's Progressive ads across networks, especially ViacomCBS.

That's the network that will carry the Browns' matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. And according to advertising metrics data firm EDO, insurance ads in NFL games featuring the player outperform other ads.

EDO used this example: "For State Farm, when Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes are featured in the ads during a game they're playing in, there's a huge boost in excess performance on a per person basis of people searching for State Farm. The ads perform two-three times better than other ads aired in those games."

EDO uses analytics that track brand and product searches and sales when ads air, helping companies and networks determine ads' value during sporting events. The firm estimated last weekend's six NFL wild card games were worth around $55 million per game, generating $330 million for networks.  

This weekend, Progressive is hoping Mayfield's ads will bring a return on their investment through brand exposure and by driving more business. And history suggests insurance in sports marketing works.

Florida State Seminoles place kicker Ricky Aguayo (23) kicks the extra pointduring the college football game between the Florida State Seminoles and the North Carolina Wolfpack on November 3, 2018, at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC.
Michael Berg | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

Insurance firms all in

Allstate got the ball rolling in 2005 when it made a deal to place its logo across goalpost netting throughout 30 Division-1 college football stadiums. The plan was effective, as it netted the company TV exposure. Cameras must show field goal attempts, so Allstate won.

Scott Rosner, sports management program professor at Columbia University, called it a "watershed" moment for insurance firms advertising in sports. He said the companies have since gone all-in with sports marketing.

Ads from State Farm and Progressive are some of the more notable spots.

Their ads are seen throughout NFL contests and brand exposure is bound to increase over the next few weeks, as NFL games soak up television ratings, leading to Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay. Last year's event drew over 100 million total viewers for Fox Sports.

"Obviously, each company has their own metrics to determine if they met ROI and ROO," Rosner said. "But the fact of the matter is, they [insurance firms] keep doing it because they clearly found it effective. And it's rare that you see one of the bigger companies pull back from their sports marketing investments."

"The insurance industry has proven to be a real backbone of the sports advertising marketplace," he added.

Informed of EDO's data, Rosner said he wasn't surprised the firms see a bump in searches around their business when their NFL ads appear.

"They do better," said Charney of the ads' effectiveness during NFL contests. "He'll [Mayfield] score a touchdown or throw a touchdown pass, and at the break, we try to get that pod."

State Farm did not immediately make a spokesperson available for this article.  

Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns runs off the field after a 21-17 win over the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. 
Jason Miller | Getty Images

Banking on Mayfield

With the spotlight on the Browns, Progressive is making no secret about who it's rooting for this weekend. Mayfield helped the team win its first postseason game since 1995, after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend.

Mayfield's new challenge: Beating Mahomes and the Chiefs this weekend and helping Progressive tackle State Farm in the process.

The Browns quarterback signed a marketing deal with Progressive in 2019. He's the only NFL player the firm uses in its sports marketing campaigns. Charney said before they settled on him, the firm put Mayfield through a "brutal two-hour combine." He recalled asking questions such as:

"How much money is your pocket?"

"Where did you meet your wife?"

"What was your first kiss?"

"We were trying to test him to see if he could be improvisational," Charney said. "We wanted to make sure he fit our brand and had the right improv skills and would be himself."

Progressive created 17 "At home with Baker" commercials, highlighting Mayfield using a stadium as his home and enduring everyday insurance-related problems. Charney said Mayfield is unscripted when shooting.

"We set the scene up, and we just go," Charney said. "It's like one-take bake. He's pretty natural and pretty relatable."

Added Rosner: "He's fun, and he's not afraid to do silly things; to be the punchline of the scenario. And he doesn't take himself too seriously."

Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Beating Mahomes and Rodgers

But EDO's data suggest Mayfield's spots are still gaining momentum now that the Browns having finally won.

The firm said "search engagement premiums," a metric used to determine engagement among consumers, shows that Mayfield's ads still lag behind Rodgers and Mahomes' State Farm spots.

One reason for this is the Chiefs, and the Packers have won more over the years, while the Browns haven't. 

Also, Mahomes and Rodgers are the new faces of the NFL, replacing Tom Brady and Drew Brees, who play in their matchup on Sunday.

Both Rodgers and Mahomes have won Super Bowls and Super Bowl MVPs, maximizing their marketing value. Rodgers earns $9 million in endorsements, according to Forbes. And Mahomes is racking up newer deals as his spotlight continues to grow. 

But if the Browns upset the Chiefs, and the Los Angeles Rams beat Rodgers' Packers, it could help put a dent in that ad metric. Mayfield's Progressive spots should generate more attraction, especially in an AFC Championship week.

"They've hit on the right guy," Rosner said of Progressive's investment in Mayfield. "The longer they [Browns] stay in the spotlight, the better it is for Progressive. And the better it is for Baker Mayfield's brand."

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