How State Farm turned Super Bowl Sunday into a sensation

Posted on February 2, 2022

Updated on March 13, 2023

4 min read time

Super Bowl LVI is fast-approaching, which means it’s almost time for the long-standing American tradition to once again recapture the hearts of the nation. There will be a winner, and surely some losers. There will be twists, turns, and a lot of emotion. And a game too, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.


Of course, I’m referring to the tradition of Super Bowl commercials. For many like myself, it’s the only reason we tune in, so there’s a lot at stake for brands that take part.


The phenomenon is the result of sky-high viewership and broad demographics, with an audience that typically surpasses 100 million. Many credit Apple’s “1984” as the one that started it all, stunning audiences with what stands as one of the most influential campaigns in Super Bowl history.


Over the years, the ads have developed as much anticipation as the games themselves. They can be unpredictable, hilarious, or heartwarming, and are often ridden with special effects and cameos.


The brands that take part generate an immense amount of awareness and buzz. It’s one of the few times such a widespread audience actively watches ads as opposed to passively waiting for them to end—so it makes sense why 30 seconds of airtime could end up costing north of $5 million. If the spot doesn’t land, there’s a massive monetary risk, but there’s also the potential for a huge payoff.

Insurance and the Super Bowl 


When it comes to advertising in the US, one of the biggest and most prominent industries is insurance. The 5 highest-spending brands dropped more than $4.2 billion  on advertising in 2020 alone. Typical commercials exude a Super Bowl-like charm—lots of fluent devices, humor, and celebrities. As a result, the LiMu Emu & Doug, Flo from Progressive, and the Geico Gecko have become household names in their own right.


Blog - Super Bowl - Flo LiMu Emu Dough Gecko


We’re being exposed to these campaigns on what feels like a 25/7 time frame, so the big question here is, what more can insurance brands do to cut through the noise in the fierce and uber-competitive world of Super Bowl advertising?


Enter Drake from State Farm – one of 2021’s hottest Super Bowl commercials. If you somehow missed it, here’s a quick refresher. An array of stars gathered to film a new spot for insurance firm State Farm in an Inception-style ‘commercial inside a commercial.’ NFL quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, joined Jake from State Farm on set to discuss how different their body doubles look. The doubles in question are Paul Rudd and, you guessed it... Drake.


The ad immediately went viral, generating lots of buzz for the brand.


It’s hard to believe, but this ad was State Farm’s first ever Super Bowl commercial. The brand only introduced their new and improved version of Jake - neighborhood State Farm representative and the face of all their communications — a year earlier during the game’s pre-show. And today, State Farm is leading the US insurance category, showing the success of its Super Bowl debut.


Blog - Super Bowl - Drake


Breaking down category expectations 


At ProQuo AI, we believe that a brand’s success stems from the strength of the relationship it has with people. We use our tried and tested 16 Driver framework to understand not only how people relate to brands, but the precise strength of that relationship over time.


The expectations of every category are different, and an understanding of which Drivers are important to consumers is imperative for brand success. Expectations for the insurance category are very rational, which means people are looking for brands with a powerful, functional offering. It also means that brands can disrupt and stand out by forming an emotional bond.


When competing in this space, there’s an expectation that brands must deliver on Performance, Consistency, Clarity, and Accessibility.


When it comes to insurance, this means:


Blog - Super Bowl - 16 Drivers



Despite the category’s needs being highly functional, major insurance brands tend to communicate with an emotional approach, injecting humor into their ads, and focusing on Aspiration and Attraction by using Partnerships with popular celebrities. This could be the right way to stand out, by doing the unexpected. But it could also mean that brands are neglecting crucial areas for consideration and leaving gaps in the market.


Where are the biggest opportunities?


As the Super Bowl draws closer, it begs the question: will insurance brands do something different this year, or will they overlook some crucial opportunities?


There are currently three Drivers no major brand has been able to conquer in a way that exceed expectations and delights customers. This leaves areas of opportunity for brands to leverage:


Blog - Super Bowl - Skittles chart (1) 


Performance: On our ProQuo platform, we can see that people in the category aren’t satisfied with the quality of coverage, claim handling, and customer service from these brands. Businesses can succeed here by showing they can fulfill the promises they make, and Communications are necessary to relay this promise. Finding out more about what constitutes an excellent experience for your customers is a great first-step and then reinforcing this message through Communications is essential to establishing trust.


Relevance: People are yearning for an experience that is more personal, with customized coverage bundled in a way that fits their needs and budget. Relevant brands are great at showing how their service directly serves the needs of their customers. In this case, brands can take this a step further by showing they are invested in making the experience deeply personal for the customer, wherever possible, including variations within their offer to suit a wider range of people.


Value for Money: Through analyzing Conversations on our platform, we can see people don’t feel these brands are offering superior coverage at a fair price. They want a brand that’s going to reward them with deductions, but instead feel they’re constantly surprised by hidden fees. Reassuring your customers is essential—show they can trust your brand and feel confident that they won’t be hit by unexpected costs. Always communicate your benefits alongside any mention of price, so people can easily understand what they’ll be getting back in terms of value.


One year later: Where does State Farm stand? 


In 2021, State Farm was the only insurance brand to buy Super Bowl LV airtime. A year later, they’re still reaping the benefits.


State Farm currently leads the insurance category, beating fellow giants like Geico and Progressive. This is indicative of the strength of the relationship people have formed with the brand. Its strong performance is driven by advantages in Clarity, Familiarity, Popularity, Aspiration, and Transparency. For State Farm, the multi-million-dollar Super Bowl investment proved its worth.


Blog - Super Bowl - State Farm (2)


This year, State Farm has gone in a new direction in hopes of targeting the next generation of customers. They’ve opted out of a traditional on-air spot and into TikTok, kicking off the #TeamStateFarm challenge. Jake from State Farm is holding tryouts, judging video submissions from users to find his next co-star, with the winner due to be announced on Super Bowl Sunday.


Despite last year’s success, State Farm, decided to focus their strategy on showing up where the next generation of customers are spending the majority of their time. They’re focusing on long-term engagement in lieu of tradition.


Blog - Super Bowl - Jake State Farm


Though the power and viral quality of Super Bowl commercials can’t be denied, even the biggest brands are looking for new ways to engage with the game. Brands are actively searching for different ways to get in on the action with pre- and post-show spots, athlete partnerships, and social campaigns. Not all brands are willing or able to purchase airtime, but that won’t stop them from getting involved.


This year, how will insurance brands up their game, and who will make the most of the category’s biggest opportunities?


If you want to learn more about our 16 Drivers of Relationships, click here.


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