Quarterbacks & Insurance: Look at Me on Your TV

PeytonLook! Here’s Peyton Manning, humming the Nationwide jingle while tying his shoes. Now here he is cleverly ad-libbing his own lyrics while sitting in an ice bath, driving a new car and scarfing down a chicken parmesan sandwich. It seems that Peyton just can’t get that ditty out of his head! Now segue to me and my son, Brendan, stacking firewood at the family cabin. Now listen to Brendan, singing to the Nationwide tune:  “Throwing logs is so much fun!”

Wow.

What we have here is a brilliant example of how to leverage a well-known public figure and the power of music to memorialize a simple slogan. The brilliance is in the unexpected irony of reinforcing a jingle’s message by randomly changing the lyrics that comprise said message. Whatever words we plug into the melody—and the more nonsensical the better—they ubiquitously serve to remind us that Nationwide Is On Our Side. The casualness of this approach belies its intrusive effectiveness. Or maybe it’s more accurate to call it casual intrusion. Either way, don’t be fooled; this simple, seven-syllable slogan is drilling its way deep into your cerebral cortex, delivered by a guy whose only qualification is that you watch him play football on your flatscreen.

Meanwhile, in the land of the Cheese Heads, Aaron Rodgers is riding a long wave of sight gags to remind you that it pays to double check your insurance rates with State Farm. His persona has become so attached to the proposition of the discount double check that he no longer even needs to appear in the commercials; the latest shtick features Rodgers’ scrawny Brit doppelgänger standing in for Aaron because, well, he was busy.

And over in Seahawks land, Russell Wilson reminds us that his dreams have come true and maybe we all ought to get out there and make our own dreams come true. Oh, and by the way, American Family Insurance will protect those dreams.

Okay. So what’s with NFL quarterbacks and insurance company advertising? Well, it’s not just quarterbacks getting into the act;  LeBron James did his bit for Progressive, Chris Paul has taken his turn stumping for State Farm, Jerry Rice signed on as a pitchman for MetLife, and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. lent his credibility to Nationwide.

So what’s the deal? In a word:  demographics. Insurance companies need to reach a younger audience in order to build the life-long relationships they need to pay their advertising bills. And let’s face it:  insurance is boring. Or in marketing speak, insurance is a “low-interest” category. People, especially younger people, don’t care about insurance. They don’t want it; they don’t like it; they really don’t want to pay for it; they just know that they need it. So pitching a boring product to a disinterested market requires excitement. And athletes are exciting to the target market.

Another factor driving all this athlete-centric creative is Geico’s billion-dollar advertising budget, which has raised the bar across the entire “low-interest” category. Geico’s spending spree has decidedly separated them from the competition, forcing other insurers to play catch up. So if you’re an 18-34 year-old get used to a surfeit of insurance companies using a host of your favorite pro athletes to convince you to start writing them checks. Now, sing after me:  Nationwide Is In Your Head!

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