Even with megawatt NFL stars Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes continuing to anchor their commercials, marketers for State Farm Insurance still weren’t totally comfortable with the real-life icons they were putting up to compete for attention with others in the industry such as GEICO’s gekko , Allstate’s “Mayhem” and Progressive’s “Flo” and company.
So recently, Allstate brought back a concept it had played with several years ago in the person of “Jake from State Farm.” The reimagined character, in the person of actor Kevin Miles, lends a bit of leavening to the out-there antics of the quarterbacks in the company’s ads and provides another important ingredient to current and potential State Farm customers: relatability. He plays a sort of straight man to the athletes’ eccentric performances.
“It’s very important that the [Jake] character be relatable and friendly and that he really can kind of humanize what our brand represents,” Rand Harbert, chief marketing officer for Bloomington, Illinois-based State Farm, told me. “Millennials and Gen Z are the largest generations ever, so they’re critical. So we’ve taken steps to refresh our brand and make it relevant to them.”
State Farm didn’t find it necessary to veer away from Rodgers, Mahomes and other professional football players to bring home the brand’s message, but Harbert and his colleagues felt they required a foil.
“Our category is full of organizations that have characters [of the type] we weren’t looking for,” he said. “We were looking for something that younger generations could connect to that older generations wouldn’t snub. So we did a national search and felt we had to find that exact type of person. When we found [Miles] we found a person that, when we gave him the lines to read fore the script, he said, ‘That’s just who I am.’ Three years later, it turns out that is who he is in real life.”
For example, State Farm this fall introduced its Personal Price Plan, an effort to provide what the company called “a personalized quote at a price that’s right for the customer, using options and savings that are available today. It gives them the ability to control the price they pay based on their individual situation.”
In one ad for the accompanying advertising campaign, Mahomes is shown in a locker room dropping bath bombs into an ice-water tub. “I really want that Personal Price Plan,” the Kansas City Chiefs superstar signal caller tells Jake. “So I’ll admit it: I’m a bath bomb guy.” Jake counters, “Dude: You do not need to get that personal.” The plan “simply helps you create an affordable price just for you.”
But since in the spot it’s too late for Mahomes to call off his efforts to impress Jake with the extent of his “personalization,” a saxophonist shows up in the room looking remarkably like Kenny G with a mustache and asks, “Who’s ready for their jazz bath?”
Harbert admitted that continuing to work with Rodgers, the reigning, four-time league MVP and Green Bay Packers quarterback who’s been carrying the advertising load for State Farm for several years, presenting a different kind of personalization. While broadly admired for his work on the field over the years, Rodgers has become unique and rather unpredictable as a public figure, dating a series of Hollywood actresses, railing relatably against Covid vaccines mandate last year and, this year, revealing that he’s used psychedelic mushrooms (permissible under NFL rules) to help get his mind straight.
“When you’re working with people of fame, you kind of know what you’re getting into, and you don’t go into it with your eyes closed,” Harbert said. “People are going to kind of do what they do. There have been times we’d have preferred a different set of actions [by Rodgers] but that’ not the way it works out. And we’ve been blessed to have him for more than a decade.”