State Farm thinks LeBron James can help it sell more car insurance. So does Allstate, but in a much different way.
It all started with the NBA star's appearance in this TV ad, which debuted during the league's All Star weekend.
State Farm, the No. 1 car insurer by market share, has been using Mr. James for several years and has stuck by him even in the wake of his less-than-smooth exit from Cleveland.
"He has tremendous amount of reach and influence [on] some people and we want to capture that," State Farm's advertising director, Tim Van Hoof, told Ad Age in a recent interview.
Suburban Chicago-based Allstate, the No. 2 car insurer, shot back with this radio ad, in which longtime Allstate pitchman Dennis Haysbert asks, "So, are you ready to take your talents to Allstate?" -- a not-so-subtle jab at its competitor's decision to pair with the man who pissed off the entire city of Cleveland, and some fans elsewhere -- when he famously announced on an overhyped ESPN special last year that he was going to "take my talents to South Beach."
The radio ad, which is airing in the Chicago market as part of Allstate's hometown campaign, actually debuted last year but was re-released as a counter to the State Farm ad. And it's gotten noticed, first blogged by Chicago public-relations firm Dig Communications (which does not work for Allstate), and then picked up by Yahoo and others. "It's getting some nice attention now as folks are reading into the double -- or even triple -- entendre," Lisa Cochrane, Allstate's VP-integrated-marketing communications, said in an email. "Unlike LeBron, who's made some questionable decisions, choosing Allstate is always the right decision."
State Farm's response? "Even though I'm a sensitive Piscean, it's probably best that I don't comment," said spokesman David Beigie. If you didn't catch it, that's a dig at Allstate's recent retraction of what was supposed to be a funny press release linking accident rates to Zodiac signs. Some customers took it seriously.
As for LeBron, his likability dropped in the wake of the July 8 decision but appears to be inching back up, according to the Marketing Arm's Davie Brown Index (DBI), an independently conducted survey that brand marketers and advertising agencies use to determine a celebrity's ability to influence consumer brand affinities and affect purchasing decisions. His appeal score on Aug. 29 was 58.65 -- down from 71.54 on May 24 -- but was up to 61.77 at the end of last year, according to DBI. And his overall score, which factors in awareness, trust, influence and more, was at 73.52, which is actually up from his May score of 71.71.