The insurance-shilling Neanderthals will be spotted frequently across the cable-sports behemoth's media properties over the next year as part of a novel integration deal between Geico and ESPN that casts the cavemen as fantasy-football salesmen, as well as stars of a series of vignettes promoting the network's flagship "SportsCenter" program.
"ESPN is basically using an advertiser's icon to drive viewers to its shows," said Bill Koenigsberg, CEO of Horizon Media, Geico's longtime media agency, which crafted the deal. "It's very unusual, but for these two brands we think it's a perfect fit."
The cavemen will appear on ESPN's TV, print, digital and radio channels, functioning as a "carnival barker" to draw people to its fantasy-football offering and to "SportsCenter," said Ed Erhardt, ESPN president for customer marketing and sales.
ESPN's online fantasy-football application went free three years ago and has since become the No. 2 fantasy-football website, trailing only Yahoo Sports.
Doing the usual shtick
Mr. Erhardt said the cavemen will be doing their usual, inferiority-complex-driven shtick in their appearances for ESPN. Typically, they've taken offense at Geico's claims that signing up for a policy on it website is "so easy a caveman can do it" but as they are deployed in a number of sporting scenarios, they'll apparently find new, non-Geico sources for offense.
Geico's brand will make some appearances in the creative, which is a product of a collaboration between Arnold Worldwide, ESPN's shop, and Martin Agency, Geico's agency.
Mr. Erhardt noted that the cavemen, like ESPN, tend to use self-disparaging humor in their ads. "We both take sports seriously and ourselves not so seriously," he said.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Geico Chief Marketing Officer Ted Ward said the cost of the yearlong deal was "significant."
Latest integration play
This is the latest -- and potentially most extensive -- integration play for the cavemen. In the past, they've been seen playing a Super Bowl Sunday round of golf with CBS commentator Phil Simms and, of course, they starred in their own failed ABC sitcom.
While he wouldn't provide details, Horizon's Mr. Koenigsberg hinted that Geico might be pursuing similar integration deals on other cable networks with its other mascot, the Geico gecko. Mr. Ward wouldn't comment on that, but conceded "the lizard is always hard at work trying to drum up another deal."
Those possibilities, Mr. Ward noted, are the result of an enormous investment by the Berkshire Hathaway-owned insurer in creating personas for its icons. Geico spent a category-leading $558 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
"We're in a unique position to leverage these characters we have," said Mr. Ward. "Not many brands can do that."