Cloud Cult Clears the Air on Esurance Sponsorship

Minneapolis Psych-Pop Band Becomes Animated in New TV Spot

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It's a music video! It's an ad! It's a music videad! It's the band Cloud Cult, fully animated, "Iron Giant" style, in a TV spot for Esurance, but there isn't a sales pitch to be found. The lyrics to "Lucky Today" do have a quasi-personal finance bent -- "I got 25¢ in my wallet / And I'm feeling mighty lucky today" -- but the psychedelic indie band from Minneapolis isn't really concerned with saving you money on your car insurance as much as it is about working with a partner it respects.

"We've been approached by a number of different companies over the years to use our music for various types of commercials," the band's lead singer-songwriter, Craig Minowa, told Songs for Soap. "Because of the extreme environmental ethics of Cloud Cult, we've had to turn down a lot of offers that could have been quite lucrative. It's hard to say 'no' to, but we've gotten used to it. I didn't know Esurance very well when they first offered the idea, but I researched the company, and for the first time, I actually felt comfortable doing something like this."

Minowa has been pushing green music initiatives since those faraway days when Al Gore was just a boring vice president. His record label Earthology Records, run from his organic farm, specializes in renewable materials and, well, releasing Cloud Cult albums. According to the band, all of its merchandise is made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials, and it's purchased energy offsets for tours through NativeEnergy.com. So when the septet played the Monolith Festival at Red Rocks last year and learned the Esurance had helped to green the gathering, it was only a matter of time before they became "eco-buddies."

Esurance became the green sponsor for Cloud Cult's current 27-stop tour -- to support the April LP "Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)" -- and the company has picked up the tab for carbon offsets, printed green tour posters and subsidized the bio-diesel the band uses in its tour bus. Cloud Cult has been "great to work with," says Kristin Brewe, director of brand and public relations at the direct-to-consumer insurance company. "They're some of the nicest people you'll ever meet, great in live performance, and also, doing good while sharing their music with people."

Cloud Cult isn't the first band to get a TV push from Esurance. This spring Kazutaka Nomura -- under the name Pwrfl Power -- appeared in a TV spot after he won a songwriting contest with the song "It's Okay." It features a similar animation style and Esurance's anime-style mascot, Erin, who also appears in this latest TV ad.

Despite the tour support, Minowa and the band were still a little leery of doing a national TV spot and all that goes along with putting oneself in the public eye. But Esurance gave Cloud Cult enough creative input to make the band feel comfortable.
Cloud Cult band shot
"We didn't want the commercial to just push insurance or just push our band," Minowa says. "We wanted a green message. The whole thing is focused on this sort of fun and artsy way of greening the world, and it ends with a link to a page that offers all sorts of tips on how to make your lifestyle more sustainable. Environmentalism can be a depressing arena, but this cartoon really makes it fun and is full of optimism."

The spot, which prominently features the band's name and song title (the way MTV used to do when it played videos) is set for a September 22 TV roll-out. According to Minowa, the band loves their pen-and-ink doppelgangers and he often wonders what his cartoon version is doing at any particular moment. When asked whether the characters might find themselves on t-shirts in the future, he seemed to warm up to the idea, adding, "of course, they would be 100% organic cotton."
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