As any sports fan can tell, particularly NFL fans, State Farm Insurance's ads are ubiquitous. During pretty much any sports telecast, you can expect to see at least one State Farm ad, usually featuring quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes, -- even rapper Drake appeared in one spot -- bantering about low insurance rates with the “Jake from State Farm.”
Given all the gridiron groundwork State Farms has laid this season, why did the brand decide to sit out the Super Bowl in favor of a Tik-Tok activation? Perhaps State Farm is playing its own marketing version of 3D chess, figuring that given its already established presence with NFL fans, the news that it was opting out of the Super Bowl would generate more press coverage than any 30-second spot ever could.
While it might seem like a counterintuitive marketing strategy, a TikTok activation is a savvy way for to connect with Gen Z -- a generation that’s much less interested in watching live sports. If the goal is to reach Gen Z, a TikTok play makes sense.
Not only does the platform have the highest penetration of Gen Z in the U.S., according to a Backlink post, but it also provides the brand with a way to engage more deeply with this demographic. After all, once that Super Bowl 30-second ad is over, what are you left with? State Farm’s TikTok challenge campaign gave Gen-Zers opportunities to both see and interact with the brand over the course of a few weeks, building more meaningful and relevant connections with this generation of insurance consumers.
The bigger question is not why State Farm did this, but how many others will follow, and will it have any long-term effects for Super Bowl advertising?
I don’t believe it will, at least not any time soon. As long as the NFL is delivering a huge number of eyeballs, there will be brands who will pay a premium to be seen.
That said, we’re starting to see a shift in the types of brands who buy those spots. Typical players like Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Doritos have a lot of reasons to continue buying air time to reach large mass audiences. That was likely what all those crypto brands are thinking. But for a lot of brands, marketing budgets could easily shift to more affordable, more targeted, more engaging types of media.
As brands consider where to put their marketing dollars, and whether big tentpole events like the Super Bowl or Academy Awards are worth it, they would be wise to consider that Gen Z prefers to stream live sports, according to Sportico, so networks should think of ways to add streaming options to their broadcast packages to grow viewership and deepen engagement. Additionally, brands with a strong positioning and understanding of their audience will be the ones best able to build relevance in those highly targeted, creator-centric channels.
State Farm’s Super Bowl decision notwithstanding, the smartest way to spend your marketing dollars is to focus on where your audience already is, whether on social media, TV or a combination of both. That forward thinking may find Jake and State Farm back in the big game next year.