Just days away from advertising’s buzziest night of the year — Super Bowl LVII — State Farm finds itself in a particularly opportune position, commanding naming rights to the Arizona stadium where the game will be played. As such, the insurance provider is hoping to make a lasting impression, which is why it ditched traditional TV tropes to go all in on TikTok.
State Farm is bringing the big game’s venue, State Farm Stadium, center stage through a social media contest on TikTok. For the effort, the brand enlisted the app’s most followed creator, Khaby Lame, to post a video alongside brand mascot Jake from State Farm challenging consumers to both follow Jake and comment on the video guessing how many times the stadium will be name dropped for the chance to star in a video with Lame.
The video, posted Feb. 5, already boasts over 164 million views as of press time, surpassing the Super Bowl viewership record of 114.5 million viewers in 2015. The success is reaffirming for the non-traditional strategy, according to Alyson Griffin, vice president of marketing for State Farm, who also noted that the $7 million price tag to advertise during the game was a factor in the choice.
“In today’s culture, we felt it was prudent to see if we could take advantage of naming rights and get the attention, scale and level of a Super Bowl spot in a more palatable way for this year,” she said.
Indeed, TikTok’s booming popularity won’t be absent from this year’s big game. Sixty-nine percent of Gen Z use the app weekly, according to Forrester data shared with Marketing Dive, and the platform currently boasts over 10 billion views under the hashtag #SuperBowl. The event is already known to inspire social media use, with 43% of viewers last year scrolling on various apps while they watched.
“Second screen multitasking has long been a behavior for Super Bowl viewers. TikTok will be the go-to second screen investment for advertisers this Super Bowl — in part — because that’s now where culture breaks,” said Kelsey Chickering, principal analyst for Forrester, in emailed comments to Marketing Dive.
Utilizing TikTok for this year’s game is key to State Farm’s larger effort to connect with Gen Z and millennials, who are likely less informed about insurance. Last year, the company also passed on a traditional Super Bowl ad for a #TeamStateFarm challenge on TikTok, which offered up the chance to star in a commercial with Jake. The brand has also been exploring the metaverse through an always-on integration with iHeartMedia.
“Insurance is something that people are apathetic toward. So for us to start with younger generations and create that really important brand bond as early as we can is an important part of the full marketing strategy,” Griffin said.
Counting on creators
When it came to choosing a creator, partnering with Lame, who boasts a following of over 150 million people, was a decision based on more than his reach, Griffin said. The creator is widely known for simplifying “complex” issues without saying a word, instead using a careless shrug.
The creator’s distinctiveness is visible in the announcement video, which sees Lame and Jake face overzealous advertising executives who pitch the “only way to go big for the big game” — which includes flying in on a hang glider and utilizing jetpacks — with Lame ultimately pointing out the State Farm Stadium alone is enough for a marketing ploy. In that way, the partnership is meant to reference the idea that understanding insurance doesn’t need to be daunting.
“We know that the insurance category feels hard, especially to younger audiences, so we believe that Khaby, not only is the world’s biggest TikToker, undisputed, but that he also aligned so beautifully with this,” she said.
To create additional buzz, State Farm also teamed up with an additional 13 influencers, including Spencer X, Michael Le, and McKenzi Brooke, among others, who began sharing additional content Feb. 8. The effort is also being promoted on the company’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. The contest, which was teased by Jake ahead of its launch, will end in the hours leading up to the big game, though Griffin hopes consumers will stay tuned for the broadcast to keep a tab on how likely they are to have guessed correctly.
“We thought that was an interesting way throughout the broadcast to keep our name top-of-mind in a time when people are typically looking at a brand for a fleeting 15-30 seconds,” she said.
Beyond the app
Even though State Farm opted to skip a Super Bowl commercial, it’s still running a digital and linear TV ad promoting the social media contest. Continuing its non-traditional strategy, the ads will include Lame’s TikTok video and appear in the same vertical format as seen on TikTok. The spot additionally includes a QR code — a trending Super Bowl marketing tactic this year — that viewers can scan to be led directly to the original TikTok video.
To round out the effort, out-of-home activations are also on the docket, plus appearances from Jake at Fox Sports’ studio to chat about the game and a tie-up with the GQ Sports Style Hall of Fame fashion event the day before kick-off.
While much of State Farm’s strategy this year involves stepping into less charted territory, and on a major night for the insurance company, nonetheless, its pre-game success could be an indicator that heavy bets on emerging social media for the Super Bowl could grow as young consumers show no signs of give on using the buzzy platforms. And as the company explores what works best, any outcome is a good outcome, Griffin said.
“You can’t fail — meaning if it doesn’t go right, then that’s a learning to gain,” she said.