Brand Strategy

How State Farm pulled off one of fall football’s most memorable campaigns

It’s a love story…Just not Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s.
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State Farm

· 5 min read

Brands have been eager to get involved in the excitement around the blossoming relationship between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. And like a good neighbor, State Farm was there, too.

This fall, the insurance company went an unexpected route for its one and only Swift-Kelce-related activation of 2023 (not including the ads it filmed with Kelce over the summer), and it pulled off one of the more memorable stunts around the couple without directly involving Swift or Travis Kelce. Instead, State Farm called on another two Kelces: Travis’s brother and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, and their mother, Donna Kelce, plus the brand’s spokesperson, Jake from State Farm.

The resulting campaign, where the Kelces appeared with Jake at an Eagles game, was pulled off, well, swiftly, according to Head of Marketing Alyson Griffin, and ended up being a marketing touchdown, thanks in part to Kelce star power and the enduring popularity of Jake.

“It was about unexpectedly showing up in a place where our customers and potential customers have passion around—sports, or just pop culture—and uniquely and authentically being there, because we have such a presence in football anyway,” Griffin told Marketing Brew.

We chatted with Griffin about how the viral moment came together, how it paid off, and what’s next for the insurance brand’s marketing.

The kickoff: Swift first rattled the holy ground at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 24, and the following Friday, Griffin got a call from the team at marketing agency Maximum Effort, which had worked with State Farm in the past and pitched the idea to seat someone with Donna at the upcoming Eagles game.

Griffin was interested because it was a little different than the barrage of Swift-Kelce posts and campaigns that had already started cropping up, she said. State Farm also didn’t want to get on the wrong side of the zeitgeisty couple, she said, and actor Ryan Reynolds, the co-founder of Maximum Effort, was able to provide a direct line to Swift. Griffin said Swift gave Reynolds the green light, and from there, the team had less than 48 hours to pull the stunt together for the Oct. 1 game.

The playbook: State Farm had just wrapped up a filming session with Kevin Miles, the actor who plays Jake, so Griffin said she wasn’t sure he’d be available to participate. But Miles signed on, and the team put together a four-part activation that started with seating Jake and Donna together at the game, which in and of itself sparked fan attention in person, social media buzz, and broadcast coverage.

“I still pinch myself when I realize how much attention Jake from State Farm gets when he’s in public,” Griffin told us. “He was drawing a ton of fans swarming him in the stands and trying to get to him, which was interesting. It’s always fun for us to see our asset living in real life. He was a big draw.”

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In the wake of the appearance, Jake took to social media to get in on the “seemingly ranch” joke that started with Swift’s first appearance at a game the week prior (where she was photographed with the presumed condiment), as well as to post a selfie with Donna. The photo was accompanied by the caption, “In my red era with Mama MaAuto,” a reference to Swift’s fourth studio album and a recent State Farm commercial starring Travis and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Last but not least, State Farm and Maximum Effort arranged for Jake to leave the game with Jason the same way Swift and Travis had a week earlier. The post was accompanied by a joke about friendship bracelets, a staple of Swift’s Eras Tour (and part of the Swift-Kelce relationship lore).


The end zone: Despite all the star power involved in the campaign, the element of the campaign that Griffin said made it really shine was the involvement of Jake from State Farm himself. The character is an established sports fan, she said, and has in the past been documented attending sporting events like NBA All-Star Weekend and the WNBA draft.

“It wasn’t jarring or out of the blue,” Griffin said. “And I think we’re probably one of the only brands who could have done it.”

It helps that, according to Griffin, “Jake is neither a cartoon nor a caricature,” she said. “He’s a person. People believe he’s…a human who could be in public at a football game.”

The win: Jake and Donna’s appearance on the broadcast resulted in a 15% boost to the typical increase in online engagement State Farm sees after a broadcast exposure, Griffin told us. The duo was shown again during the Sunday Night Football broadcast of the Chiefs game, a hit that Griffin said led to brand exposure equal to 300 primetime ads. All in all, the campaign totaled 2.5 billion impressions, 260,000 engagements, and more than 400 media placements, according to Griffin. “It definitely exceeded our expectations,” she said.

In the wake of all the attention, though, State Farm seems to have hopped in a getaway car and fled the Swift-Kelce mobscene. Griffin said she’s been asked if the brand plans to do any more marketing around the couple, and for now, the answer is no.

“It truly was something you couldn’t plan for, that we really did do within 48 hours, because we were trying to catch lightning in a bottle, and we did,” she said. “We don’t want to play it out beyond its usefulness.”

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