Back in the hoary yesteryear of 2007, there was a minor brouhaha over the State Farm Insurance Company’s placement of its logo on the cross-bars of basketball stanchions during NCAA games. At the time, The New York Times‘ fine advertising columnist, Stuart Elliott, reported on the marketing advance, naming it as a good example of ad creep.
Elliott contacted State Farm marketers, who disclosed their motives:
“Consumers consume media differently from three years ago,” said Mark Gibson, assistant vice president for advertising at State Farm in Bloomington, Ill. “It’s not enough to just run a 30-second commercial in a program.”
This admission of existing marketing-stimuli being “not enough” was, of course, followed by de rigueur professions of the corporation’s tender concerns for “consumers”:
In seeking alternatives to traditional ads, State Farm’s goal is “naturally, seamlessly integrating
the brand into a venue in a way that doesn’t take away from the event,” Mr. Gibson said.
If it causes disruption or becomes something people don’t like, it’s an issue,” he added, “and
consumers will let you know in their own way.”
So far, Mr. Gibson said, there have been no complaints about the signs. They are appearing at
universities that include Arizona State, Auburn, Baylor, Brigham Young, Florida State, Iowa State, Marshall, Miami, North Carolina State, Purdue, Texas A&M, the University of Colorado, Vanderbilt and the University of California, Los Angeles.
“State Farm was very sensitive about the schools doing this and didn’t push if a school felt it
was not right,” said Greg Brown, president at the Learfield Sports division of Learfield Communications in Plano, Tex., which represents 32 universities in their dealings with corporate marketers.
“The college landscape is a much more reserved landscape than Nascar or a variety of other
sports enterprises,” Mr. Brown said. “There’s headroom in what we do, by comparison, but we
don’t do something the schools won’t agree with.”
Mr. Brown says he believes “we’ve struck a nice balance” with the State Farm signs, because
they are visible to fans at the games as well as viewers on TV but are “not in your face.”
Time travel with me now to the year 2009, won’t you. What do we find here?