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Inside State Farm's pivot to cranking out a buzzy ad for ESPN's hyped Michael Jordan documentary amid a live sports shutdown

Michael Jordan, ESPN's The Last Dance
  • State Farm is a big sports advertiser and had to speed up its campaign to sponsor ESPN's Michael Jordan documentary "The Last Dance" after major sporting events were cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus.
  • It scrapped a live shoot and a red-carpet event and threw together a campaign featuring archived footage of ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne in a few weeks.
  • State Farm used face-mapping technology to alter Mayne. State Farm also replaced an event with digital ads, podcast sponsorships, and an after-show about the documentary.
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State Farm was gearing up to sponsor the National Collegiate Athletic Association's March Madness tournament when the coronavirus hit the US, leading the NCAA to cancel the event.
Postponed sports have left a major hole for networks like ESPN, TNT, and CBS that count on ads from big sponsors like State Farm.
Marketing firm IEG estimates that coronavirus has affected $10 billion in sports sponsorships across 5,000 brands and 120,000 sponsorship agreements in the US.
State Farm for its part spent all of $105 million on TV ads alone in January and February and $544 million on TV advertising in 2019, according to Kantar.
With no live sports, State Farm was set to advertise in ESPN's buzzy documentary about Michael Jordan called "The Last Dance." Facebook and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups also signed on to sponsor the doc.
"The Last Dance" is ESPN's big bet on filling air time that normally would show live sports games. Sean Hanrahan, SVP of sports brand solutions for Disney Advertising Sales, said that its airing of the NFL virtual draft this week and content like The Ocho also appeals to sports advertisers.
The 10-part doc was set to run in June, but ESPN bumped up it up to April 19, leaving State Farm with an unfinished ad campaign and only a few weeks to pull it together.
"A big part of our overall plan is getting the reach that only sports, especially live sports, can provide," said Patty Morris, State Farm's assistant VP of marketing. "The pausing of live sports had a huge impact on not just us but on the industry. Our priority right now is maximizing the opportunities that we have."
State Farm ran a 30-second ad during "The Last Dance" on April 19 that twisted archived footage of ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne reporting on the Chicago Bull's third straight championship in 1998 into a promo for the documentary.

Morris added that State Farm's ad budget has been delayed this year and that it plans to run ads in NBA games when the season resumes.

State Farm had to scrap a live event

Originally, State Farm planned a red carpet-like live event to premiere the documentary. The idea was to integrate State Farm's spokesperson "Jake from State Farm" that it brought back earlier this year.
State Farm also had planned to run more promotions leading up to the original June air date, said Amy Adelbush, group director at Optimum Sports, State Farm's sports media-buying agency that negotiated the sponsorship with ESPN.
When the lockdown canceled the live event, State Farm switched to running digital ads on ESPN's website and Snapchat channel, a podcast, and a live-streamed after-show that is aired across Twitter and ESPN's app.
"When we're looking at our audience, consumers and fans are going to be on their phones and [looking at] the additional content that's coming from us," Adelbush said.

State Farm had to produce the spot remotely

Other advertisers like Toyota and KFC have changed their ads in response to the coronavirus. State Farm had to cancel an entire live shoot.
The plan was to show ESPN's Kenny Mayne, a longtime "Sportscenter" anchor for ESPN, sitting at his desk and in Chicago to show he was "a part of that time but is still part of the ESPN family now," said Julia Farber, group director at Translation, State Farm's creative agency.
With no live shoot possible, the agency and ESPN dug through old footage and used face-mapping technology to layer images of Mayne's lips reading the commercial on top of the old footage. Mayne's daughter helped the anchor record lines from his home in Seattle.
State Farm also placed an image of its logo that appeared on an actual billboard in the '90s to cover up the name of the segment in the achieved footage.
Then the agency reviewed edits of the ad over phone calls and Zoom.
"It did seem like we were trying to fake fans out, but in reality, it was just answering the reality of what we were up against from a production standpoint," she said.
ESPN says that the document is already paying off for advertisers.
According to ESPN, the first two episodes that aired on April 19 averaged 6.1 million viewers, with 3.5 million of them aged 18 to 49, making it the company's most watched documentary ever. The series is also ESPN's most watched program this year since the college football national championship in January.
Data from ad measurement firm EDO found that people who saw State Farm's ad during the program were 15 times more likely to search for State Farm than people who saw State Farm's ads elsewhere on non-sports broadcast and cable networks. In a survey conducted by ESPN on nearly 1,000 viewers, 28% of people said that State Farm's sponsorship increased their perception of the brand positively.
"We're in constant contact with our clients to tell them what's new, what we're thinking," Hanrahan said. "We get a lot of questions about scenarios — the truth is that nobody knows yet."
SEE ALSO: Leaked document: Top ad agency predicts that cancelled NBA and NCAA events will cost TV networks up to a 25% drop in viewership
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* This article was originally published here
https://www.businessinsider.com/state-farm-changed-ad-campaign-for-espns-michael-jordan-doc-2020-4

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