AmFam Insurance: Russell Wilson Super Bowl Ad Strategy

While Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos is an ubiquitous presence as a pitchman (and darn good at it), the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson will be seen in only one brand’s Super Bowl commercial – and it’s not an energy drink, fitness brand, or quick-service restaurant; it’s an insurance company based in the Midwest – American Family Insurance (AmFam).

So how does any brand maximize and execute when it is investing and advertising on the year’s biggest and priciest stage? In a multi-channel, multi-screen world, it is now incumbent on marketing and digital teams take full advantage of each channel to maximize reach, amplify conversation, generate brand buzz, encourage sharing, and successfully combine a brand activation combined with an element of entertainment.

I recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of AmFam’s Strategic Communications Editor, who is also an active and talented thought leader and blogger in the social media and social media/sports space, Tom Buchheim, to discuss the Russell Wilson ad campaign, highlighted by a Super Bowl commercial during the Big Game.

For background, read American Family Insurance’s (fantastic) press release.

DSMSports: Is a Super Bowl ad treated differently than “normal” TV ads?

Tom Buchheim: Since the launch of our Dreams campaign in 2011, American Family has done extensive social media integration with our traditional advertising – including the release of TV spots. In 2013, we went big with in social media in the lead up to Super Bowl weekend, with a TV commercial featuring a newly-signed Russell Wilson, U.S. Olympic hockey player Jessie Vetter, Steve Stricker and Phillip Phillips. The results were tremendous from an earned, paid and owned perspective. We offered our communities sneak peeks and exclusive content, and, as a result, doubled our Twitter followers in just five days. It was an opportunity to take our advertising – and our social media program – to a new level.

 Editor’s note: The ad is not being shown nationally, but instead to targeted markets in the Midwest region of the United States to assure it is being shown to a relevant audience and to maximize the ad spend.

In 2014, we’re going even bigger, using a hashtag (#longlivedreams) in our new spot (which is a first), featuring Russell Wilson (with voiceover from the legendary Harry Belafonte). We began an integrated social media campaign to engage our current followers and reach new ones – through paid and earned opportunities – drumming up excitement about this new commercial. So far, the response has been tremendous, with several thousand new Twitter followers and high engagement levels on Facebook and Twitter.  We’ve also integrated our Dream Protectors blog to feature related content to the release of the new commercial and to showcase the connection of Russell Wilson to our brand.

DSMSports: What went into the decision to use Russell Wilson?

Buchheim: Russell Wilson epitomizes the American Family Insurance brand. His story is our story – one of inspiring dreams for people everywhere. From an undersized, underdog to Super Bowl quarterback – you can’t write a script more fitting of someone who has overcome long odds through hard work and is pursuing AND achieving his dreams.

Russell also has ties to Wisconsin, where our company is headquartered. His wife worked for a time in our marketing department. Russell has spoken to our agents and served as an excellent role model and brand ambassador. We’re pretty excited to be part of his off-the-field dreams by sponsoring the Russell Wilson Passing Academy, which will visit several communities this summer (including Madison and Seattle).

DSMSports: Why is the Super Bowl ad a good buy for AmFam? Right demo, biggest audience, most engaged audience, etc.?

Buchheim: It’s a big stage for sure, but I think it’s important to note that our investment is one that was carefully planned through targeted, local ad buys, vs. a larger, more extensive national ad buy. Read more in a recent Chicago Business Journal piece about the partnership between AmFam and Wilson.

DSMSports: Does the ad seek to reinforce branding, go ‘viral,’ or a combination thereof?

Buchheim: It’s a little of both, I imagine. We certainly believe Russell – and the content of the spot and all our social media content – reinforces our larger brand message, one that champions dreamers, encourages the pursuit of dreams, all the while offering the reassurance that American Family will be there every step of the way to support – and protect – those dreams, no matter what they might be. So it’s a strong representation of our overall brand message. And our social media strategy – and the paid, owned and earned aspects of it – will hopefully drive additional engagement with our brand and build buzz around the new commercial.

Editor’s note: A great explanation of an effective partnership activation – when the brand and values of the product and endorser intersect in harmony.

DSMSports: How is AmFam building the ad across all marketing channels and fan touch points?

Buchheim: We have an integrated plan that addresses paid, owned and earned opportunities. I’ve had the fortune to work with some amazing colleagues and strategic partners to develop and execute the social media part of this plan. But there are plenty of other moving parts which will ensure a successful release. It began, in essence, Jan. 19, as soon as we learned the outcome of the NFC Championship. And it will continue past the Big Game, with a variety of tactics.

Editor’s note: AmFam is utilizing several social media networks effectively, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a blog, and YouTube/video content and working with Wilson through these channels, as well.

DSMSports: What are the KPIs that AmFam will use to judge the return and value of this ad?

Buchheim: In social media, we value engagement (likes, shares, retweets, comments, etc.) over community growth. But we’ll take a look at all available data, compare it to other campaigns and learn from this experience. While we executed a similar campaign a year ago, this weekend will be at an entirely different level, mostly because our brand ambassador is playing in the Super Bowl, but also because of the much larger, integrated plan we’re executing.

DSMSports: How will AmFam extend the lifespan, and maximize return/value, of the ad buy?

Buchheim: We’re using paid, owned and earned opportunities to build buzz beyond the game. In social media, we’ll join existing conversations (such as Twitter’s Ad Scrimmage) to engage consumers long after the game is over. We’ve also developed a landing page on our website (check it out) to provide exclusive content after the game and to further tell our brand story and tie it to our new commercial and associated social media activities.

DSMSports: One last question – your Super Bowl pick?

Buchheim: Seattle 24, Denver 23

Thanks so much to Tom for sharing his time and insight with me! Watch for the American Family Insurance commercial promotion on Sunday (and before and after), follow AmFam on Twitter and Facebook, visit the AmFam Website.
Also, I encourage you to follow Tom Buchheim on Twitter and check out his blog, Fourth and 140.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

Follow me on Twitter @njh287   Connect on LinkedIn

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