State Farm has spent a decade exploring gaming and esports marketing to succeed in younger consumers, leading to last 12 months’s successful esports competition “Gamerhood Challenge” that racked up 10 million views on Twitch. On June 1, the series returns for a second outing with bolder challenges and the addition of YouTube as a partner.
“Gamerhood Challenge” — part reality series, part esports marketing initiative — grew out of the need to clarify something as abstract as insurance to an audience that doesn’t yet have a necessity for it. When that audience includes millennial and Gen Z consumers who are inclined to avoid traditional advertising-heavy channels, the company recognized it might need to get creative.
“We wanted to construct something [in the gaming space] that we’d own, so we could share the passion points with millennial and Gen Z audiences and meet them where they’re,” said Alyson Griffin, State Farm’s vice chairman of marketing. “It was really an experiment to see if we could do it, and if we could make it entertaining.”
From making the brand’s spokescharacter, Jake, a non-playable character in the NBA 2K gaming franchise to having that very same character interact with users in the metaverse (and establishing mini-games and quests), State Farm has spent a decade constructing its presence in the areas where younger consumers spend their time.
“We have been doing quite a bit to draw Gen Z and younger millennial audiences, and we’re getting data to know how people interact with us,” said Griffin. “Once we began getting a way of that, we began to take into consideration how we could create ‘insurable moments’ in some ways.”
In “Gamerhood Challenge,” well-known gamers, streamers and content creators were pitted against one another in a series of gaming challenges set in a custom-built neighborhood of tiny homes. Throughout, the gamers faced obstacles — akin to a flat tire on the strategy to an ice cream reward — that might be mitigated through insurance. Streaming on Twitch, it saw 52,000 audience participants compete in trivia and word games during the episodes.
Building on that success, State Farm will launch “Gamerhood Challenge 2” on June 1. As with many sequels, this 12 months’s initiative guarantees to be larger and brasher than its predecessor. The changes include pairing the contestants into teams of two; having weekly winners compete with Jake, who will bring a unique special guest each week, in backyard games like Lawn Jenga and Pictionary; and integrating the insurable moments deeper into the programming.
“This 12 months, the insurable moments are a little bit more outrageous,” Griffin said. “They really attempt to get in the way of the gamers and it puts their gaming skills to the test, which makes it more fun to observe.”
For example, a pipe might burst in the gamers’ homes while the tournament is happening, showcasing the need for homeowners insurance. In all, the company rigged 60 different special-effects cues — using hydraulics, catapult systems and air vacuums — to trigger during the program’s run. The goal is to seamlessly weave these insurable moments into the show.
“It’s not forcing some industrial in there, but relatively incorporating the content into what’s occurring, and the way State Farm is there to assist,” the executive said.
One of the larger changes is the decision so as to add YouTube this 12 months alongside Twitch as the show’s streaming platforms. As a result, State Farm has also upped the opportunities for audience engagement, akin to adding reality show-type confessionals to heighten the drama and increasing the real-time interaction between the brand and the viewers during the show’s initial stream.
The multi-platform approach grew out of how viewers were engaging with the content in the competition’s first 12 months and the desire to construct on that with more opportunities for audience engagement.
“Last 12 months, we created an API for Twitch integration in order that players can engage in real-time with live trivia as the game is occurring,” Griffin said. “It was quite buzzworthy. There was quite a bit of chatter and engagement that we were making a gift of prizes in real-time.”
Knowing that millennial and Gen Z consumers wish to construct affinity with brands through causes and good works, State Farm can be using “Gamerhood Challenge 2” to prove its good neighborliness with contributions to charities of the teams’ alternative.
“That [charitable contribution] is actually necessary to us in exposing to this younger group who we’re and what our purpose as an organization is… and making communities safer and interesting in communities is essential to us,” Griffin said.
While it looks as if quite a bit of effort and outlay to succeed in a cohort that is probably not in the marketplace for insurance, Griffin said the potential return on investment from its esports marketing strategy is value it, particularly considering that the brand has been exploring the gaming category for 10 years.
“In order to grow, you could have to have marketing programs that capture current demand, but what we also must do is to generate future demand,” Griffin said. “What you’re seeing now’s we’re really turning up the heat and moving beyond logo sponsorships, which is where we began. This is a more forward-footed strategy to engage with this current and potential customer. … Across all of the different metrics that the gaming competition allows us to do and measure, it’s an ideal return on investment.”
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