The co-branded spots not only set a benchmark for creatively adjusting a branded partnership within an unprecedented sports landscape, but also represent a landmark use of face-mapping technology for branded content, with the resulting innovation driving high fan engagement, brand memorability, and consideration.
State Farm capitalized on a record-breaking live viewing audience, becoming an integral part of the cultural conversation surrounding “The Last Dance” through a strategic sponsorship and two highly contextual “Deep Fake” spots. Audiences tuning in to “The Last Dance” series responded to State Farm’s co-branded spots with an overwhelming amount of social commentary and feedback. The sentiment was clear – State Farm showed up with best in class contextual creative and fans loved it – and importantly, credited the brand. There were 7,746 brand mentions from 4/19-4/20 around the premiere, with conversation hovering at 78% positive/neutral, well above benchmark.
Objective: Drive awareness and consideration of the brand by creating a highly contextual co-branded advertisement with ESPN in support of the high-profile documentary “The Last Dance,” leveraging State Farm’s title sponsorship.
Strategy & Execution: In 2019, Optimum Sports secured the first title sponsorship of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary, including a co-branded commercial to drive association with the sponsorship and elevate State Farm into the cultural conversation. This co-brand was originally slated to be shot in-person with ESPN talent & athletes.
After COVID-19 struck, ESPN decided to move the air date of the documentary up, which meant the team was tasked with creating an engaging, relevant spot all from home. In response, the team leaned into the documentary theme and dug through old SportsCenter footage, finding clips of Kenny Mayne, an ESPN anchor during the Bulls run in the 90s. With lines recorded from home, face-mapping technology was used to layer images of Mayne’s lips over the original footage, making predictions about the Bulls team, including how they would one day be featured in a documentary series. The spot was dubbed “Deep Fake.”
On Sunday, 4/19, during the first appointment-viewing event of the COVID-era, State Farm’s co-brand playfully faked out a record-setting audience.
The spot was deemed such a success, a second version was created within three weeks, featuring 90s SportsCenter anchors Linda Cohn and Keith Olbermann to air in the last two episodes.
Results: “The Last Dance” finished as the highest-rated documentary series in the history of ESPN, averaging 5.6 million viewers/episode, out-drawing events like the previous years NBA Eastern Conference Finals & and outdrawing the next-highest all-time ESPN documentary by 57%. It also became one of the biggest events of the year socially, ranking among the top 10 most social primetime programs YTD – ahead of events such as The Oscars, Golden Globes, and NBA All-Star Weekend.
According to Nielsen PMI Brand Effects, State Farm’s sponsorship of “The Last Dance” resulted in a 75% increase in brand memorability during the series as compared to standard NBA game broadcast, making it State Farm's highest performing creative of the year by a significant margin.