The Rise of Insurance Companies in Sports Sponsorship
The next time you turn on the television to watch a sports game or you attend a live sporting event, I want you to pay attention. You’ll notice more and more that the sponsors from one sport to another are insurance companies.
Whether they have naming rights for the venue or their logo is plastered on the wall across from the field, the predominance of insurance companies in sports is no coincidence.
In today’s article, I’ll explain the link between insurance and sports, which will include a list of the top insurance companies that offer sports sponsorship today. I’ll also have plenty of tips throughout for sports teams that want to target insurance companies for sponsorship.
Let’s get started!
Why Have Insurance Companies Started Sponsoring Sports?
Although insurance companies as sports sponsors are a common sight now, it hasn’t always been this way. When the influx of insurance sponsorships started is hard to pinpoint, but if I had to put a timeframe on it, I would say around the mid-2000s. This article from A.List mentions a partnership between the NBA and State Farm that goes back at least that far.
Insurance and sports seem like odd bedfellows, right? One is dry and kind of boring (if we’re being honest), and the other is high-thrills, high-stakes, and very exciting.
Yet there’s a reason the relationship works, and that’s because sports viewership has a very large, very solid audience segment that skews older. This Statista report from 2020 shows the age of NBA viewers in the United States for that year, and the results are pretty surprising.
The audience is split into three groups: avid fans, casual fans, and non-fans. I’ll focus on just the avid and casual fans.
Here’s the age breakdown of avid NBA fans in 2020:
- 18 to 34 years old – 25 percent
- 35 to 44 years old – 30 percent
- 45 to 64 years old – 12 percent
- 65 and older – 8 percent
And here are the ages of casual NBA fans for the same period:
- 18 to 34 years old – 37 percent
- 35 to 44 years old – 34 percent
- 45 to 64 years old – 28 percent
- 65 and older – 27 percent
That 35-to-44 age bracket is the sweet spot for insurance companies. As you’ll notice, there are more avid NBA fans in their mid-30s and mid-40s than there are in their late teens, 20s, and early 30s.
Yes, that’s just the age demos for one sport of many, but even though sports are generally associated with young, raucous crowds, every sport has a large segment of older to middle-aged viewers that are an insurance company’s target audience.
Yet that’s not the primary reason that insurance companies align with sports teams and often spend millions to billions of dollars to do so (says this report from Insurance Edge). That reason is that sports have something that insurance is lacking.
As entertaining as those Progressive commercials are, trust me when I say that insurance companies know that what they do is kind of boring. Any opportunity they have to liven up insurance is one they’re going to take. When you attach insurance to the adrenaline of live sports, insurance becomes a bit more interesting by default.
Sports sponsorship took a nosedive in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, but that would have been the case in any industry. Now that we’re inching closer and closer to post-pandemic life and live sports are occurring for the first time in what feels like forever, I’d predict an even greater uptick in insurance companies sponsoring sports.
The 4 Top Insurance Companies That Offer Sports Sponsorship
As I said I would, I want to shine the spotlight on several insurance companies that have long associations in a variety of sports.
State Farm’s history of sports sponsorship is extensive. Here’s a press release from 2006 highlighting their three-year deal with the NFL, which would have taken them through 2009.
Proving they’re a little more unconventional than most, in the late 2010s, State Farm got involved in esports sponsorship, says this Esports Insider article from 2019.
The deal, which would have expired this year, puts State Farm’s name behind the League of Legends College Championship, the All-Star Event, the Mid-Season Invitational, and the League of Legends World Championship.
I wrote about State Farm’s past and present sports sponsorships here. That article from our blog discusses mostly non-insurance brands that sponsor sports teams and organizations, so it’s worth a read if you missed it.
As a refresher, here are some of State Farm’s most high-profile sports sponsorship opportunities:
- State Farm Classic golf tournament for women players
- State Farm Center in Illinois
- State Farm Arena in Georgia
- State Farm Stadium in Arizona
The German insurance company Allianz is almost as passionate about sports as it is about insurance. On their website is a page entitled Sports & Culture where the insurance company discusses its legacy of sports sponsorship.
Currently, Allianz’s name is attached to the Munich, Germany football stadium known appropriately as the Allianz Arena. From 2005 onward, the TSV 1860 Munchen and the Bayern Munich, two leading German football clubs, have started their respective seasons in this arena.
Over in Sao Paulo, Brazil is the Allianz Parque. This isn’t solely a sports arena, as the venue once known as the Palestra Italia Arena also hosts corporate events, concerts, and shows. On the sports side of things, the Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras football club plays here a lot.
If there’s a sport that’s played today, the insurance provider Allstate has sponsored it or currently does. I’m not exaggerating either! Allstate was a big NASCAR sponsor from 2005 to 2009 and used Kasey Kahne, a star NASCAR driver, in their ads at the time.
Allstate sponsored soccer (not football) including deals with the United States Soccer Federation, Major League Soccer or MLS, and the Mexico National Team back in 2007. The insurance company’s other sports sponsorships include the Allstate Wrigleyville Classic in 2020, the Sugar Bowl (ongoing since 2007), and college football.
In 2008, Geico dipped its toes into motorsports sponsorship and never turned back.
After first supporting the Germain Racing team, Geico then sponsored the NASCAR Nationwide Series through driver Mike Wallace and then the NASCAR Cup Series with drivers Casey Mears and Max Papis.
As of 2020, Geico is a NASCAR Cup Series partner along with Xfinity, Coca-Cola, and Busch Beer.
Tips for Procuring Sports Sponsorship from an Insurance Company
If you’re on a sports team or part of a sports organization, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a great idea to approach insurers for sponsorship. The interest on their part is already there, which benefits you.
Please don’t misconstrue what I’m telling you though. You can’t just call up any insurance company and ask for sponsorship just as you wouldn’t do that when approaching a company in any other industry (or so I hope).
Instead, you need a sponsorship program that can gear you up for success. Here’s what I recommend you do to get started.
Can you someday work your way up to the Allianzes and State Farms of the world? Sure, but shooting for such big sponsors for your first time will more than likely set you up for disappointment.
These insurance companies are regularly inundated with requests from sports teams big and small. You’d have to stand out that much more to make an impact.
Once you’ve had a few sponsorships under your team’s collective belt and you understand what sponsors want, then appealing to bigger sponsors becomes easier.
In the meantime, start locally. I suggest a Google search of your state and then the term “insurance companies” and see which names pop up. Since sports are all about fostering a community connection, local insurance companies that have a similar goal might want to work with you.
Determine Your Goals
On the note of goals, what are yours? Does your soccer team need new gear or do you want to increase attendance at your football games? You could be looking for funding to open a sports facility or a training area.
Once you know what you want, think of how a sponsor can help. As I always recommend, you should start planning for how you can help the sponsor as well. Sponsorship is a two-way street, after all!
Know Your Audience
Companies don’t want to sponsor you, but your audience. Yes, that seems harsh, but the more you can get used to putting yourself second, third, and even fourth and the sponsor and your audience first, the faster along your sponsorship program will move.
You may be very current on your audience demographics and geographics, which is awesome! This will save you time. But unless you know more about their psychographics as well, then you need to issue an audience survey.
Psychographics, by the way, refer to your audience’s behaviors and motivations. For example, why do your audience members choose to go to your games? Is it because they like your sport? Maybe you have some high-profile team members that the crowd goes nuts for.
Putting all this information together helps you identify your target audience. Perhaps your biggest target audience segment is 32-year-old married men who make $50k a year.
Since your target sponsor is an insurance company, this segment of your audience is a perfect match for them.
Most people in their 30s are starting to think about insuring more than their car. They might look into house insurance if they’re first-time homeowners or maybe even life insurance. They have the money to put into insurance, which you know from this audience segment’s income data.
Segmenting your audience based on survey data is valuable for more than just sponsorship. You can tailor your marketing approach to your various audience segments moving forward.
For example, if you have a discount on kids’ tickets for the week, you can email your audience segment with children. Your childless customers don’t care about this discount, so you could send them content that’s more tailored to them to keep them engaged.
Price Your Assets and Activations
Your audience is of premium value, don’t get me wrong, but you must have other assets for the target sponsor. I also recommend activation ideas or experiential marketing opportunities that connect your target audience with your insurance sponsor.
Let’s say that one goal of your sponsor is to increase signups to their email list. You could have a contest on the field before your game. To participate, all your audience has to do is share their email address. Then they’re notified by email if they win. Make the prize something good (but affordable!) and voila, your sponsor’s email list could triple after one game.
If you’re struggling with putting together your assets list, check out my sports sponsorship proposal, which has a detailed section about what goes into your sponsorship menu (and what doesn’t). It will come in handy for sure!
Find a Connection with Your Target Sponsor
Here’s another reason why I tell first-time sponsorship seekers to start local. You need to find someone at the insurance company you know or someone within your sports organization knows.
This saves you from having to do the dreaded cold call or cold email. The insurance rep will also be more willing to talk to you once they find out that you also know Susan or Brad.
Okay, so you got someone on the line at the insurance company. Now what? You want to ask for a little bit more of their time so you can do a discovery session. This is your initial meeting, but it doesn’t have to take place in person. You can also video chat or even talk on the phone.
Have a Discovery Session
What is a discovery session and what is the goal of it?
A discovery session is where you ask questions to learn more about the target sponsor. You should have already researched your target sponsors long before now, but you still won’t know everything about them after reading news articles, press releases, and LinkedIn profiles.
Namely, you won’t be privy to the real good stuff, like what’s stopping them from connecting with their ideal audience or how they define brand awareness. With discovery questions, you can finally get those answers.
This post has nearly 40 discovery questions you can borrow (no, I don’t mind) for your next discovery session. You can only ask seven of the questions at most, so choose wisely.
One question that I always ask is “Our audience is X, Y, Z. Is this an audience segment you typically try to engage?”
The target sponsor’s answer to that question will be so telling. After all, if the insurance company isn’t interested in your target audience, then you two probably aren’t a match. And that’s okay! You’ll just have to find another insurance company that is.
It’s only after that discovery session (provided it goes well) that you should sit down for further meetings with the target sponsor. With time, they’ll ask to look over your sponsorship menu as well as more information about your sporting event. Then they’ll decide whether they want to support your team.
Sports sponsorship is a billion-dollar industry for insurance companies, which is why you see names like Allstate, Geico, and State Farm pop up in every sport. Your sports team or organization should take advantage of this natural relationship and target local insurance companies for sponsorship.
I highly recommend my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program for first-time sponsorship seekers. Be sure to check out our website too, which is full of great resources that will help you increase your sports sponsorship sales!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.
After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.
Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.