Should the Insurance Company do a “Data Double Check” on standing by their spokesman?
Aaron Rodgers has dominated this week’s headlines, this time not for anything he did on the field. The pro footballer was caught lying about his vaccination status when the news came to light after he missed this week’s game on COVID Protocol.
The backlash was immediate. Fans, other professionals, and yes, sponsors, took swift action. While some sponsors walked away from Rodgers, several remained – including State Farm. Our numbers suggest consumers have soured on Rodgers and that State Farm and Rodgers’ other remaining sponsors are taking a big risk by continuing to back the All-Pro QB.
One sponsor, Prevea Health, cut ties with Rodgers this week. The Wisconsin-based healthcare provider has a clear values link to the issue. We think of values in three tiers: Business values, Branding values, and Change values. As a healthcare provider, Prevea’s Business values are directly tied to quality medical care, which led them to sever the relationship. In a statement, Prevea Health said, “Prevea Health remains deeply committed to protecting its patients, staff, providers and communities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes encouraging and helping all eligible populations to become vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent the virus from further significantly impacting lives and livelihoods.”
While that kind of Values disconnect is obvious in the case of Prevea, others (like the relationship between State Farm and Rodgers) can be a little less black and white. When this is the case, having a system in place to help understand consumer disconnects is a much better solution than knee jerk reactions to social media echo chamber or a 24-hour news cycle.
Being able to numerically measure the effect of a sudden socially contentious relationship such as this one is imperative for brands. So we did what we do best – we got the data. Vrity ran a survey to begin establishing that system of understanding and these were the results. Unfortunately for State Farm, the numbers speak for themselves — 33.1% of consumers said they would be less likely to buy a brand if Rodgers was the spokesman.
Surveys are not behavior, so it is unlikely that State Farm loses a third of its customers tomorrow. Still, when that many consumers are considering a brand change, you need to consider protecting your values over your sponsorships. And even though State Farm’s brand value ties to the issue are not as prevalent as Prevea’s, the move to keep Rodgers is clearly a risky one. As an insurance company, State Farm does have a values and business interest in protecting their customers. Disregarding safety protocols that expose others to a potential health risk? That promotes quite the opposite.
Instead, State Farm released this statement:
“We don’t support some of the statements that he (Rodgers) has made, but we respect his right to have his own personal point of view. We recognize our customers, employees, agents and brand ambassadors come from all walks of life, with differing viewpoints on many issues. Our mission at State Farm is to support safer, stronger communities. To that end, we encourage vaccinations, but respect everyone’s right to make a choice based on their personal circumstances.”
In a recent post , NBA Hall of Famer and vocal social advocate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said that Rodgers’ behavior is damaging the trust that pro athletes have collective built over years and years. In an interview with CNN regarding his post, Abdul-Jabbar said “Those types of lies are the ones that destroy confidence. So as a liar, how can he be trusted to endorse products?”
Nonetheless, State Farm is taking some sort of action. Apex Marketing Group reported that only 1.5% of this week’s State Farm ads included Rodgers. The two previous Sundays showed Rodgers 25% of the time.
The numbers have it: the bigger risk may lie in protecting Rodgers, rather than releasing him.