ESPN Enlists Pro Athletes For Heavyweight USAA Social Media Campaign

Disney Ad Sales USAA George Kittle
49ers tight end George Kittle and his wife with the bear that decorates their Home Base (Image credit: Disney Ad Sales)

ESPN is launching a six-part social media campaign for USAA showing the “home bases” of NFL and MMA athletes. 

USAA Home Base ESPN CreativeWorks

(Image credit: Disney)

All of the athletes--football players George Kittle, Chase Young, Justin Field and Aaron Jones and fighters Liz Carmouche and Randy Couture--have connections to the military. Service members and their families are eligible to be covered by USAA.

The Home Base campaign is an extension of ESPN’s long relationship with USAA, which sponsored halftime on Monday Night Football, Veterans Week, the NFL Draft, Monday Night Baseball and SportsCenter. The first segment starts appearing Tuesday on ESPN platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and the ESPN App.

“We’ve been talking about how we can bring more relevant content that consumers would enjoy so we can have a better chance of connecting with our brand an increasing awareness of our insurance product,” Mayra Rivera, chief marketing officer at USAA told Broadcasting+Cable

The campaign features a “nice range of different athletes that we feel can appeal toward the younger audience we’re trying to reach,” Rivera said.

USAA provides insurance, banking and investment and retirement plans to nearly 13 million members.

A robust social media campaign will let viewers know about the series and that a new segment will debut every Tuesday.

USAA’s Rivera said seeing where pro athletes live is very intriguing and interesting to the company’s consumers.

“Doing that online just makes a lot of sense for us,” she said. USAA would miss some of those consumers advertising only on TV. “We will continue to put our dollars where our consumers are consuming media. So there will be some slight shifts, but they’re not big shifts.” 

Created by ESPN CreativeWorks--part of Disney Advertising Sales’ Disney CreativeWorks, the company’s branded content unit-- working with USAA and its agency Publicis, the campaign is hosted by Gary Striewski, the ESPN commentator and host of SportsCenter on SnapChat. ESPN said it is the largest branded social campaign of its kind.

Mike Denby, senior VP at Disney Advertising Sales, said the campaign complements USAA’s TV advertising with Disney and is designed to reach an audience of younger fans.

“The folks that watch Striewski and SportsCenter on Snapchat don’t watch SportsCenter on TV,” Denby said. “The campaign aims to reach millennial and Gen X folks and come into their world earlier when they’re starting to make decisions about insurance and banking. They’re difficult to find.”

Sort of like MTV Cribs, in each episode one of the athletes shows Striewski--himself a homeowner and son of a veteran--around their home and they talk about why “home base” is important to them.

Kittle, for example, shows off his new farmhouse in Nashville, Tennessee, with a barn that’s been converted into a high end fitness facility. Decorations include a large portrait of bear and a huge American flag.

In the segments, the athletes also talk about their connections to the military. While Carmouche was in the Marine Corp and Couture was in the Army, the others are connected to the military through family members.

“It’s a teachable moment. A lot of people don’t know that if you are related to someone in the military, you still qualify for USAA. This is a nice way to tell that story and show the consumer that you don’t have to be in the military to be a member,” he said. “And USAA is all about its members.”

Reaching the military community also fits in with Disney’s commitment to reach diverse audiences. The military is not often targeted by campaigns and members of the armed services are a more diverse group than the general population.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.