On Sunday, Allstate is trading in its famous Mayhem character for chaos of a different sort.
The big insurance company is testing a sponsorship of a new kind of sporting event that will feature some of Pixar’s best-known animated characters tackling a real-life NFL game. When the Jacksonville Jaguars play the Atlanta Falcons at 9:30 a.m. Sunday from London’s Wembley Stadium, Disney+ and ESPN+ will stream the game in decidedly non-traditional fashion. Pixar’s famous “Toy Story” characters will emulate the real-life gridiron action. And instead of commercials, fans will see football trivia questions from Allstate when the game goes to a break.
Allstate wants to reach the audience that would tune in such as event, says Dave Marsey, the company’s senior vice president of media, but there’s little desire “to disrupt the creativity and just throw a spot in it,” he says. This method “leaves Allstate almost as part of the content.” The trivia questions appear in “Toy Story” style, complete with clouds and popsicle sticks that would fit right into scenes from the movies.
A trivia question seems pretty simple, but Allstate and Disney are actually taking on a complex assignment. Commercials are quite common during TV sports telecasts, as any fan who has watched a Major League Baseball or NBA game can attest. Expectations for streamers are different, however, One of the main attractions of streaming hubs is that they push significantly fewer ads at viewers over the course of a selection.
Others have experimented as well. NBCUniversal’s Peacock last year unveiled a mini-movie produced by tech player HP Inc. that told the story of data scientists trying to track down a rare plant. The theory at the time? There’s no need to interrupt a piece of content with commercials when a promotional message is already included. Netflix has teamed up with big advertisers including Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice and Mark Anthony Brewing’s White Claw USA to create eyebrow-raising promotions and videos around such offerings as “Stranger Things,” “Witcher” and “Glass Onion.”
The streamers will need to find alternatives to the commercial break. More services that were previously offered only in ad-free versions are turning to Madison Avenue in hopes of finding new revenue that will offset the millions of dollars that need to be invested to keep new content flowing. Amazon’s Prime Video recently announced that it will begin inserting commercials in movies and series in 2024, and AMC Networks just launched an ad-supported version of its AMC+ service.
The NFL game will feature only the Allstate trivia questions, says Deidra Maddock, vice president of sports brand solutions at Disney Advertising Sales. “We wanted to make sure that we were going with ad breaks that would be complementary to the creativity,” she says. “We didn’t want to be running just traditional ad breaks. We felt that would disrupt the flow.”
Disney is using the international game in its quest to find ways to bring disparate audiences to a single piece of content. On ESPN+, viewers will see sports-network mainstays like Chris Fowler, Dan Orlovsky, Louis Riddick, and Laura Rutledge calling the game. On Disney+, viewers can watch Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep, Bullseye, Bunny, Ducky, Forky, Green Aliens, Jesse, Rex, and Slinky Dog in various game-day antics. The expectation is that families will be watching the event, with sports die-hards likely streaming on ESPN+.
The “Toy Story” characters will go through the same paces as the NFL players, thanks to use of next-gen stats, player tracking and motion-capture technology. Graphics, scoreboards, penalty announcements and more will all embrace the “Toy Story” theme. So too will the announcers and other signature sports segments. Drew Carter and Booger McFarland will lay out the action alongside Pepper Persley, a 12-year-old sports journalist who has landed gigs as an WNBA sideline reporter. Duke Caboom, one of the characters from “Toy Story 4,” will attempt a motorcycle jump during a bespoke halftime program. Viewers will see “how-to” vignettes and trivia questions during the streamcast, along with pre-recorded interviews with players from the Falcons and Jaguars.
More advertisers are likely to test similar techniques. “I would say we are in the middle of this journey to a streaming future,” says Marsey.
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