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Volume 24 No. 181
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Catching Up With State Farm Manager of National Sponsorships Todd Fischer

State Farm’s sports marketing portfolio includes a variety of initiatives for professional leagues and star athletes, but Manager of National Sponsorships TODD FISCHER seems particularly proud of the cause marketing program his company created last year in conjunction with MLB. The "Go To Bat" campaign begins at the State Farm Home Run Derby and culminates 10 weeks later with a trip to the World Series for the winners. Participants log on to and “go to bat” for one of 50 predetermined charities, with a winner selected during each week of the campaign. The winner heads to a World Series game in October and the charity receives an $18,000 donation from State Farm in the winner’s name. Fischer is fresh off a trip to Arlington, where he met with this year’s winners for Game Three of the World Series, and managed to carve out some time to cheer on his Cardinals.

Word Association

Angry Birds: Waste of time.
Expanded MLB Playoffs: The more the merrier.
NBA Lockout: An absolute shame.
College realignment: Chaos.
Theo Epstein: An inspiration for other young execs like myself.

Q: How much has social media changed the way you do business?
Fischer: I would say social media complements the way we do business. Social for us has become another touch point to connect with consumers, and exponentially speed up the process of what we call the "evolution of engagement." Social has allowed us to tap into existing consumer passion points and allow our brands to create online experiences rather than to always be in person to interact. 

For instance, the "Go To Bat" program created 16 million organic Facebook impressions from people sharing the program. It's allowed the programs to extend their lives beyond what a brand’s marketing budget will allow it to take on. If you create things that are meaningful for consumers then you’ll know it by the way they share it and extend it.

Q: What are the benefits of working with MLB that led you to increase State Farm’s exposure through baseball?
Fischer: Like every business opportunity, it really starts with what the core objective is. For us, MLB fans were a great target because they value our core values -- personalized service and a community commitment. MLB itself, along with our team partners, really gives us a great platform to connect with current and potential customers in a way that becomes more relevant to them because we’re putting in a baseball context.

"Go To Bat" winners on the field in
Arlington before Game Three
Q: Tell me about the "Go To Bat" campaign. How did this particular promotion come about?
Fischer: The "Go To Bat" campaign came out of the idea that our 18,000 State Farm agents "go to bat" for their customers and communities every day, and this is just a fun way for us to bring that to life and extend it in a baseball context. This is the second year the program has run as a part of our MLB partnership. It's a 10-week program that launches at the State Farm Home Run Derby and then runs the entire second half of the season with the overall promotional aspect being that a weekly winner is chosen and the charity they went to bat for wins $18,000 in their name on behalf of State Farm. The consumer wins a trip to the World Series. We just hosted all those winners in Texas, at Games Three and Four this week.

Q: How did you pick the charities involved in the campaign?
Fischer: It’s a combination of State Farm and MLB charities, as well as fan suggestions. We had a comment box on the program last year and got over 1,200 suggestions from fans. We took those into account and wanted to make sure we hit as many of the key cause categories as possible.

Q: Were you pleased overall with the results of the promotion? Any plans for a third iteration next year?
Fischer: We are. We’re currently assessing the program from this year, obviously with just having culminated it at the World Series, but it’s such a great fit for our brand because it really illuminates who we are as a company. It’s really allowed us to connect with communities and causes and people on a very personal basis. 

Q: When devising "Go To Bat," what’s the one thing you wanted the consumer to remember about State Farm?
Fischer: We wanted consumers to walk away with the sense that they could take action; that we actually encourage them to take action both from getting involved with this program as well as just being advocates of community involvement in their own daily lives. I got to spend some time with the winners in Texas this week and the amazing thing is how personal some of the stories are in terms of why they went to bat.

Q: In 20 words or less, State Farm’s sports marketing philosophy is…
Fischer: Creating integrated strategic business solutions that differentiate State Farm by using key passion points.

Q: Finish this sentence: The one mistake brands make when executing a cause marketing effort is…
Fischer: Being disingenuous.