State Farm is there for Pixar
The nation's largest auto insurer announces a marketing tie-in for "Cars," the latest animated movie from Pixar and Walt Disney.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – Aflac has the squawking duck. Geico, its animated gecko with a Cockney accent. And MetLife enlists comic strip legend Snoopy to help pitch its insurance products.
Now, State Farm is hoping to rev up the cuteness factor for its commercials. The auto insurer is unveiling a major marketing campaign Thursday in conjunction with "Cars," the latest computer-generated animated movie from Pixar (Research) and Walt Disney (Research).
The company said that this is the first time a property and casualty insurance firm has been a sponsor of a major film. Typically, consumer product firms such as cereal makers, soda companies and fast food restaurants have been big sponsors of movies. That's especially been the case for kids' films such as "Cars." In fact, previous Disney-Pixar films have had tie-ins with McDonald's (Research) and Kellogg (Research).
But Pam El, vice president of marketing for State Farm, said the company thought a promotion for "Cars," which tells the tale of reckless race car Lightning McQueen, was a natural since it is the nation's largest auto insurer.
An executive at Disney's Buena Vista subsidiary echoed this sentiment.
"State Farm's passion for the movie matches their love of cars and their concern for keeping drivers and passengers safe, which is sure to add to the success of launching 'Cars,'" said Cherise McVicar, senior vice president, national promotions for Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, in a statement.
El added that the company felt a special affinity for the movie because of the plot – Lightning McQueen and his friends are often driving on the famous Route 66.
"Our headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois, are near the old Route 66. So that's one of the initial things that intrigued us since the movie takes place on Route 66," she said.
Among the various promotions, State Farm is launching a "Countdown to Cars" giveaway on its Web site this week. The company will give out 2007 red Ford Mustang 2-door Coupe Deluxe cars to 25 winners.
New State Farm commercials starring some of the characters from the movie will hit airwaves during the week of May 22. El said the first commercial will air during the top-rated television show "American Idol." State Farm is also sponsoring a road trip to various cities featuring actual cars made up to look like ones from the movie.
And the company will also offer limited edition North American road atlases with Lightning McQueen on the cover beginning next month through State Farm agents.
Financial terms of the marketing agreement were not disclosed. State Farm will not be mentioned in the movie either, El said. Pixar films have tended to use fictitious corporate names for products. For example, the logo on Lightning McQueen's tires says "Lightyear," a reference to hero Buzz Lightyear from Pixar's first movie, "Toy Story."
"Cars," one of the most anticipated films of the summer, hits theaters June 9. It is the seventh full-length feature by Pixar, which Disney agreed to acquire in January for $7.4 billion.
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