As one of the sponsorship industry’s most active categories, insurance companies sponsor just about every type of property, with a major focus on sports.

Below, portfolio overviews, major deals and sponsorship spending at the seven biggest spenders in the category.

GEICO
Estimated 2016 sponsorship spend: $75M-$80M

Top deals:

  • Primary, No. 13 Germain Racing Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team
  • National Hockey League
  • MLB Washington Nationals

Where GEICO Spends Money (Number Of Deals)
Where GEICO Spends Money

GEICO looks to go big with sponsorship, with media playing a key role.

The second-largest auto insurer in the U.S. (behind State Farm) uses sponsorship to extend reach, tout its value proposition and generate leads.

Case in point: GEICO activated the 2017 NHL All-Star Game with trivia games, photo opportunities with a GEICO-branded Zamboni and other activities in which attendees were given the opportunity to share contact information for follow-up marketing.

In addition to the All-Star Game, GEICO activates the NHL at the league’s other tentpole events—the NHL Winter Classic, NHL Stadium Series and the Stanley Cup Playoffs—as well as through the league’s media partners.

Examples include hockey-themed TV spots with Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron during the 2016-2017 season; on-air presenting sponsor status of all Stanley Cup Playoff and Stanley Cup Final games on NBC and NBCSN; sponsorship of intermission reports during more 78 live games on the NHL Network; and the “GEICO Cup Crazy” promotion on the league’s social and digital media platforms during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

GEICO supports the league sponsorship with ties to more than two-thirds of the league’s 31 clubs. The company also sponsors the Vegas Golden Knights, the league’s new Las Vegas franchise that will begin play in the 2017-2018 season.

GEICO dropped a major deal with the New York Yankees in 2016 and added deals with the Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks. GEICO also extended its partnership with the New York Mets.

Allstate
Estimated 2016 sponsorship spend: $65M-$70M

Top deals:

  • Allstate Sugar Bowl
  • 71 NCAA Colleges
  • NCAA

Where Allstate Spends Money (Number Of Deals)
Where Allstate Spends Money

Allstate is considering diversifying its sponsorship portfolio beyond soccer and college athletics to better engage its evolving customer base.

Going forward, Allstate looks to engage two key targets: Hispanics and women.

“We reach women through sports, but are we optimizing engagement through our current sponsorships? There are other passion points that might engage women more deeply than college football or the NCAA,” said Dan Keats, Allstate director of product marketing.

As such, Allstate is mulling endurance sports, music, family entertainment and other properties that resonate with women.

Allstate in 2017 expanded its soccer platform with ties to five MLS clubs and the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

State Farm
Estimated 2016 sponsorship spend: $55M-$60M

Top deals:

  • National Basketball Association
  • State Farm Center/University of Illinois
  • NBA New York Knicks

Where State Farm Spends Money (Number Of Deals)
Where State Farm Spends Money

State Farm largely focuses on three sponsorship platforms: the NBA (league sponsor, 26 NBA teams and ad buys on ESPN, TNT and NBA TV), college basketball (backboard signage at more than 100 colleges and universities, State Farm Champions Classic, etc.), and the NFL via an endorsement deal with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

State Farm uses sponsorship to gain a point of differentiation and engage current and prospective customers, with a focus on Millennials.

“We want to reach a younger, more multicultural audience, and that is what the NBA provides,” said Ed Gold, State Farm advertising director.

The largest auto insurance company in the U.S. also is testing new sponsorship opportunities in endurance sports. State Farm in 2016 partnered with the Warrior Dash obstacle course series, a tie the company renewed this year.

Agents play a key role in State Farm sponsorships. The company activates local and national events with “Good Neighbor Crews,” a group of brand ambassadors that assist attendees and help enhance the on-site experience.

State Farm invested in several major new deals with NFL franchises in 2016, while dropping an estimated $1 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons.

Nationwide
Estimated 2016 sponsorship spend: $45M-$50M

Top deals:

  • Primary sponsor, No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team
  • National Football League
  • Memorial Tournament, Dublin, Ohio

Where Nationwide Spends Money (Number Of Deals)
Where Nationwide Spends Money

Community plays a key role in Nationwide’s sponsorship strategy.

Nationwide’s partnership with the NFL—a sponsorship it shares with USSA—includes presenting status of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, an initiative that recognizes athletes who make an impact in their local community.

“Nationwide gets to tell stories of our players and how they influence their communities, and we get to work with a partner that is committed to making sure those positive stories get out there,” said Michele Carr, NFL group managing director, partnerships.

USSA separates itself from Nationwide by focusing on servicemen and women as the NFL’s military appreciation partner.

“You can see why they coexist. They each go after unique targets.”

Nationwide, which joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2014, will sponsor 19 races with driver Alex Bowman in 2018 following Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s retirement as a full-time driver at the end of the current season.

Nationwide also is a major sponsor of properties in its Columbus, Ohio hometown. Local ties include the Nationwide Arena (and the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets), the Columbus Zoo, the PGA Tour Memorial Tournament and minor league baseball’s Columbus Clippers.

The Nationwide Arena includes sponsorship of the Nationwide cannonball goal tracker, the Nationwide Fan Lounge, presenting status of five games each season and Blue Carpet arrivals at the Plaza Party presented by Nationwide.

Northwestern Mutual
Estimated 2016 sponsorship spend: $30M-$35M

Top deals:

  • Rose Bowl
  • College Football Playoff Series
  • MLB Milwaukee Brewers

Where Northwestern Mutual Spends Money (Number Of Deals)
Where Northwestern Mutual Spends Money

Northwestern Mutual in 2012 partnered with the NCAA to promote its positioning as a provider of multiple financial security products. While the company is best known for life insurance, it also offers wealth management, retirement planning and other products and services.

The Milwaukee-based company in 2017 extended its partnership with the Milwaukee Brewers in a multiyear deal that includes naming rights to the refurbished Gehl Club in Miller Park. Northwestern Mutual reportedly plans to activate the club (The Northwestern Mutual Legends Club) with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit supported by the company’s philanthropic initiative aimed at fighting childhood cancer.

Northwestern Mutual dropped a partnership with the BMO Harris Bradley Center in 2015.

MetLife
2016 sponsorship spend: $25M-$30M

Top deals:

  • MetLife Stadium
  • Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
  • AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Where MetLife Spends Money (Number Of Deals)
Where MetLife Spends Money

The global provider of insurance, annuities and employee benefit programs uses sponsorship to generate excitement around the MetLife brand, maintain relevancy and gain a point of differentiation. The company largely focuses on properties located in its New York City hometown (MetLife Stadium, New York Yankees, etc.), golf (LPGA Golf Clinics for Women, PGA Tour, etc.), and its blimps. 

MetLife serves as the official life insurance sponsor of the PGA Tour and Champions Tour. The company in 2017 launched a new activation program around the partnership—the MetLife MatchUp. The broadcast feature recognizes golf pros who use their skills and experience to navigate the TOUR’s most demanding holes, with the two best players facing a match-off on PGATour.com/MetLife each week.

“We see the MetLife MatchUp as a great analogy for what we at MetLife do in partnership everyday with our customers—navigating the tough twists and turns of life,” said Esther Lee, MetLife global chief marketing officer, in a statement. “We also know that our customers around the world – especially our corporate customers—are fans of golf and the PGA TOUR, so this program also gives us another way to reach and engage them.”

MetLife in 2016 spun off its U.S. retail operations under the Brighthouse Financial brand.

Zurich Insurance Group
Estimated 2016 sponsorship spend: $15M-$20M

Top deals:

  • Primary sponsor, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team
  • Farmers Insurance Open PGA Tour Tournament
  • Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Where Zurich Insurance Spends Money (Number Of Deals)
Where Zurich Insurance Spends Money

The Zurich Classic notwithstanding, Zurich focuses the bulk of its sponsorship activity on behalf of its Farmers Insurance brand.

And additional deals may soon be in store.

Farmers, which last year announced it will not renew its sponsorship of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team at the end of the 2017 season, is exploring new sponsorship opportunities across a range of properties.

Those include thought leadership conferences, food and wine festivals and other lifestyle events.

“We’ve made a strategic decision to focus on other brand activities to more firmly align with our target audience,” said John Chisholm, Farmers Insurance director of sponsorship.

Golf continues to play a key a key role in Farmers’ sponsorship strategy. Ties include the Farmers Insurance Open—a property located near the company’s Los Angeles headquarters—and an endorsement deal with Rickie Fowler.

Farmers uses golf to reach “confident planners”—college-educated consumers who purchase multiple products from a dedicated insurance agent over an extended period.