Esurance is counting on its new partnership with Major League Baseball to drive in new customers.

The direct-to-consumer insurer, which has failed to make a profit since being acquired by The Allstate Corp. in 2011, aligned with the pro sports league to build share of voice in the increasingly competitive insurance marketplace.

“Insurance is a competitive industry with established companies, and we’re still a challenger brand. Sponsorship is an opportunity to showcase who we are and develop relationships with consumers who may not have had the chance to engage us,” said Chris Lee, Esurance senior manager of brand partnerships.

Although Esurance gains national reach from its sponsorship of the USTA US Open, the MLB relationship takes it to another level.

“MLB is our anchor moving forward. It gives us the opportunity to talk to millions of fans and present our brand at a level we have not been able to do.”

Esurance partnered with the US Open in 2010 to build credibility via an affiliation with an established event and its Blue Chip sponsors.

“At the US Open we realized the power and impact of sponsorship. To see Esurance next to American Express on the center court in Arthur Ashe Stadium is a powerful message for a challenger brand.”

Looking to access greater scale, Esurance tasked GMR Marketing to scout sponsorship opportunities in the U.S. pro sports space.

The company did not have many options with the four major pro sports leagues. Major League Baseball was the only league with the category open. MLB has not worked with an insurance company since State Farm’s departure in 2012.

The NHL works with Geico, the NBA has a partnership with State Farm, while the NFL works with Nationwide and USAA.

“Timing means a lot in sponsorship,” said Lee.

While a partnership between a nostalgic pastime and an online insurer may not make sense at first glance, Esurance was drawn to new MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred and his efforts to modernize the game.

One of Manfred’s stated goals: enhance the fan experience via new technology.

“People may think of baseball as an older sport with an older demographic. We were impressed with what Major League Baseball is doing not just to modernize the game on the field, but how consumers connect with the game.”

Esurance is assisting those efforts through title sponsorship of the new all-digital MLB All-Star Game Ballot. Fans can vote for their favorite players on MLB.com and 30 MLB club web sites via computers, smart phones and tablets.

“Esurance is a digital company with the tagline ‘Insurance for the modern world.’ The partnership is a good fit with our digital initiatives,” said Noah Garden, MLB executive vice president, business.

Esurance is working with MLB, MLB.com and MLB Network on a new social media-centric awards platform to be launched later this year.

The insurer is supporting the MLB tie with an endorsement deal with San Francisco Giants first baseman Buster Posey. Esurance is based in San Francisco.

Other Esurance sponsorships include the South by Southwest music festival, NBA Golden State Warriors and the NFL San Francisco 49ers.

The Biggest Spenders In The Insurance Category
Geico
Estimated spend: $70M-$75M
Major Deals: Germain Racing, NHL, NBA Washington Wizards
State Farm
Estimated spend: $60M-$65M
Major Deals: NBA, MLB New York Yankees, State Farm Center, Champaign, Ill.
Allstate
Estimated spend: $40M-$45M
Major Deals: NCAA, Allstate Sugar Bowl, MLS
Nationwide
Estimated spend: $30M-$35M
Major Deals: NFL, Hendrick Motorsports
Zurich/Farmers
Estimated spend: $25M-$30M
Major Deals: Hendrick Motorsports; Farmers Insurance Open
MetLife
Estimated spend: $25M-$30M
Major Deals: MetLife Stadium, PGA, Lincoln Center