Already an active sponsor, Allstate Insurance Co. is planning to inject more money into sponsorship beginning this year, following a reorganization of its corporate marketing department.

Allstate CMO Joseph Tripodi, who took up his post in late ’03, created an integrated marketing communications group within the department in April. That group is responsible for sponsorship and will oversee the increased budget and activity.

The group’s goal is to form a well-rounded portfolio of properties that will provide one-on-one customer marketing opportunities with target audiences and grow involvement with the company’s 13,600 field agents. Allstate’s current major deals include sponsorship of the USOC, USA Basketball and the Allstate Arena just outside Chicago.

“We are continuously looking for opportunities that will broaden our portfolio,” said Pamela Hollander, director, promotions, sponsorships and PR.
As indicated by Hollander’s title, as well as the name of the group responsible for sponsorship, Allstate takes a holistic view of the discipline, seeing it working not in isolation, but in concert with other marketing tools. In addition to sponsorship, promotions and PR, the IMC group includes Allstate’s advertising and multicultural marketing teams.

The company’s approach means it will include nontraditional sponsorships in its mix. An example is found in one of the team’s first initiatives: sponsorship of the Web site for the Fox drama series 24. Allstate uses the site to talk about insurance fraud and offers a link to its corporate site.

Some new deals will be announced in coming weeks. Sources indicate that one sponsorship under consideration is a sanctioning body deal with NASCAR, although the company declined to confirm or deny any discussions.

Hollander reviews sponsorship opportunities with Karen Uhler, senior manager for sponsorship. Both report to Lisa Cochrane, vice president, integrated marketing communications group, who in turn reports
to Tripodi.

Regional managers for each of the company’s 14 regions can approve deals targeted to their areas (see box). About two-thirds of regional managers are based at Allstate’s headquarters. A list of the company’s regions and contacts can be found at www.Allstate.com/community.

Allstate requires all national sponsorship proposals to be submitted via the Web at www.Sponsorwise.com/Allstate. The company says it will not accept proposals sent by any other method. Regional proposals also can be sent through the site.

Newest Deal Leverages Ad Buy, Targets Younger Customer
One way that Allstate will integrate sponsorship with other elements of the marketing mix will be to use event marketing to give legs to major ad buys.

For example, the company recently announced the first-time Allstate Alumni 3 on 3 Classic, a participatory basketball tournament that leverages the company’s position as an advertiser on next month’s CBS coverage of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championships.

The proprietary event, produced in association with College Sports TV, is aimed at 22-to-35-year-old males–a key Allstate target–and designed in conjunction with the ad buy to “surround the consumer with our message to help increase brand consideration,” said Hollander.

The event, which pits teams of alumni from different schools against each other in a single-elimination tournament, includes regional events beginning this week in Charlotte, Chicago, New York and San Francisco, with the winning teams going to the finals in St. Louis the same weekend that the NCAA Final Four is played there. CSTV will telecast the semifinals and finals.

Allstate is promoting the tournament with print, radio, online and TV advertising. The ads–in contrast to Allstate’s staid general market ads–are light-hearted in tone.

“The 3 on 3 is not an attempt at a hard sell,” Hollander said. “It’s a way for us to get our brand in front of this audience in a way that’s relevant to them.”

Allstate also will be an advertiser on ESPN and ABC Sports telecasts of next season’s college football bowl games, and Hollander hints that the insurer may develop events to leverage that position along the lines of the Alumni 3 on 3 Challenge. “We will be supporting that with an integrated marketing program with significant national and local presence,” she said.

Basketball and football are part of Allstate’s effort to target a younger audience. Like competitor State Farm Insurance Cos., Allstate is putting more focus on reaching young adults who are just beginning to make insurance and investment decisions.