Aaron Rodgers, COVID-19 and the tale of three advertisers

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 last week, a revelation that had media folks scrambling on multiple fronts. First, the news and sports journalists were trying to figure out exactly how that happened, give Rodgers’ statement back in August that he was “immunized.” Then, the advertising media had to make some choices about what to say or do in regard to this revelation.

On the news front, a video from August regarding Rodgers and his immunization status began circulating.

In addition, Rodgers went on the Pat McAfee podcast show and, to put it as neutrally as possible, covered a wide array of topics. He stated his decision was connected to the teachings of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He stated that he worried about what the vaccine might do to his fertility. He pulled out the “my body, my choice” argument, blaming a “woke mob” and “cancel culture” for his current predicament.

He also explained how, despite having an NFL-grade medical staff that could practically turn any player into a cyborg after entering the “blue tent,” Rodgers turned to a more trusted medical authority for his health, namely podcaster Joe Rogan:

Rodgers also said he spoke with Rogan about treating COVID-19 after testing positive for the virus earlier this week.

“I’ve been doing a lot of the stuff that he recommended, in his podcasts and on the phone to me,” Rodgers said. “I’ve been taking monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, zinc, vitamin C, D, and HCQ [hydroxychloroquine]… And I feel pretty incredible.”

Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug championed by vaccine skeptics that has not been approved for use to treat COVID-19 by the Food and Drug Administration or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I can’t speak for any other part of the world, but here in Wisconsin, this has been all anyone has talked about. President Joe Biden could have reversed climate change, solved world hunger, developed a cure for every disease on earth and rescued six kittens from a hurricane this week and up here it would still be, “Joe Biden has gotten a couple things done this week, but OUR TOP STORY is: Will Aaron Rodgers be out for TWO games due to COVID?”

As fun as it would be to poke at all of this from a news perspective, its the second issue we raised earlier that will be at the core of the post: What were advertisers tied to A-Rodg doing in the wake of his COVID revelations and how much sense did it make?

One of the easiest calls was from Prevea Health, a Wisconsin-based medical company, which quickly cut ties with the QB:

Another local company, Bergstrom Automotive, continued to run advertising featuring Rodgers throughout Sunday’s NFL coverage, including the Packer game.

This is a shot of the Bergstrom ad talking about hearing “no” and how at Bergstrom, it’s great because of “no haggling” and apparently, “no worries.” The irony here is a bit thick, even for me.

On a national level, the key ads of interest came from State Farm Insurance, which has been running a campaign featuring Rodgers and his supposed-to-be-on-field-foe-this-week Patrick Mahomes. The running gag of the “Rodgers Rate” versus the “Patrick Price” has included Mahomes as a “typical sneakerhead” and Rodgers as an “aspiring singer song-writer.” Both ads ran during the games, although the mix seemed to heavily lean toward Mahomes.

As of this posting, the insurance company hasn’t made any definitive statement about its relationship with Rodgers, other than to say it wasn’t going to comment about his COVID situation.

So let’s break down what makes sense and why in regard to these choices:

The reason most places pick someone to be a spokes person for that organization is because the person represents something the brand wants to represent. If you’re doing ads for a tough, rugged brand of clothing, you probably want to pick bull riders or construction workers. If you want to do ads for something dainty and elegant, you want to go with twig-sized super models.

Prevea dumping Rodgers was as easy of a call as it was for Kansas City to dial up every blitz on earth to freak out Rodgers’ replacement, Jordan Love. This is a healthcare organization that is impressing upon everyone to get vaccinated. The fact Rodgers misled people as to his vaccination status was bad for the brand, as was his decision to take medical advice that involved a horse-deworming medication. Keeping him on board for any reason doesn’t not fit with the healthcare brand.

Conversely, I imagine I’ll still be seeing a lot of Aaron Rodgers on Bergstrom Automotive ads around here. First, his COVID status doesn’t impact the brand. An automotive sales organization doesn’t have to take a stand on this issue, so kind of letting this ride doesn’t undermine the brand.

Second, a lot of folks in this more conservative portion of the state will likely thing BETTER of him for his decision to push back against rules “trying to out and shame people.” Michael Jordan once famously noted that “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” a comment he later clarified as being in jest, but he stood by the principle in terms of not pushing in one direction or the other politically. Bergstrom is kind of over a barrel here in that regard: Keep Rodgers and tick off people who think he lied and is a medical whack job. Fire Rodgers and tick off people who aren’t all-in on vaccine mandates. Right now sitting still and quiet is probably the best move here.

State Farm is the one oddball here, in that it’s an insurance company selling products that protect the autos, homes, health and lives of its members. In one sense, the current campaign is about how cost-effective the product is, regardless of who you are. The “Rodgers Rate” and “Patrick Price” ads focus on value more than anything else, so it’s not like they have Rodgers taking COVID shots in the ads, only to have accidentally duped the audience.

That said, having something based on protection keeping someone on the payroll who got COVID after skipping out on what medical professionals call the best protection against the virus could seem incongruent at best.

Watching what happens over the next several weeks should be interesting in regard to Rodgers. As one former coach used to say, “You’re only as smart as your won-loss record,” so this could be a situation where a deep playoff run could turn this into a “misunderstanding regarding Aaron’s vaccination status.” If he ends up blowing out a knee or something, someone will find a way to make some “off to the glue factory, horse-pill boy” memes as the team “looks forward to the Jordan Love era.”




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