Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James is now a spokesperson for Progressive Insurance. After striking an endorsement deal during the offseason, the Cleveland-based company recently became James’ biggest hometown sponsor.
But don’t expect a television commercial featuring LeBron’s newly introduced “FloBron” character anytime soon. There won’t be a press release, either. Instead, Progressive is launching a digital-first execution focused on the creation of shareable content that will continue to unfold on social media over the next several weeks.
Co-founded in 1937 by Jack Green and Peter B. Lewis, Progressive is headquartered in Mayfield Village, OH—a mere 20-minute drive from Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland. The company is one of the largest providers of car insurance in the United States, and employs over 27,000 people. Despite the size and scope of this partnership, however, news of the “FloBron” campaign emerged slowly and naturally after an Instagram post on Halloween.
Jeff Charney, Progressive’s Chief Marketing Officer, spoke with SLAM about the campaign strategy along with what we can expect from “FloBron” in the days to come.
“This is a very new way of running a campaign, for us and for the industry as a whole because we’re truly developing characters, not commercials,” Charney said this week. “We’re developing content, not trying to build awareness. It’s digital first and it’s open-ended.”
That process includes solo appearances by “FloBron” as well as collaborative efforts alongside the well-known “Flo” character, played by Stephanie Courtney since 2008. Progressive followed the Halloween post, for example, with an Instagram picture featuring both James and Courtney.
During the first video in this series, “FloBron” reenacted James’ signature chalk toss prior to taking the court. There will be more videos to follow, supported by an investment from Progressive in Instagram advertising.
“We’re laying strategically placed digital breadcrumbs, including one of the first paid Instagram Video ads,” Charney explained. “We shot for four hours just a week ago and we’re editing and placing the content in real-time. Where this goes will be determined as much by what people view, like and share as by the story we’re intending to tell. Strategically, this is an approach we call ‘situational content,’ or sit-con. Think of it as our version of a situational comedy, where the story evolves over time.”
Progressive’s first Instagram post featuring “FloBron” has received over 750 likes and 75 comments. The first video, posted Wednesday, has already exceeded those numbers with over 870 likes and nearly 200 comments. The hashtags #FloBron and #switch are being used to join the conversation on all updates.
Beyond the innovative approach to marketing, however, it’s also fun to see the comedic, less-serious side of LeBron play out through social channels during this campaign. James is dressing up like a woman, while playing basketball with Flo, and all that’s pretty funny to watch. It will also be interesting to see what type of impact this digital campaign has on future endorsement deals with other leading companies and notable stars around the NBA. Considering James’ track-record, it’s possible he changes how all that’s constructed too by the time “FloBron” hangs up the Nikes.
All photos via @Progressive on Instagram