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On Saturday, Sept. 30, Ryan Reynolds hopped on a Microsoft Teams meeting to discuss a special guest in the Kelce family suite.
No, it wasn’t for the Kansas City Chiefs-New York Jets game that evening, though Reynolds was conspicuously pictured in a suite that night alongside his wife, Blake Lively; actor Hugh Jackman; and unquestionably the biggest star in the stadium that evening, Taylor Swift, all watching Chiefs star Travis Kelce play.
Rather, Reynolds was talking about another game, to be held Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Commanders, a game in which Travis Kelce’s older brother, Eagles star Jason Kelce, was set to play.
A week earlier, Swift’s surprise appearance at the Chiefs-Bears game ignited a social media frenzy, with videos of her laughing and talking with matriarch Donna Kelce going viral. NBC ended up leaning into Swift’s presence to tee up the Chiefs-Jets game, with the network frequently showing her during the game.
Reynolds’ marketing company, Maximum Effort — which specializes in launching campaigns that capitalize on viral moments — realized that there was an opportunity to be had. The result was another viral moment, with Donna Kelce once again chatting with a special guest in her suite … Jake from State Farm, the commercial spokesperson for the insurance company (played by actor Kevin Miles).
“No one can capture the zeitgeist quite like Taylor Swift,” says George Dewey, Reynolds’ co-founder of Maximum Effort, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “And you know, her appearance at the Kansas City Chiefs games really dominated the cultural landscape for like five or six days, so when we kind of arrived at this idea during a brainstorm for another project, it just felt too good to resist.”
According to Dewey, the idea to place someone next to Donna Kelce was hatched on Thursday, Sept. 28. Maximum Effort approached State Farm about the idea on Friday.
Alyson Griffin, the head of marketing for State Farm, says that she received a call about the opportunity while in a car alongside fellow State Farm marketing executive Patty Morris.
“She and I happened to be shooting with Jake from State Farm all week in Los Angeles, and we were flying back from L.A. together to Bloomington [Illinois, where State Farm is based] and we were on the two-hour drive from O’Hare Airport to Bloomington, coincidentally alone in the car together when the call came in on Friday,” Griffin recalls.
They were interested, but the game was two days away, and there were some major hurdles that needed to be cleared. First and foremost, would Miles (Jake from State Farm), even be available to make it to Philadelphia? Often after a week of commercial shoots, he would move on to other professional projects or take a personal break.
“We were not confident he would even be in town, so the very first thing I did was call Kevin and say ‘Look … if we get you there, can you be in Philadelphia on Sunday?’ And he goes, ‘This Sunday, like two days?'” Griffin adds. “While the timeline is really fast, especially for an insurance company, we were excited about being able to jump on a trend. And it felt like a really creative, interesting idea.”
And of course they needed to secure permission of Jason and Donna Kelce. So Maximum Effort turned to Rob McElhenney, the star and creator of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and co-owner with Reynolds of Wrexham F.C., as chronicled in their FX series Welcome to Wrexham.
A massive Eagles fan, “Rob kind of back-channeled to Jason that the idea was coming and that he thought it was funny,” Dewey says. “It was enormously helpful, especially when you’re moving this fast. You know, you have to work in an environment of trust.”
With State Farm committed, and with Jason and Donna Kelce on board (Travis Kelce had already done some commercials for State Farm earlier in the year, so the company had a relationship with him), there was just one last person who needed to be looped in: Taylor Swift.
Reynolds served as the back channel to Swift’s camp, Dewey says, with both State Farm and Maximum Effort wanting to make it clear that they were not poking fun at Swift, but rather acknowledging the viral moments from that weekend.
“We kind of felt like this was her moment, if you will, and we just didn’t want to jeopardize anything with her,” Griffin says.
“Once we had a good degree of confidence that everyone got the joke, and that there would be no issue. We were all very happy to proceed,” Dewey says.
“[We were] confident that Taylor was aware, not upset, thought it was funny,” Griffin adds.
That led to the video meeting on Saturday, some planning from Maximum Effort and State Farm teams to prepare and amplify what they hoped would be a viral moment on Sunday, and on-the-ground coordination in Philadelphia that afternoon.
Sure enough, the Fox broadcast showed Donna Kelce sitting and chatting next to Jake from State Farm during the game, just as they did with her sitting with Taylor Swift a week earlier. And Miles (sorry, Jake from State Farm) posted a video walking down the hall inside the stadium next to Jason Kelce, again mimicking a viral moment from a week earlier, when Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift exited the arena in Kansas City.
The result was a flurry of social media impressions, and dozens and dozens of news stories mentioning Jake from State Farm (“Donna Kelce hangs with Taylor Swift, Jake from State Farm in eventful day,” read one headline).
“We were aware that we wanted to be in this moment, and that the moment would pass like that. It was now or never, and we just thought we either do this or it’s not happening,” Griffin says. “We just thought it was a fun textbook example of culture and marketing, and what it means for brands to take advantage of a moment.”
Adds Dewey: “Marketing needs to feel less calculated, and that’s what speed and culture can help create.”
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