Esurance has turned a double play with Major League Baseball once again, announcing that the second year of their multi-year partnership will continue through two new commercials featuring Giants catcher Buster Posey, and the return of an all-digital All Star Game ballot.

“The digital consumption for baseball surpasses any other sport offering right now,” Chris Lee, director of brand partnerships and social engagement at Esurance, told [a]listdaily. “They’re inspired to change the way people consume baseball, and we’re trying to do the same thing with auto insurance. We’re both trying to take an old process, and make it more modern.”

A focal point to the Bay Area-based, digital-born insurance company’s “Smart People Get Esurance” partnership with baseball is their advertising opportunities with Posey, the three-time World Series champion for San Francisco.


The commercials, titled “New Digs” and “Chicken Strips,” provide a comedic take on the “smart choices” the former Rookie of the Year and MVP makes in order to save money—from washing socks in a hot tub to hoarding skybox chicken strips. Esurance will also unveil three social media videos in a “What would Buster do?” series. The vignettes feature clips like “Bullfighter,” which demonstrate things the three-time All Star wouldn’t do at the plate.

“I really enjoy working with the Esurance team. For the second year running, they’ve been great partners, with a product I trust for my family,” said Posey, who last year wanted to help a couple deliver a baby in his catcher’s mitt.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told [a]listdaily earlier this year that adopting modern technology is paramount to growing the game. Doing so with subtle intricacies as a paperless ballot for the midsummer classic in San Diego is just another step in that direction.

Fans who vote will simultaneously enter for a chance to win a VIP experience at the all star game. Esurance will also be engaging attendees through the FanFest and the Pepsi All-Star Week Block Party.

Lee, who’s been at the helm of Esurance’s brand sponsorships efforts since 2012, joined [a]listdaily to discuss why MLB is the right partner for the digital-born company, and how they’re engaging consumers.


Baseball is historically a sport that’s been technologically behind. However, in recent years, it’s also been doing a better job by embracing new media. Why does MLB work so well for Esurance as a partner?

That was a big focal point for the start of the relationship with them. You’re right, there sometimes is a perception that baseball is an ‘old’ sport. But what their focus is really about is ‘what’s next for baseball?’ For starters, with MLB Advanced Media’s At Bat app, they’re leaders in the industry. It’s cutting edge. From a national perspective, baseball is great for us. MLB is our national partner. We did our homework to find that core audience and demographic, and align the consumer. Baseball is really trying to focus on fan demographics. With Esurance being based in the Bay Area, Buster Posey is a great fit for us, too. We’ve also done a lot of work with tennis in years past. The influencer space is very important to us, and it’s something we’ll continue to build upon, whether it’s baseball, or something else.

What are you looking for when considering and negotiating brand partnerships?

We really spend a lot of time figuring out what the brand equities are. We have our story. We have things that we’re trying to accomplish. We try to parallel-path that with other brands or properties we work with. With MLB, they are a huge partner. We found brand equity. They’re trying to modernize the game of baseball. It’s all about digital consumption and social media, which is very fitting from our standpoint as well. We’re both traditional industries trying to do things in a modern way. With all of the partners we work with, like Mashable, Deloitte, Capital One, it’s about finding that right fit with modern brands who are trying to push innovation and do unique things, like leveraging each other’s audiences. Very quickly, you figure out the brands who get it and understand it, and the ones who don’t.

Every insurance company does not have an online-only identity like Esurance. That said, who do you consider your competitor?

I think all insurance companies are competitors, right? But we’re not based on a direct-consumer level like many of our competitors.


At SXSW earlier this year, Esurance was a title sponsor. What was your strategy going in?

We try to reflect the fact of being intuitive and innovative in everything we do. SXSW is one of the most overwhelming events you can go to as a consumer. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out ‘what is it that we can do as a brand to help make the experience better.’ Prizes and stuff, that’s great. It’s cool to give away cool things. We gave away a Mazda CX-3 Sport vehicle this year. But we also focused on giving attendees personalized schedules, VIP access to a lot of the events, and such. We introduced the Esurance Access Pass program four years ago. It allows consumers to use Twitter and skip the line at the festival’s hottest parties. We’re leveraging social to communicate with the audience, and it’s come to the point where they now expect it. It’s been nice to build that community. The key is consistency, and for them to have that expectation from us. On top of that, we are pushing it forward every year in new dimensions.

What were the key takeaways and trends you noticed from the festival this year?

I think you’re seeing it now—virtual reality is everywhere. We’ve done some stuff with VR in other activations—like with the San Francisco 49ers two years ago. We were one of the first brands to test that space. But that technology is still being developed, so that it can be more consumable and accessible. But I noticed about 15-to-20 people showcasing VR. Also, everyone is leveraging social. The world of sponsorships and social is kind of blurred at this point. You can’t have one without the other. It’s very rare to do anything strictly on-site anymore. Social is almost like currency to gain access to information.


How do you reach a customer base that can oftentimes be finicky?

From a sponsorship standpoint, we’re trying to show who we are as a brand. We’re smart. We’re efficient. We save you time. We address a lot of the pain points that people have, but also translate it over to the purchase and handle your policy. We’re an online company, so we have the tools and technologies. The process is a lot more intuitive for today’s customer. So we have mobile apps, and you can find everything online. We provide the education so you can understand a lot better, and make it as easy and simple as possible.

We’re always trying to do things in a modern way. At activation spaces [like SXSW earlier this year], we don’t use sponsorships to ask people to sign up for a quote or policy. We don’t do that because we understand that is not the mindset of the consumer when they’re at an event. What we’re trying to do is create a deeper connection with consumers, and engage with them in a certain way. Because we are an online company, a lot of times a sponsorship is sometimes the only physical representation that a consumer has for a brand—to actually see, touch and feel. We hope that when they walk away, the impact will make them consider us as an insurance option partner down the line. We like to play advocates in a lot of ways.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan