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Ad tracking firm says State Farm pulled back on Aaron Rodgers commercials after COVID vaccine comments

NFL quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, left, and Aaron Rodgers, right, with Jake From State Farm appear in an online ad.
State Farm
NFL quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, left, and Aaron Rodgers, right, with Jake From State Farm appear in an online ad.

State Farm said Monday that it doesn’t support some of pitchman Aaron Rodgers’ recent comments on COVID-19 vaccines, though it respects “his right to have his own personal point of view.”

The Green Bay Packers quarterback has become a polarizing figure in the past week after testing positive for COVID and his subsequent interview on the “The Pat McAfee Show.” In the interview, Rodgers voiced anti-vaccine views and compared his opposition with Martin Luther King Jr.’s guidance in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” urging a fight against “unjust” laws.

On Friday, the Bloomington-based State Farm only issued a brief statement that it would be “inappropriate for us to comment on Aaron’s vaccination status.”

State Farm issued a lengthier statement Monday.

“Aaron Rodgers has been a great ambassador for our company for much of the past decade. We don’t support some of the statements that he has made, but we respect his right to have his own personal point of view. We recognize our customers, employees, agents and brand ambassadors come from all walks of life, with differing viewpoints on many issues. Our mission at State Farm is to support safer, stronger communities. To that end, we encourage vaccinations, but respect everyone’s right to make a choice based on their personal circumstances,” the company said.

Rodgers is one of State Farm’s top pitchmen, also known as “brand ambassadors,” appearing in TV and online ads.

State Farm noticeably reduced its use of Rodgers-centered TV ads over the Nov. 6-7 weekend, according to Apex Marketing Group Inc., a sponsorship and analytics company that tracks brand exposure during sporting events.

During the two previous NFL Sundays, about 24-25% of State Farm’s ads throughout the day featured Rodgers, Apex found. On Nov. 7, that dropped to just 1.5%. A similar drop occurred on recent Saturdays, when many college football games are broadcast, Apex’s analysis found.

“Obviously, we saw the pullback of the ads. That’s there,” said Eric Smallwood, president of Apex. “Is that a situation where it’s just temporary and eventually they’ll come back? I don’t know.”

A State Farm spokesperson did not respond to a WGLT question about the change in ad frequency.

“Why do brands hire celebrities to endorse? It’s to align with their brand in a positive light,” said Smallwood, whose firm has no relationship with State Farm. “That’s important for any brand as they tie in with endorsement deals. How they proceed from here, I don’t know.”

Prevea Health, a Wisconsin health care organization, ended its nine-year partnership with Rodgers on Saturday. A statement posted on Twitter by Prevea said the company and Rodgers mutually agreed to end their partnership. Prevea and Rodgers had been partners since 2012.

This is not the first time a State Farm spokesman has faced criticism for his public stance on vaccines.

In 2014 the insurer pulled an ad featuring former "Saturday Night Live" actor Rob Schneider over his outspoken stance against childhood vaccines. The ad featured his "SNL" character Richmeister working at a State Farm office.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.