How Do You Solve a Problem Like … Aaron Rodgers?

Thom Weidlich 11.11.21


Like a bad neighbor, State Farm is not there. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers star quarterback and pitchman for the insurance giant, wasn’t quite truthful about his COVID-19 vaccination status. Yet, State Farm is standing by its man. Its messaging on that might have been better had it not missed the point.

Last week, Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and then revealed he hadn’t been vaccinated. The problem is that at an August presser he said, when asked, “Yeah, I’ve been immunized.” Turns out he didn’t mean he’d gotten a shot. Did he mean he gained protection by someone reading his tarot cards? Rodgers (pictured, on the ground) is now on a 10-day quarantine.

With Rodgers appearing in its commercials, State Farm had to say something. What it said was that it wouldn’t drop him, which disappointed a lot of people. “Aaron Rodgers has been a great ambassador for our company for much of the past decade,” it said in a statement quoted in USA Today Monday morning.

Brand Ambassadors

It continued: “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.” And: “We encourage vaccinations, but respect everyone’s right to make a choice based on their personal circumstances.”

The problem is that this doesn’t address the problem. The issue isn’t one of personal freedom. It isn’t even about not getting vaccinated. The issue is that Rodgers lied, or was at least sneaky, about his vaccination status — to fans, reporters, the NFL and teammates. He also, in violation of the rules, appeared at press conferences without a mask and attended a Halloween party with the other players.

State Farm didn’t address any of that. We suspect at some point it may have to. The blowback against Rodgers has been harsh. The NFL has now fined him nearly $15,000 and the Packers $300,000 for violating COVID-19 protocols.

‘Full Responsibility’

One thing that fed the fury was Rodgers’ Friday appearance on the Sirius XM sports program The Pat McAfee Show, during which he spewed a lot of nonsense about vaccines and, sheesh, quoted Martin Luther King Jr. He returned to the show Tuesday and was more apologetic. “I misled some people about my status, which I take full responsibility for those comments,” he said.

His original comments appear to have convinced another marketer, Wisconsin-based medical-clinic group Prevea Health, to end its relationship with Rodgers on Saturday.

“Prevea Health remains deeply committed to protecting its patients, staff, providers and communities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said in its statement. “This includes encouraging and helping all eligible populations to become vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Different Responses

The difference in response from the two companies is interesting. When a company spokesperson, including from the sports world, gets in hot water, how much the scandal relates to the firm’s business can affect the response. Rodgers is attacking medical science, and Prevea is a medical company. State Farm, based in Bloomington, Illinois, is the U.S.’s largest property and casualty and auto insurer.

But State Farm may have conducted a stealth operation of its own. It aired nearly 400 television ads on Sunday and only 1.5 percent of them featured Rodgers, according to Apex Marketing Group. Two Sundays before, 20 percent did. There were similar figures for the comparable Saturdays.

Maybe State Farm is as sneaky as Aaron Rodgers. Still, we wouldn’t be surprised if it has a rethink of its relationship with him. That would be neighborly.

Photo Credit: Green Bay Packers

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