On Saturday, September 30, Ryan Reynolds hopped into a Microsoft Teams meeting to discuss having a special guest in the Kelce family suite.
No, it wasn’t for the Kansas City Chiefs-New York Jets game that night, although Reynolds was conspicuously pictured in a suite that evening alongside his wife Blake Lively, actor Hugh Jackman and undoubtedly the biggest star in the stadium that night, Taylor. Swift, everyone’s looking at Chiefs star Travis Kelce.
Instead, Reynolds was talking about another game, to be held Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia, between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Commanders, a game that would feature Travis Kelce’s older brother, Eagles star Jason Kelce.
A week earlier, Swift’s surprise appearance at the Chiefs-Bears game caused a social media frenzy, with videos of her laughing and chatting with matriarch Donna Kelce going viral. NBC ultimately leaned into Swift’s presence to carry the Chiefs-Jets game, with the network regularly showing her during the game.
Reynolds’ marketing company Maximum Effort – which specializes in launching campaigns that capitalize on viral moments – realized there was an opportunity. The result was another viral moment, with Donna Kelce once again chatting with a special guest in her suite… Jake from State Farm, the insurance company’s commercial spokesperson (played by actor Kevin Miles).
“No one captures the spirit of the times better than Taylor Swift,” said George Dewey, Reynolds co-founder of Maximum Effort, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “And you know, her performance at the Kansas City Chiefs games dominated the cultural landscape for five or six days, so when we came up with this idea while brainstorming for another project, it just felt too good to resist.”
According to Dewey, the idea to place someone next to Donna Kelce came about on Thursday, September 28. On Friday, Maximum Effort approached State Farm with the idea.
Alyson Griffin, State Farm’s chief marketing officer, says she got the call about the opportunity while sitting in a car next to fellow State Farm marketing manager Patty Morris.
“She and I were shooting all week with Jake from State Farm in Los Angeles, and we flew back together from LA to Bloomington (Illinois, where State Farm is located) and we were on a two-hour drive from O’ Her Airport to Bloomington happened to be alone in the car together when the call came in on Friday,” Griffin remembers.
They were interested, but the competition was in two days and there were some major hurdles to overcome. Would Miles (Jake from State Farm) even be available to make it to Philadelphia in the first place? Often, after a week of commercial shoots, he would move on to other professional projects or take a personal break.
“We weren’t sure he was even going to 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 says ‘next Sunday, about two days?’” Griffin adds. “Although the timeline is very fast, especially for an insurance company, we were excited to jump on a trend. And it felt like a very creative, interesting idea.”
And of course they had to get permission from Jason and Donna Kelce. So Maximum Effort turned to Rob McElhenny, the star and creator of It’s always sunny in Philadelphiaand Reynolds co-owner of Wrexham FC, as chronicled in their FX series Welcome to Wrexham.
Rob, a huge Eagles fan, told Jason the idea was coming and he thought it was funny, Dewey says. “It was extremely helpful, especially when you’re moving so quickly. 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 a number of commercials for State Farm earlier this year, so the company had a relationship with him), there was only one last person left to be looped into: Taylor Swift.
Reynolds acted as a backchannel to Swift’s camp, Dewey says, with both State Farm and Maximum Effort wanting to make it clear that they were not mocking Swift, but rather acknowledging the weekend’s viral moments.
“We felt like this was her moment, if you will, and we just didn’t want to jeopardize anything with her,” says Griffin.
“We were once confident enough that everyone got the joke and that there would be no problem. we were all very happy to move on,” says Dewey.
“(We were) confident that Taylor was aware of it, wasn’t upset, but found it funny,” Griffin added.
That led to Saturday’s video meeting, planning by the Maximum Effort and State Farm teams to prepare and amplify what they hoped would be a viral moment on Sunday, and coordination on the ground in Philadelphia that afternoon.
Sure enough, the Fox broadcast showed Donna Kelce chatting next to Jake from State Farm during the game, just as they did a week earlier when she sat with Taylor Swift. And Miles (sorry, Jake from State Farm) posted a video walking down the stadium hallway next to Jason Kelce, recreating a viral moment from a week earlier, when Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift left the arena in Kansas City.
The result was a flood of social media impressions and dozens upon dozens of news stories mentioning State Farm’s Jake (“Donna Kelce hangs out with Taylor Swift, State Farm’s Jake on an eventful day,” read one headline).
“We were aware that we wanted to be in this moment, and that the moment would pass in a moment. It was now or never, and we thought, ‘We’ll do this or it won’t happen,'” says Griffin. “We just thought it was a nice textbook example of culture and marketing, and what it means for brands to take advantage of a moment.”
“Marketing needs to feel less calculated, and that’s what speed and culture can help create,” Dewey adds.