Sorry OSU. Allstate’s Challenger Brand Thinking Won The Sugar Bowl

January 8, 2015 | blog | By Mike Sullivan


It’s hard to think of a client whose media spend tops $886 million as an underdog. But that’s exactly where Allstate finds itself, looking across a more than $200 million divide between them and GEICO, who led the insurance category in 2013 spending more than $1.18 billion on media. The fact that GEICO backs those media dollars up with Best in Show caliber work certainly puts Allstate in a challenging spot.

Creatively, what was once a sleepy, somewhat boring category, is now dominated by fantastic trade characters like GEICO’s talking menagerie of animals including the gecko, Maxwell the pig and the Hump Day Camel, Progressive’s Flo, the Farmer’s Insurance Professor and of course, Allstate’s Mayhem played brilliantly by actor Dean Winters.

Insurance advertising as a category has never been better. And that presents the classic challenger dilemma for everyone chasing GEICO– with stiff competition, strong competitive creative and media deficits you could drive a building through, how does an underdog compete? In classic challenger brand fashion, you have to concept and execute bigger, better ideas. And that’s exactly what Allstate did during this year’s Sugar Bowl.

If you’d told anyone before the NCAA Football Semi-Final that an ad campaign airing during the game would garner almost as much attention as the teams in it, they would have laughed you out of the stadium. Then again, no one had yet seen what Mayhem and Leo Burnett had planned for the game.


Meet Matt and Shannon. They were at the Sugar Bowl Thursday night. We know this because they posted this selfie online with a quick line about where they were. Their parents saw it and smiled. Their friends saw it and shot them envious texts. Mayhem saw it, broke into their obviously vacant house and throughout the Sugar Bowl, auctioned off all their belongings at bargain basement prices on national television.



Taking their title sponsorship, the reckless joy of their Mayhem campaign and leveraging the real life peril faced by every oversharing homeowner in their customer pool, Allstate developed a series of 25 broadcast and online spots featuring Mayhem auctioning off different items from the couple’s house. Each spot was brilliant fun in and of itself, but also drove viewers to a custom website called MAYHEMSALE.comwhere they could presumably bid on the items. The brilliant stroke? The auction and the items in the spots were real. Duplicate of items in this very real couple’s house.

LOOMIS Imagibrand Process

Self-disclosure, Mayhem is one of my favorite campaigns and one of my family’s too. Like more than 15 million other people, we were tuned into the Sugar Bowl when the initial spot came on with Mayhem explaining the shtick for the night and immediately we were hooked. We rewound that spot at least 3-4 times and every subsequent spot throughout the game at least twice. We went to the website. We checked out the deals. We didn’t bid on anything. But we thought about it. And apparently, we weren’t alone.

After each spot aired, MAYHEMSALE.com received 6,000-8,000 hits per second tallying more than 18 million hits by the end of the night. Mayhem’s Twitter account gained 24,000 followers. They sold a hamper full of clothes for $2. A 60” flat screen TV for $60. Blenders, weed eaters, dryer sheets and the family car for a whopping $200.

By coming up with a big, fun, engaging idea and perfectly integrating their TV spots with their online and social efforts, Allstate shocked and delighted viewers all night long. They rolled into one of the biggest sporting events of the year and stole a stadium’s worth of thunder.

Then they auctioned it off for $6.

Cheers to Leo Burnett and Allstate!

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.