Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has appeared in cheeky commercials for the State Farm insurance company for about a decade, becoming a ubiquitous virtual presence during sporting events, game shows and the evening news.
But over the weekend, he showed up on television screens for different reasons after he tested positive for Covid-19 and revealed that he has avoided getting vaccinated against it, drawing national attention and criticism.
In turn, State Farm commercials featuring Rodgers all but disappeared from the airwaves. He was featured in just 1.5 percent of the nearly 400 commercials for State Farm that aired Sunday, according to Apex Marketing Group, a sponsorship and analytics company.
The percentage of commercials featuring Rodgers dramatically decreased compared to the two previous Sundays (Oct. 24 and 31), when “Rodgers-specific ads” accounted for more than 20 percent of all State Farm spots, Apex confirmed in an email.
Apex President Eric Smallwood said in a statement Monday that the company’s “monitoring indicates that this wasn’t a planned reduction and more reactionary because there [weren’t] any new significant ads put in its place.”
The news was first reported by Action Network.
In a statement Monday, State Farm praised Rodgers as a “great ambassador for our company for much of the past decade.” But it attempted to distance itself from his contentious views on vaccines.
“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,” the company said. “We recognize our customers, employees, agents and brand ambassadors come from all walks of life, with differing viewpoints on many issues.”
State Farm said that it encouraged vaccinations against the coronavirus but added that it respected “everyone’s right to make a choice based on their personal circumstances.”
Gina Morss-Fischer, a spokeswoman for State Farm, did not immediately respond to a question about whether the company planned to continue to run ads featuring Rodgers.
Prevea Health, a Wisconsin health care organization, announced Friday that it had ended a nine-year partnership with Rodgers, effective Saturday. The decision was mutual, Prevea said in a message on Twitter.
In recent years, Rodgers has also cropped up in commercials for major brands such as Adidas, Bose, Izod and Pizza Hut. The pizza chain confirmed in an email that it has not “worked with him” since the 2012-13 football season.
The status of Rodgers’ business relationship with the three other brands was not clear Monday, and representatives for the companies did not immediately respond to emails requesting clarification.
Robert Passikoff, the founder of the marketing consultancy Brand Keys, said Rodgers put State Farm in a difficult position because his statements about vaccines undercut the focus of its business.
“If you’re an insurance company, you’re supposed to be looking out for your customers and doing the best thing for them,” he said. “You can argue the pros and cons of what he said, but it’s better off that people aren’t sick.
“Rodgers’ refusal to get vaccinated, while a personal decision, reflects on them and pulls them into a controversy that you just don’t need,” Passikoff added.
In an interview Friday on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Sirius XM, Rodgers claimed that he is allergic to an ingredient in two of the shots approved by the Food and Drug Administration. He did not specify the ingredient or say how he knows he is allergic to it.
Rodgers said he has received monoclonal antibodies and taken ivermectin — and he thanked podcast host Joe Rogan, who has drawn criticism for advocating for discredited Covid treatments.
The FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin to prevent or treat Covid in humans, and it has warned against taking the veterinary form of the drug.
Passikoff said he believed it was likely that other brands that feature Rodgers in promotional material — or planned to do so in the year to come — “will take a step away from him,” if only because mass-appeal corporations usually want to avoid sociopolitical firestorms.
“There’s just no need to wade into something that has turned so contentious,” he said, referring to the cultural and partisan divides over vaccines.
It is possible that Rodgers might align himself with brands trying to reach audiences outside the mainstream, such as consumers who reject the established medical consensus on vaccines or embrace the coronavirus skepticism that has become associated with parts of the Republican Party.
Larry DeGaris, a professor of sports marketing at the University of Indianapolis, said he believed it was doubtful that a company would go that route, however.
“Why, with so many alternatives that have zero downside, why would you invite the controversy? I’m sure there might be individual CEOs of privately owned companies, like MyPillow, that would do it. But not the big brands,” he said.
Passikoff said he believed Rodgers could rebound as a corporate pitchman after a “cooling-off” period, however.
“I think, to be honest, memories are not that long,” he said. “The memory will start to fade once Covid itself is not the opening for every news show in America.”