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Fountain of Youth: State Farm’s College Marketing & Sales Competition Encourages Elite Students to Consider Insurance Career

Backed by more than $30,000 in cash prizes, the program, now in its second year, is part of a bold bid to bolster the giant company’s appeal to—and understanding of—the young-adult market

In a unique and ambitious effort to encourage top young talent to consider a career in insurance—and with the company—State Farm recently hosted its second-annual College Marketing & Sales Competition program, which attracted 16 students from eight universities across the country who vied for thousands of dollars in cash prizes.

“The competition is a great opportunity to identify talent, and it gives us the students’ unique perspective on the marketplace,” says Mike Davidson, State Farm’s recently retired vice chairman and chief marketing and agency officer, who oversaw the company’s nearly 18,000 agents across the country.

“It’s like a live learning lab for us,” adds SVP Rand Harbert, who just succeeded Davidson as State Farm’s chief agency and marketing officer. “We get to hear the best and brightest college students in the country talk about our products in a way that may not be the way we think to talk about our products. That, in and of itself, is the win for us in sponsoring the competition.”

In the first round, which was held at the University of Central Missouri campus in Warrensburg, all 16 students were tasked with developing a plan to maximize an existing State Farm advertising campaign for a local market.

The top finishers from this preliminary round then moved on to the finals where they had to assume the role of a local agent and try to sell a State Farm auto-insurance policy to a dating, 20-something couple (Jackson and Jane).

And it was no easy task: While Jane had always insured with State Farm, the couple was shopping and had in hand from Geico a price quote $35 cheaper than the offer from State Farm.

The students had to persuade the couple that State Farm could offer a better overall deal by, for example, inquiring about other insurance needs that could be bundled into a discounted package.

The students who didn’t advance to the finals participated in a roundtable during which they were peppered with questions from State Farm executives about the best way to market products to Millennial-generation consumers.

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