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Monday Morning Marketer: Quicken Loans CMO Casey Hurbis

  • Quicken Loans CMO talks though the mortgage company's expansive sports marketing strategy.
  • The expansive approach is meant to hit a wide demographic, essentially any person who might ever buy a house.
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Whether it’s college basketball or the NFL, viewers are sure to be hit with an ad for Quicken Loans Rocket Mortgage.

And that’s by design.

The mortgage company takes a broad approach to ensure any potential homebuyer recognizes its name. Whether it’s through those ads, a partnership with the PGA, or its entry into esports, sports is a key focus area for Quicken Loans. And that’s all on top of founder Dan Gilbert’s ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

FOS chatted with Quicken Loans Chief Marketing Officer Casey Hurbis to get a glimpse into the company’s sports marketing strategy.

Quicken Loans Rocket Mortgage recently signed a four-year deal with the NFL to be the official mortgage lender right before the Super Bowl. The partnership includes the first official Super Bowl squares sweepstakes, a free-to-play game that could result in multiple $50,000 prizes and two $500,000 grand prizes. The sweepstakes was at the heart of the company’s deal with the NFL.

Hurbis: We’re fortunate we do a lot of sports partnerships. We love to do big things here, from the Carrier Classic, Million Dollar Bracket, we have ongoing conversations with media and sports platforms and this idea of doing Super Bowl squares is something we’ve wanted to do for a while, saw the opportunity to take it to the NFL and as we had that conversation, if we could be the official mortgage lender, we want that cornerstone to be first official Super Bowl squares. We met at that table together, we had ideas, they had ideas, two brands coming together and very quickly, we met with them and loved the opportunity, excited about the construct, and agreed it can be the cornerstone.

While the Super Bowl squares sweepstakes is the cornerstone of the Rocket Mortgage-NFL partnership, Hurbis is excited about the year-round activation possibilities the deal provides from the draft in the spring to the opening week to the Veteran campaigns in November before heating back up into the Super Bowl.

Hurbis: That’s one of the things, we’re partnering with arguably the largest sports platform. As we sat with the NFL, we knew it, but until you sit down and look at it, it’s truly a 365-day-a-year platform you can engage with. Coming out of the Super Bowl, you move into NFL Combine and NFL Draft, and we’ll work with them on the draft. The NFL Draft has become the biggest two-, three- day party in April, and now we can activate against that. Then you have NFL players that it’s an opportunity for them to buy their first home or their parents. How can we tell that story? There’s also a deep-rooted passion to work with veterans, November is Salute to Service, so we’ll partner with the NFL and share that common bond. We have a big initiative, Built for Zero, to eliminate veteran homelessness, and share that story and work.

Beyond the NFL, Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage have been a very active participant in the sports community for at least the past decade as it’s grown into one of the largest lenders and a national advertiser since its founding 35 years ago in the Detroit suburbs. The broad reach is large because of the wide swath of demographics potentially buying homes.

Hurbis: From a marketing standpoint, we are a large scale advertiser, 24/7, 365, large spend that lives in all marketing channels. Within that, sports marketing and partnerships are a core part of our marketing plan.

When you think about sports, one thing is the multi-screen, multi-touch world we live in. Things are time-shifted or on-demand, but news and sports are harder to get away from. They’re a moment in time when the audience leans in. If it’s a sport or team or moments, fans are leaning in being entertained and engaged; it’s a great place for the brand to be.

Second is from a mortgage standpoint; it’s a very broad demographic approach. We want to put Americans in homes. There’s an opportunity because sports are very broad, very diverse, and puts us in front of people that are in the shopping process, but also appeal to that next generation, further down the line from borrowing equity. So as a brand, we’re attaching to fans with an affinity for sports, athlete, or event, attaching to that and building awareness with potential clients.

Most people will recognize the Quicken Loans brand from watching sports broadcasts pretty much anywhere. Still, beyond a substantial core of media partnership like ESPN, Fox, and Turner, the brand has pulled in partnerships with the PGA Tour and Ricky Fowler – moving a tournament from Washington, D.C., to Detroit. The company also has built a steady stable of 21 university partnerships in NCAA football and basketball, with heavy mascot usage. But it goes beyond traditional stick-and-ball sports.

Hurbis: We partnered with the Kentucky Derby and took to the track 20 winners for a dream trip and treated them to a VIP experience and gave them horses 1-20. The winning number won $250,000 toward a home.

We do quite a bit, and we’re not a brand that believes in writing a big check and slapping a logo. If we lean in and work with an athlete, league, or team, we work closely and develop contextually relevant content that connects with a fan.

That might sound like it’s a little bit of a shotgun approach, and that’s because….

Hurbis: It’s shotgun but very targeted. Imagine the number of phone calls and emails I get. We get a lot of inquiries, so we look at what makes sense form brand alignment. We listen quite a bit; we listen because there are opportunities everywhere. Sometimes we develop ideas and take them to specific partners. We developed the idea for the Kentucky Derby and took it to them. No one pitched us. We come up with things, and we always listen, because you never know what you might find or learn.

Beyond physical sports, Quicken Loans has entered into the esports space, a relatively natural extension because they view themselves as a tech company.

Hurbis: You’re getting AFC-NFC Championship level of audience engagement. When I arrived here three years ago, esports was a topic of conversation. I go to conventions and still big brands are could we? Should we? It’s no longer niche; there’s a reason why Turner and ESPN crossed over.

Brands do need to be careful, make sure they walk carefully into space and do it organically because the fans can be skeptical of brands. You need to bring value, provide value to the audience and team. One of the things we did with 100 Thieves was outfit their home with a ping pong table and took them to dinner. I was like, ‘OK, that’s what we’re doing? That’s our big idea?’ And I’m watching four minutes of it, and it doesn’t feel the most engaging content, but the feedback from the audience blew me away.

My recommendation is they need to experience for themselves, go to L.A., or one of these staged events. We had one here in Detroit, tens of thousands of people. I was stunned in a positive way with the audience makeup. It was not 15-year-old kids; it was 25-, 30-years-olds, high school, and college-educated professionals. Sure to be looking for cars, trucks, and homes at this point. Probably in tech or financial career path.

Now, I talk about esports in the same breath I talk about the PGA. The audience and scale are there. It’s not niche or underground; it’s mainstream.

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