Inside the making of the new State Farm commercial starring WNBA MVP and Connecticut Sun All-Star Jonquel Jones – Hartford Courant

Jonquel Jones was taken aback when her agent approached her about one particular marketing opportunity last season. State Farm wanted to feature the eventual WNBA MVP in a new commercial spot.

“I was ecstatic, obviously,” Jones told the Hartford Courant earlier this week. “I just couldn’t believe it. It’s such a big-time commercial. They run it in so many different places and on primetime television, so it was a huge thing, definitely was a huge thing. And my family was super excited, too — super, super excited.”

If you’ve watched live sports lately, particularly the NBA playoffs, you’ve probably seen it. You know, the one where the 6-foot-6 Connecticut Sun forward steps in to assist Trae Young with a jar of pickles?

“Here you go,” Jones says after reaching over the 6-foot-1 Atlanta Hawks guard to grab the jar on a high shelf.

“Thanks, Jonquel,” Young responds, appearing a little sad that he couldn’t grab it himself.

Then 7-foot-3 Dallas Mavericks center Boban Marjanović enters the frame and lends a similar hand to Jones with a jar of yellow mustard. “Thanks, Boban,” Jones replies, also looking just a tad bit deflated.

“Do you need me to reach anything else?”

“No,” Jones quips as she and Young walk away.

“Because I can reach it,” Marjanović boasts.

Jones has been getting lots of attention for the commercial since it aired a few weeks ago. It’s a symbol of her rise to stardom following a dominant season in which she averaged 19.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists, but Jones also hopes it’s a signifier of more prime endorsements to come for talent across the WNBA.

“We want our league to keep trending in the right direction, trending upward,” Jones said. “We understand that with fan attendance increasing and more people tuning in to the W and all that, the opportunities are going to come for players in the W. And we deserve those opportunities because we’re pros, we work hard in our game, we’re at the top of our game. And so, I love to see it.”

The commercial also embodies the camaraderie between WNBA and NBA players, which is one of the things State Farm assistant vice president Patty Morris loves.

“You really see it from the NBA players to the WNBA players, it’s just such a supportive, inclusive environment,” Morris, who oversees the company’s branding, sponsorships and media presence, told the Hartford Courant. “We love it when we can bring that into our creative and our sponsorship of those environments and just bring the best players together; because they support each other so well, so we want to do the same.”

State Farm has worked with star basketball players for around a decade, dating back to spots with Chris Paul and his fictional identical twin brother “Cliff.” Sue Bird made an appearance alongside Paul back in 2014-15, and Sabrina Ionescu did the same around a year ago.

Jones is the first WNBA player featured alongside NBA players other than Paul, instead with Young and Marjanović, as part of the company’s efforts to diversify talent and teams represented to resonate with fans.

“Bringing Jonquel in was pretty natural because we loved the idea of having the female sort of at the center of that spot,” Morris said. “Jones was projected to be the MVP — and that happened — and she also has a personality that we felt like would help really add to the spot and extend that story. And I think we saw that come through in the spot, it’s just so entertaining and funny.”

Before agreeing to do the commercial, Jones made sure to get the OK from Sun general manager and head coach Curt Miller months before it was filmed. He of course obliged, eager for Jones to build her brand, but the timing — it was filmed a little bit before the playoffs — wasn’t ideal.

“I just remember it was in the midst of a stretch of games,” Miller told the Hartford Courant, “and I was praying that we didn’t have any flight problems getting her back.”

Jones doesn’t remember the exact date of the shoot late last summer, but she vividly recalls the strenuous of a day of travel. After playing in a home game that night, she left her apartment around 3 a.m. and drove to New York. From there, she took a red-eye flight to Los Angeles. Once she landed early that morning, Jones drove about an hour to the set. And after a long day of filming, she flew back to the East Coast.

The experience was certainly worth it though. To her amazement, Jones even got her own trailer for hair and makeup.

“I really felt like I was on a major set,” Jones said, “Which I was, but it was just so cool for that to be my first one for it to be such a big one.”

Jones hadn’t met Young or Marjanović before, but the trio quickly meshed and had a blast — albeit with lots of outtakes. Jones has much more appreciation for commercials now that she’s been in one herself. She didn’t realize how much went into filming something so short, or how much patience that required.

On the very first take, Marjanović forgot to say his opening line: “Here’s your mustard.” The group burst out in laughter, doing the same when Young said Jones’ name weirdly a few times. They also had to hold in laughs prompted by staring at one another while making the sad expressions featured in the spot.

Jones did the shoot on little to no sleep, but adrenaline kept her going. Once in Connecticut, Jones took a day to catch up on sleep before proceeding to lead the Sun to the best regular-season record in the WNBA. All the while, she kept the details of the commercial under tight lock and key.

“I was almost wondering if [the commercial] got scrapped and was on some editor’s floor because it had been so long since I had let her go do it,” Miller said. “But what an exciting time for it to be released during the NBA playoffs, all the basketball fans worldwide seeing that commercial and seeing her. Truly special for her.”

Jones saw the commercial before it officially aired, as she was required to post on social media, but watching it on live TV in the middle of the NBA playoffs a few days later was different.

“I saw it and I went crazy,” Jones said. “I just started screaming and stuff. It was crazy.”

Though his reaction wasn’t as deafening for those in close proximity, Miller was just as thrilled for Jones, who he’s coached since her rookie year in 2016.

“I just was smiling and grinning from ear to ear,” Miller said. “One, I liked the commercial, but knowing JJ … she deserves all the shine she can get. … There was a pride that JJ has really come a long way and she really put in the work to earn these opportunities.”

Lila Bromberg can be reached at and @LilaBBromberg on Twitter.

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