Pontiac's United Shore roughs up Detroit's Rocket Mortgage in Super Bowl ad

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Pontiac-based United Shore Financial Services throws a blindside block at Detroit-based Rocket Mortgage in its first-ever Super Bowl commercial set to air Sunday.

"Playing with rockets is great when you're a kid," the voiceover says as the video opens with a struggling child with a cardboard rocket strapped to his back while lying on his stomach on a skateboard.

A Super Bowl commercial from United Shore Financial Services mocks competitor Quicken Loans' Rocket Mortgage by showing a kid on the skateboard with a rocket strapped to his back at the beginning of the video.

"But when it's time to get a mortgage, you quickly realize a rocket is complicated and expensive," the commercial continues while depicting a frustrated-looking adult on a smartphone.

The 30-second advertisement set to air in numerous markets across the country before the game and at half-time goes on to promote FindAMortageBroker.com, a website supported by United Shore with more information about mortgage brokers and how to find one.

Rocket Mortgage owner Quicken Loans, which earlier this month became the NFL's exclusive mortgage sponsor, responded to the United Shore commercial Friday morning.

“Mortgage brokers are an important resource for homebuyers who appreciate face-to-face service when applying for a loan,” Aaron Emerson, Quicken Loans senior vice president of communications, said in a statement. “That is why we partner with more than 6,000 mortgage brokers serving their communities across the country.

“Regardless of how a consumer elects to work with our company — via phone, RocketMortgage.com or by utilizing a broker in their hometown, they will always have access to our ground-breaking Rocket Mortgage technology.”

United Shore's swipe comes as it looks to unseat Quicken as the No. 1 overall mortgage lender in the United States. It got closer in 2019 — leaping Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to become No. 2, while more than doubling its mortgage volume to $107.7 billion compared to Quicken's record $145 billion for the year.

But Mat Ishbia, United Shore's CEO and a player on Michigan State University's 2000 national championship-winning basketball team under coach Tom Izzo, maintains the commercial is not an attack ad.

"I don't think we attacked (Rocket Mortgage); we had fun with it," he told The Detroit News on Friday.

"I think it's going to grow their business just like it's going to grow ours. I think (Quicken founder) Dan Gilbert and (CEO) Jay Farner are going to laugh when they see it. They won't like it enough to chip in with the cost. The reality is we're friendly competitors."

Unlike Quicken, United Shore's United Wholesale Mortgage business does not sell mortgages directly to homebuyers. It sells mortgages through brokers, the middlemen whose job it is to find competitive interest rates from lenders for homebuyers. Quicken also does some wholesale business.

"We're educating consumers that the best place to get a mortgage is through an independent mortgage broker," Ishbia said. "They can go onto the internet, to the website and find a mortgage broker. The loans don't necessarily go to UWM. It's just to help brokers. We're big on consumer education."

Quicken will air a 60-second ad for Rocket Mortgage's fully online loan service in the first half of the Super Bowl. In the commercial teasers, "Aquaman" and "Game of Thrones" actor Jason Momoa plays against his burly he-man type, soaking in a bubble bath and singing into a pink hairbrush. The message: Finance a home and live comfortably with yourself.

Despite not being a consumer-focused business, Ishbia said he thinks it worth it to spend the money for the advertisement. He declined to share how much the company is paying, but AdAge reports a 30-second Super Bowl spot is about $5.6 million.

United Wholesale's commercial is the latest in a series of public feuds between the mortgage giants. Some of the company's employees in 2018 were caught on surveillance video handing out disparaging fliers around Quicken's downtown headquarters.

Ishbia has made it no secret he seeks to unseat Quicken. The 5,000-employee company is looking to hire up to 3,000 more people in 2020 to support its growth. United Shore last year bought the adjacent building to the new headquarters it built and opened in 2018 to accommodate the expansion.

Another 30-second Super Bowl ad from United Shore seeks to recruit new talent to work for the company. This one only will run in the Detroit market.

Detroit News staff writer Kalea Hall contributed.


Twitter: @BreanaCNoble