Kevin Durant, J.J. Watt join AFI

Outside of alcohol, there's no category in sports marketing that's as competitive as the insurance industry.

Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance is hoping to raise its profile among the big players in the business by signing two of the biggest names in sports: Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Houston Texans defensive end J.J Watt.

The company partly picked the two players because of their stellar reputations, said Telisa Yancy, the vice president of marketing for AFI.

"When you compete in such a crowded space, you can either join the crowd or pave your own road," Yancy said. "We seek authenticity and people that are genuine because customers, in their moment of truth, when they have to use insurance, are seeking that."

In addition to his on-court success, Durant is lauded for his humble disposition and became even more marketable after he paid tribute to his mother during his MVP acceptance speech last season. In the past year, Durant's agency, Roc Nation Sports, has signed its client to renewals with Nike, BBVA Compass and Sprint and added new deals as well (Sparkling Ice, Orange Leaf and Sonic). With 13 endorsement deals, he now has among the most, if not the most, in all of sports.

Watt, who had 20.5 sacks and five touchdowns this season, is known for going above and beyond in the community. The deal will have a component that will tie into his charity. Watt is the second former University of Wisconsin star to join the company's roster; AFI's deal with Russell Wilson just expired.

AFI, which ranks 10th in the country in total premiums collected among insurance companies, partly because they insure in only 19 states, has used sports in recent years to enhance its image. The company did deals with the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. The latter was an interesting move since their logo is on the press conference banner behind Aaron Rodgers, who is competitor State Farm's biggest endorser.

State Farm is also running ads with Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and John Stockton. Geico has put its money into former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods and Progressive signed LeBron James a couple of months ago.