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Health Insurers Banking on Baseball

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media, May 5, 2010

No matter which sports team you follow, you have most likely seen health insurance advertisement in your favorite stadium, ballpark, or arena.

It could be the Highmark ads on the boards in the Pittsburgh Penguins' Mellon Arena, the Kaiser Permanente ads on the outfield walls at Dodger Stadium, or the Emblem Health ads on the upper decks of the New York Mets' Citi Field.

Expect this kind of health insurer outreach even more over the next decade.

Health insurers, healthcare organizations, and health groups know there is an audience in sports. Major League Baseball has spotlighted health causes, such as breast cancer and colon cancer. It's become a Mother's Day tradition for batters to swing pink bats to raise breast cancer awareness.

Baseball teams have opened up areas in their stadiums to allow health organizations an avenue to promote their messages. Now, health insurers are also a regular fixture at arenas and stadiums.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has placed advertising in the Minnesota Twins' new Target Field, branded two first aid stations, and the Twins are airing scoreboard videos that spotlight people improving their health. They will publicize Blue Cross' "do" campaign, which encourages Minnesota residents to eat better and exercise and asks Minnesotans to share their stories of physical fitness.

BCBS of MN knows that Target Field is the hottest ticket in town and where better to promote their programs than the Twins' new ballpark.

The Massachusetts Connector, which oversees the state's health reform project, also hooked itself onto a hot brand when it partnered with the Boston Red Sox to promote the Connector and the individual mandate that requires nearly all Massachusetts residents buy health insurance. The Red Sox even hosted Health Connector Days at Fenway Park and the NESN broadcast team hosted Connector officials in the booth.

The result: more than 97 % of Massachusetts residents are insured. The Red Sox were not the only reason people bought coverage (the penalty was likely the biggest driver), but they were part of a public outreach campaign.

In the time leading up to the federal health reform's individual mandate kicking in, expect insurers to use local sports teams even more to get out the word about their offerings. With people needing individual insurance, it will be critical for health insurers to devote more time and effort in marketing their plans.

Who better to promote health insurance to Texans than the Dallas Cowboys or to Missourians than the St. Louis Cardinals? These are trusted, beloved brands, and health insurers will use these franchises to disseminate their messages—while also flooding the sports teams' coffers with cash.

The individual health insurance market is one of the few growth areas for insurers—and health reform will provide even more opportunity and potential new members. Insurer advertising and sponsorships will be everywhere over the next four years. The insurers whose advertising and outreach connect with sports fans quickly and with an engaging message will be the ones who hit homeruns in the post-health reform world.

Les Masterson


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Les Masterson is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

Follow Les Masterson on Twitter.


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