Early last summer, two leading U.S. Senators sent letters to the National Football League and five other professional sports leagues, warning them not to help publicize the rollout of a new online shopping service for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
The highly unusual bullying tactic worked. The NFL promptly caved in with a public statement disavowing any such intention, and the silence from the other five leagues has been deafening. However, last week a crack finally appeared in the dam, as the Baltimore Ravens football franchise became the first team in professional sports to lend its name to the Obamacare promotion effort. Could this open the floodgates for a slew of additional endorsements from the pro sports sector?
The Baltimore Ravens and Obamacare
The promotion at issue involves a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, the establishment of an open access health insurance marketplace (also referred to as the exchanges). For the first time, this will enable consumers to easily compare the cost of different health plans and determine their eligibility for financial assistance. Marketplaces in each state are set to open for business on October 1.
Getting uninsured consumers, especially young and healthy consumers, to buy a health plan through the marketplace will be a key marker of the success (or failure) of the Affordable Care Act. Some federal dollars are available to publicize the marketplace along with efforts by nonprofit organizations, but a key part of the strategy is to reach people through familiar daily activities, including shopping, entertainment, and recreation.
As a demonstration of how effective the entertainment/recreation component could be, consider that according to research commissioned by Maryland, in a one-year period more than 70 percent of uninsured persons in the state had viewed a Ravens game in person or had followed it on TV, radio or other media.
The most well-known comparison is to the Boston Red Sox baseball franchise, which played an invaluable role in publicizing former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “Romneycare” health insurance reforms.
With the advantage of a generation raised on social media behind them, the Ravens have stepped things up a level. The team’s campaign for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange will consist of a multimedia communications and partnership strategy.
One highlight, in particular, is a four-genre musical theme component consisting of contemporary, Latin, country and urban, reflecting the broad diversity of modern Maryland from its coastal cities to commuter communities and rural areas.
Brick-and-mortar locations for distributing information are also vital to the strategy, and that’s where the partnerships come in. So far, that consists of Giant Food with 100 locations and CVS with 170 locations.
In related news, Rite Aid has announced that it will lend a hand to the Obamacare publicity effort on a national level, partly by stationing agents for in-person help at 2,000 of its locations. Walgreens has signed on, too.
The Baltimore Ravens go green
Since we’ve been covering the green sports trend among professional leagues in the U.S., including solar installations for the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s also worth noting that a $35 million LEED overhaul has just gotten under way for the Ravens M&T Bank Stadium. The project will be overseen by LEED specialist Lorax Partnerships LLC.
In that context, we’re thinking that it won’t be long before other pro sports leagues make the social responsibility connection between sustainable operations and the health and well-being of their fans and host communities. The open enrollment period for the Obamacare marketplace will last until March 2014, so there is plenty of time for the rest of pro sports to follow the Ravens’ lead and pitch in to help promote affordable health insurance.
[Image (cropped): Baltimore Ravens logo by Keith Allison]