||A Positive Prognosis: Hospitals Increase Sponsorship Activity
Hospitals Increase Use of Sponsorship to Promote Expertise and Support Strategic Business Objectives
While many questions remain around the Affordable Care Act and changes in healthcare, one thing is clear: hospitals are increasingly using sponsorship as a go-to marketing platform.
The primary driver: increased competition.
With consumers taking a more active role in healthcare decisions, hospitals are aligning with pro sports teams and other types of properties to promote their expertise and support other health and wellness initiatives.
That activity is driven in part by the growing number of hospitals experiencing declining inpatient volume, said Paul Matsen, chief of marketing & communications with the Cleveland Clinic, which has longstanding ties to the NFL Cleveland Browns other local sports teams.
"With traditional in-patient volume declining, hospitals have had to become more creative and competitive in how they use marketing dollars. Sponsorship -- particularly sports marketing -- is a distinctive way to activate your message in the local community."
Pro sports also provide access to an affluent audience -- consumers with health insurance -- and a potential new revenue stream.
"Insurance companies want to pay less to healthcare providers, so you have to look at new markets. A younger, insured population can be a potential new business line," said Bob Page, president and CEO of The University of Kansas Hospital, which uses sponsorship to promote its sports medicine practice.
Recent deals include Florida Hospital and the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mount Sinai Hospital and the USTA US Open and Baptist Health South Florida, which last year aligned with the Miami Marathon and four other US Road Sports & Entertainment properties.
Below, IEG SR highlights two key hot buttons in the hospital category:
Promote areas of expertise. Many hospitals look for official status to promote specialty lines of business.
That is the primary driver for The University of Kansas Hospital, the official healthcare provider of the MLB Kansas City Royals, NFL Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas Speedway. The hospital aligned with the three properties with one primary objective: promote its sports medicine expertise.
"The underlying concept is if we're good enough to take care of pro athletes, we're good enough for amateur athletes and the weekend warrior," said Page.
Page's long-term vision: to position TUKH as a one-stop source for sports medicine for professional athletes from around the country.
"Some of the leading doctors in sports medicine are near the end of their careers. Why not have pro athletes fly to Kansas City rather than Los Angeles or Birmingham?"
In addition to providing physicians and other specialists for the Royals and Chiefs, KU Med employees staff first aid stations in Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium.
The ability to gain official status -- as well as providing staff for the first aid stations -- was mandatory in each deal, said Mitch Wheeler, chief partnership officer with Premier Sports Management, which negotiated the team deals on behalf of the hospital.
"Bob made it clear to us that this is not a marketing deal. The University of Kansas Hospital has to be the official healthcare provider of the team or there is no deal."
The hospital promotes the partnerships -- and official status -- through digital signage and other on-site inventory. It also runs TV and radio ads promoting the ties, one of which features Royals general manager Dayton Moore talking up how the partnership helps keep players healthy and on the field.
Moore does not serve as a spokesperson for any other Royals sponsor, a factor that increases the value of the marketing message, said Wheeler.
Not every hospital looks for exclusive status. Saint Louis University Hospital uses its partnership with the MLB St. Louis Cardinals and Busch Stadium as an advertising platform, said Laura Keller, the hospital's director of marketing.
The academic hospital uses the tie to promote its level 1 trauma center, said Keller, noting that more than 60 percent of Cardinals fans live more than fifty miles away from downtown St. Louis, a demographic that mirrors the hospital's patient base.
"There is no other marketing vehicle that hits our target as dead on as the Cardinals."
Support strategic marketing platforms. The Cleveland Clinic activates the Browns, Cavs and Indians to support strategic marketing platforms.
For example, the hospital over the past year-and-a-half has used the partnerships to promote the Power of Today marketing campaign that promotes same-day appointments. The hospital previously used the ties to support the Let's Move It! community wellness initiative.
The clinic supports the Power of Today campaign through a mix of on-site digital assets and experiential marketing programs. That includes "Same Day in Browns History" Jumbotron spots in FirstEnergy Stadium and on-site programs at the Browns' training camp that asked consumers what they would do that day to improve their health.
"It was fantastic. Thousands of people interacted with us," said Matsen.
The Cleveland Clinic promoted the Let's Move It! campaign through in-stadium messaging and community outreach initiatives that offered consumers the opportunity to walk the baseball diamond at Progressive Field.
(Source: IEG Sponsorship Report, 09/23/13)
How You Can Make Money:
Not all hospitals tie their sponsorship efforts to sports marketing. Some have specialties that lend themselves to other sponsorship initiatives as well. Also, look for a boom in walk-in clinics with the activation of the ACA. Other small, specialty clinics will also be looking at sponsorship as a way of generating more community awareness in your market as competition in healthcare, preventative care, and "continuing wellness" offerings heats up over the next few years.
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