SBD/July 1, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

NFL Indicates It Will Not Participate In Obamacare Campaign

NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy on Friday in an e-mail wrote that the league "has 'no plans' to work with the Obama administration in educating the public about the president's controversial health care reform," commonly referred to as Obamacare, according to Ashley Killough of CNN.com. McCarthy added that the league has "responded to letters they received from members of Congress." He said the NFL has had "no substantive contact with the administration about" the prospective campaign. The Obama administration is "embarking on a major campaign to spread the word about the upcoming health care changes." U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.) and John Cornyn (R- Tx.) advised the NFL it "would not be a smart move" to agree to the campaign. The letter in addition to being sent to the NFL was sent to the NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA Tour and NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France (CNN.com, 6/28). McConnell and Cornyn wrote, "Given the divisiveness and persistent unpopularity of the health care (law), it is difficult to understand why an organization like yours would risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand by lending its name to its promotion." U.S. Health & Human Services (HSS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week said that she is "in conversations with some sports leagues about potential partnerships to promote enrollment in the president’s health law this summer and fall." POLITICO's Jennifer Haberkorn noted sports partnerships with the Obama administration "could come at a risk." The health law "still has significant opposition," and some athletes "may be skeptical about being cozy with the Obama administration's signature law" (POLITICO.com, 6/28). In DC, Somashekhar & Bernstein cited an MLB spokesperson as saying that the league "had been contacted by the White House." But the spokesperson added that the administration "canceled the meeting and that the MLB has not been provided with any information to make a decision." An NHL spokesperson on Friday said that the White House "postponed a planned meeting, and that it had not made a decision about a partnership" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/29).

THE COVETED DEMOGRAPHIC: The NATIONAL JOURNAL's Catherine Hollander noted HHS "doesn’t have much money for ads, so sports-league partnerships are an efficient use of cash because they allow it to reach the 'bro' demographic -- healthy, uninsured young men." It is "not yet clear what form a partnership between HHS and the football or other sports leagues would take." Sebelius said that they were "discussing paid advertising as well as other agreements." The administration in any case "has a tough road ahead" (NATIONAL JOURNAL, 6/29). THEHILL.com's Elise Viebeck noted McConnell and Cornyn also "warned the leagues not to follow the precedent" of the Red Sox organization, which "promoted the Massachusetts healthcare overhaul" in '07 (THEHILL.com, 6/28). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Amy Schatz notes, "The Obama administration's effort to draft athletes and sports leagues to promote health insurance to the uninsured is off to a rocky start." The "benefits of using athletes and celebrities to promote health insurance to millions of uninsured young adults are clear for the Obama administration." Less "obvious are the benefits to the sports leagues and celebrities being courted to promote the Affordable Care Act." Sebelius "didn't name the other sports leagues contacted by officials." An NBA spokesperson said the league had "nothing we plan to announce at this point." 16W Marketing co-Founder & Partner Frank Vuono said that the NFL "might benefit from promoting health insurance after its struggles with player-safety issues." He added, "It's a pretty smart thing on the NFL's behalf, to be pro-health and friendly with the federal government at this point. Yeah, there could be a backlash from more conservative states. Do I think that would translate into people not rooting for their favorite team in the fall? I don't think so" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/1).
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