SBJ/May 27-June 2, 2013/In Depth

Playing your way to good health with the NBA

Creating awareness and taking action come up again and again when the topic is philanthropy. Two NBA campaigns — one dedicated to battling diabetes, the other to children’s health — demonstrate different approaches to meeting those goals.

Start with stopping diabetes. The NBA began working with the American Diabetes Association in 2011 on a partnership it calls Dribble to Stop Diabetes. The relationship grew from a previous collaboration to encourage vaccinations for teens with the U.S. division of research and pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

Todd Jacobson, NBA senior vice president of social responsibility, said Sanofi, a league sponsor, is a key partner in the diabetes initiative. Like other league sponsors, Sanofi pays a marketing fee. The American Diabetes Association, a nonprofit based in Alexandria, Va., doesn’t pay anything to be part of the campaign. Instead, the nonprofit contributes expertise and credibility as well as an online risk test used to encourage prevention and treatment. Sanofi and the association can use the Dribble to Stop Diabetes logo on related marketing materials.

Through the first two years, in-arena public service announcements and campaigns, mentions during game broadcasts
The American Diabetes Association works with the league to encourage prevention and treatment of diabetes.
Photo by:
NBAE / Getty Images
and a microsite ( created 125 million media impressions, Jacobson said. The goal: 200 million impressions through the first three years.

So far, 27,000 basketball fans have taken risk tests online or from paper versions distributed at NBA, WNBA and Development League games, according to the NBA.

“We don’t have the resources a for-profit might have so we have to be more creative,” said Steve Wosahla, managing director for corporate alliances and cause-related marketing at the American Diabetes Association. “By working with groups like the NBA and the WNBA, we have a good chance to amplify the message.”

Clinics and activities at the WNBA Finals, NBA All-Star Weekend and during the 2013 NBA Nation presented by Sprint further the message. Current and former players work as ambassadors for diabetes prevention, too.

This season, the diabetes campaign ambassadors were Tamika Catchings of the WNBA and NBA players Andre Iguodala and Danny Granger. In most cases, the players involved have direct knowledge of diabetes. For example, Granger’s father and uncle have type 2 diabetes and his grandfather has type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes affects African-Americans and Hispanics at higher rates than the general population, making the NBA a good match to reach those audiences, Wosahla and Jacobson said. Though the campaign to promote healthy children is separate from the diabetes effort, they share a push to limit and reduce obesity. Darell Hammond, the founder and CEO of Washington nonprofit KaBoom!, cites the statistic that 1 in 3 American children is obese as one of several reasons he started the playground-building group.

Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons helps build a playground in Houston in conjunction with KaBoom!
Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images
Since 2007, the NBA has contributed $1.5 million in cash and, just as importantly, made its players, employees and league executives available to help build 14 playgrounds across the country. Another six have been built thanks to donations from individual players such as Antawn Jamison, who led the way on playgrounds in Louisiana, North Carolina and Washington.

“They’re deliberately using those builds as marketing platforms as a call to action,” Hammond said of the NBA, which has made playground construction part of its high-profile All-Star weekend and other events. “It’s, ‘We did this today, come continue this [tomorrow].’”

KaBoom! is allowed to use the marks of NBA Cares, the league’s community outreach initiative. Hammond said KaBoom! has since started working with the NFL, MLB and NHL.

One of the key aspects, he said, is the playgrounds aren’t basketball courts or baseball fields connected with the leagues. Instead, they are traditional playgrounds aimed at giving children the chance to wonder and play and spur both mental and physical health. The main goal is getting kids to spend more time outside, in a safe place where they can have fun.

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

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