The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens have signed a sponsorship deal with Maryland Health Connection, the state’s online insurance exchange required under the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.
The deal surprised some in Washington, given the National Football League’s (NFL) decision in June to decline a sponsorship from the White House to promote the new federal-state health care exchanges. The state of Maryland will pay the Ravens $130,000 to promote the health care exchange throughout the regular football season, with an additional option should the “defending” champions improve their 3-4 record to make the postseason.
"This is an advertising package purchased by a state agency, much like we have business associations with the Maryland Lottery and the Maryland National Guard, as well as other groups like Giant Foods and Verizon,” a Ravens public relations staff member, told Medical Daily on Wednesday.
The Ravens will promote Obamacare through advertisements on its stadium Jubotron as well as its corporate websites and fan newsletter. In addition, the Ravens will feature at least two segments on Obamacare on all 17 weekly broadcasts of the Ravens Report, a post-game show airing on WBAL Plus-TV and Comcast SportsNet, as well as pre- and post-game radio ads. On social media, the team will feature the health care exchange on its Facebook page for two weeks, publishing also five tweets to the organization’s 382,000 Twitter followers.
Last month, the state said the sponsorship would provide an “opportunity to reach and engage fans while making them aware of the new opportunity they have for health coverage.” However, Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch’s president, called the agreement a “propaganda deal” for the administration, in a telephone interview with the Daily Mail.
“The Super Bowl champion Ravens have enough problems this season, and allowing their name to be linked with the Obamacare debacle is going to further disappoint many fans,” Fitton said. “This shows why Obamacare is a failure, as the government seemed more interested in spending money on ads rather than making it work.”
In June, the NFL declined a sponsorship offer from the federal government, following a letter from Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas warning the League of a publicity fallout from delving into a highly contentious political issue. "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," the senators wrote.
Although U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had bragged of the upcoming sponsorship, the NFL denied any substantive talks. “We have responded to the letters we received from members of Congress to inform them we currently have no plans to engage in this area and have had no substantive contact with the administration about [the health-care law’s] implementation,” the League wrote in a release.
However, the Ravens opted to go their own way with a sponsorship deal they say is simply business. Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said last month they approached the Ravens given market research showing that 71 percent of the state’s uninsured population “have watched, attended, or listened to a Ravens gave in the past 12 months.”