The size and scope of the recently passed U.S. health care legislation make it possible to analyze its effects on just about every aspect of society from myriad angles.

This is true for sponsorship. For example, it is possible to ask questions such as, “Will concern over rising health care costs have negative implications for marketing budgets?” “Will new rules for employers change the way properties hire and staff sponsorship sales teams?”

While the answers to those questions and others like them remain in most cases indeterminate and/or relatively insignificant, there is one area where the new law is likely to have a major impact, namely a sharp rise in sponsorship activity on the part of health insurance companies and—to a lesser extent—hospitals, physician groups and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Those companies may sign new deals to build their brands and capture new business from the 32 million consumers who will be required to purchase health insurance by ’14, when the majority of the law goes into effect.

“There will be a new market of customers, and there will be a need to communicate and market products to them,” said Larry Altman, vice president in the office of health care reform for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, which stands to gain business from the 800,000 to one million consumers in the Garden State currently without health insurance.

Jonathon Pearson, Horizon BCBS’s program director, corporate responsibility and community, said the new U.S. health care system could change the way the company uses sponsorship, adding customer acquisition to its current strategy of promoting its community involvement and health and wellness messaging.

“The health care legislation opens a whole new market for us,” he said. “If we become more of a retail marketing company, we may do more sponsorships targeted at acquiring new customers.”

Horizon BCBS’s current affiliations include the NFL New York Giants, minor league baseball’s Somerset Patriots and Adventure Aquarium in Camden.

Changes In The Way Insurance Is Sold Could Prompt New Sponsorships

One element of the new system that could spur sponsorship activity is the establishment of exchanges through which consumers who do not currently have insurance and cannot obtain it through their employer can purchase plans.

Intended to inject retail competition into the health insurance marketplace and allow consumers to band together to obtain better prices and terms then they could negotiate on their own, the exchanges can be thought of in similar terms to online travel reservations systems such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity, with consumers being able to see all of their options from all providers and picking a plan based on their needs and budget.

The commodity nature of exchanges may prompt new sponsorship activity as insurers look for ways to communicate their offerings and have them stand apart from the crowd, Altman said.

“As exchanges become standardized, it will become more difficult for companies to differentiate themselves, so other marketing vehicles could take on increased importance,” he said.

Diversity Of Uninsured May Mean Multiple Deals Aimed At Different Audiences

Altman also noted that the country’s uninsured consumers are a fragmented group, including recent college graduates, small business owners, the self-employed and consumers who have taken an early retirement.

“Generally speaking, uninsured consumers are not indigent. That’s another reason why health insurance companies would want to go after these consumers,” he said.

Altman also noted that insurance companies would have to sponsor a variety of properties to reach such different market segments.

With a four-year timeline for the laws to take full effect, any sponsorship activity driven by health care reform is not likely to be seen until ’11 at the earliest, with the ’13 and ’14 deals being the primary beneficiary.