Although there is still much uncertainty around health care reform, one thing is certain: The Affordable Care Act has made a profound impact on how insurance companies market their products.    

Many insurers have launched new marketing initiatives to reach the roughly 30 million to 50 million uninsured consumers who will be required to purchase insurance by 2014.

And 2013 will be a critical time as health insurance companies look to build their brands and educate consumers about their products prior to the Oct. 1 rollout of health insurance exchanges.

“Without question, there will be a bump up in sponsorship activity,” said Jonathan Pearson, director of corporate philanthropy and community affairs with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

Similar to online travel sites, state insurance exchanges will provide consumers a one-stop shop for health insurance. Each state is required to launch an exchange—either on their own or with the government’s assistance—prior to the October deadline.  Consumers can use the exchanges to purchase insurance during the fourth quarter, with the policies kicking in Jan. 1, 2014.

And a growing number of insurance companies plan to sign new deals—or repurpose existing partnerships—to reach the uninsured prior to October.   

Case in point: Horizon BCBS plans to expand its portfolio to build its profile in front of the roughly 450,000 uninsured consumers in the Garden State.  

The BCBS affiliate is focusing on events that reach Hispanics, an audience segment that is receptive to one-on-one marketing messages, said Pearson. The company is targeting properties in Union County, Hudson County and five other counties with a high percentage of Hispanics, he said.

“We’ll deploy our marketing push in June and July to build visibility leading up to October. It’s not that we won’t be active in the market before then, but June and July is when we plan to launch specific marketing tactics.”

While Horizon BCBS has not received incremental marketing funds for new sponsorships, the company plans to restructure its existing portfolio to accommodate its evolving marketing needs, said Pearson.

“If a specific geography has been identified, we’ll carve out some dollars to support our key marketing objectives.”

The insurer may also fund deals out of a new marketing budget dedicated to the New Jersey exchange, he added.

In addition to inking new deals, Horizon BCBS has tweaked existing partnerships to support its new marketing message. That has seen the company double down on activities where it can engage consumers, promote its health and wellness messaging and talk about health care coverage.

Those activities include BMI screenings, Wii Fit video game competitions and various sweepstakes and promotions. 

“We want to make the experience fun and engaging so that people talk to agents and learn about health care coverage.”  

Other insurers also have changed on-site activation to support the industry’s evolution from a wholesale to retail model. Like Horizon, Florida Blue—the Sunshine State’s Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliate—has placed more focus on consumer engagement programs around the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars, NHL Tampa Bay Lightning and other sponsorships.

“Consumers have choices for health insurance and, as a result, Florida Blue is taking a more personalized approach to helping people understand those choices and sponsorships will play an integral role,” said Mark Lee, Florida Blue’s vice president of brand development and marketing communications.

In addition to sparking a dialogue with company reps, the insurance company uses sponsorship to drive traffic to its Web site and Florida Blue retail stores.