Consumerization in the health care industry is continuing to drive new sponsorship activity in the hospital category.

Similar to the health insurance category, hospitals are increasingly using sponsorship to build awareness and drive preference in the wake of the Affordable Care Act and escalating health care costs, both of which have prompted consumers to take a more active role in their health care decisions.

“Health care is undergoing a dramatic transformation, and a big part of that is increased consumerization. As a consequence, the health care industry, and hospitals in particular, have to become more advanced as consumer marketers,” said Paul Matsen, CMO of the Cleveland Clinic.

Consumerization also has resulted in increased competition as hospitals seek to gain a point of differentiation from their competitors.

“The hospital category is extraordinarily competitive, and that is unlikely to change in the near future. The complexity of health care has intensified at every level, and the challenge to be a distinctive health care entity is growing,” said Lee Echols, vice president of marketing and communications with Northside Hospital.

That competition has resulted in new partnerships with nearly every type of property as hospitals look to reach new audiences—and in many cases a broader audience—with their health care message.

Case in point: Northside Hospital has signed its first golf sponsorship via a partnership with next month’s Mitsubishi Electric Classic PGA Tour Champions event. The sponsorship rounds out a portfolio that includes pro sports (Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Falcons), running (AJC Peachtree Road Race) and cycling (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia).

“Our sponsorships are assembled to create as much diversification as possible. Atlanta Falcons fans have a certain appeal to us, and golf fans have a different appeal. Cyclists and runners are avid athletes that are appealing to us. Altogether, we think diversification makes a lot of sense,” said Echols.

Major League Soccer is one key area of interest. Three MLS teams have signed new and/or expanded deals with hospitals over the past several months ranging from stadium naming rights (Sporting Kansas City and Children’s Mercy) to jersey naming rights (Orlando City SC and Orlando Health and the San Jose Earthquakes and Sutter Health).

The medical category—including hospitals, health insurers and other sectors of the health care industry—is the second most active sponsor of Major League Soccer behind quick-service restaurants, according to IEG research.

Rob Parker, Orlando City SC vice president of corporate partnerships, attribute’s the category’s interest in MLS to the sport’s popularity among three audience segments: millennials, Hispanics and affluent families.

“Not many platforms reach all three demographics in a strong way like soccer.”

Below, four sponsorship hot buttons in the hospital category:

Demonstrate community involvement. As local companies, hospitals use sponsorship to demonstrate community involvement via partnerships with properties that support their health and wellness message.

Florida Hospital in 2013 partnered with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to grow local roots following its merger with a local hospital. Florida Hospital rebranded the new entity under the Florida Hospital brand.

“One of the things that was important for the hospital was to create strong strategic partnerships in the community. We identified the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a business and community partner, and we have worked together to improve the overall wellness of the community,” said Lauren Key, regional vice president of Florida Hospital, who oversees marketing in the Tampa Bay area.

Promote healthy lifestyles. Florida Hospital activates the Tampa Bay Bucs with programs ranging from the Buccaneers Fitness Challenge to the Treasure Chests 5K corporate challenge and football safety programs at local high schools.

The programs have been a success. Participants at the Buccaneers Fitness Challenge recorded a Guinness World Record for the most number of people doing sit-ups simultaneously at a single venue, while the number of participants in the Treasure Chests 5K has doubled over each of the past three years.

The success of the 5K may prompt the team to move the run to a non-game day to accommodate the growing number of runners, said Jim Frevola, Tampa Bay Buccaneers chief partnerships officer.

“We can see it being one of the biggest events in the community.”

Promote areas of expertise. Hospitals frequently use sponsorship to promote areas of expertise, with sports medicine often playing a key role.

As the official healthcare provider of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Indians, the Cleveland Clinic provides medical expertise as part of its sports health practice.

“We’re very selective about the organizations we sponsor. When a major sports team approaches us, we want to provide medical care,” said Matsen.

The Cleveland Clinic also provides medical care for other sponsored properties including the athletic departments at Cleveland State University, John Carroll University and Kent State University and the 2016 Transplant Games of America.

Support strategic marketing platforms. In addition to supporting its medical expertise, Cleveland Clinic uses sponsorship to promote key marketing initiatives such as its “Access Anytime Anywhere” campaign for its walk-in and 24-hour online clinics.

The hospital also uses team assets to promote health awareness messages throughout the year including heart health (February), colon cancer (March) and breast cancer awareness (October).

Social and digital media play an increasingly important role in promoting the hospital and its health messages, said Matsen.

“As the overall media landscape has changed, our partnerships have evolved. They have far more assets for us to use in the digital and social space.”