Staying Well: How AdventHealth’s Sponsorships Have Evolved with a Changing Healthcare Marketplace
Sharon Line Clary has been with AdventHealth for 26 years, currently overseeing strategic marketing, sports and entertainment partnerships and clinical and corporate sales for the nationally ranked health care system.
AdventHealth’s extensive sponsorship portfolio includes high-level partnerships with the Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Walt Disney World, Chip Ganassi Racing and Daytona International Speedway, among other rights holders.
Sharon spoke with Jim Andrews for an All Access Interview exploring how and why sports and entertainment partnerships occupy a unique position in achieving marketing and business goals for a major healthcare system. Below are edited highlights of the conversation.
Jim: As a healthcare system, AdventHealth is part of a category that is very active in sponsorship, and there are certain benefits and objectives that many of us are familiar with when we think of those partnerships. But there are many facets that may not be as obvious to those outside of the category, so I’d like to discuss those with you, but let’s start with a quick overview of the “who, what, where” so that our viewers and listeners have a good sense of who AdventHealth is and what some of your major sponsorships are.
Sharon: AdventHealth is corporately headquartered in Altamonte Springs, Florida. We are a national, $12-billion company and we are one of the largest nonprofit, faith-based healthcare systems. We operate 50 hospitals across nine states, and not just hospitals, but entire networks of care in these communities. These are made up of physician practices, outpatient facilities, care centers, etc.
Our philosophy of care is around whole-person health, or feeling whole—body, mind and spirit. This is the DNA that is embedded in everything we do. We are 150 years old, so that DNA translates into our branding, our partnerships, and into the care you receive the minute you walk through our doors. Additionally, I probably should mention that our flagship is also in central Florida—AdventHealth Orlando.
That’s where we started all of our sports and entertainment partnerships. That journey started a little over 30 years ago and we’ve done some incredible partnerships, including with the NBA Orlando Magic—where we just celebrated 31 years—national champions the Tampa Bay Bucs and Lightning, NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway, and the newest partnership, Walt Disney World.
Jim: You talked about the philosophy of care, and what the brand stands for. How does that connect with the partnerships you have? How are they helping you achieve brand or business objectives?
Sharon: We’re seeing a boom in the healthcare category in partnerships. Consumers now have more choices than ever in selecting where to go for healthcare. Partnerships really provide us with an opportunity to differentiate our brand. We can really connect with consumers around health, wellness and their well-being and educate and help make something that is sometimes a little scary very relatable. Of course it allows us to story tell and create brand awareness and preference, but one of the benefits we have found is opportunities around innovation and learning. We can try new things in sports. It allows us to be much more creative in a healthcare space that is pretty traditional in many regards.
Jim: AdventHealth has been a prominent sponsor for three decades now and there have certainly been many changes in the healthcare field over that span. Have your objectives and your overall strategy changed over time as a result?
Sharon: They have changed a lot over the years. I have been with the organization for 26 years and was brought on to help build the sports partnership portfolio. We had some early partnerships with road races and our partnership with the Magic, but really wanted to deepen that.
We have really gone from sponsorships to deep partnerships. Back in the day we were concerned with the sign on the court or on the field. We still want those things, but we want to go much deeper. We have developed some guiding principles around partnerships that are helpful for us as well as the partner.
The first one is that when we come to the table, we want to find a common goal. We want to solve for something big. The second is we want to utilize each other’s unique abilities and services. That’s a different approach than others’.
The third is we want to forge a deeper relationship. We want to innovate; we want to accelerate change. Ultimately, it leads to inspiring. Inspiring the communities where each of these partnerships live and even beyond that.
Four and five are uniting together to make a difference (as a nonprofit that’s core to who we are and partnerships are a great way to do that) and extending beyond financial support. We don’t believe it always has to be monetary. What can we do to engage the community in different ways?
As we look at how things have changed, especially during the last year and a half with COVID and especially within in the healthcare field, partners in this industry helped their sports and entertainment partners in ways different than anyone had imagined.
Jim: I appreciate that you have these principles and can see how they would be helpful. To touch on just a couple of them, you mentioned tapping into each other’s unique services. Can you give us an example of a partnership that does that?
Sharon: The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando is an interesting one. You have a performing arts center that was a huge catalyst for economic development in central Florida and a healthcare organization. A lot of people would see that as traditional, with an ad in the program or sponsoring of a show. We went deeper. We asked how could we understand the impact of the arts on health and wellbeing. So we have been conducting research and we created the AdventHealth School of the Arts to try to reach a common goal, inspire change and make a difference.
Our first research study was around memory-loss patients and their caregivers, and how the performing arts could improve their wellbeing. Phenomenal outcomes and we have only just dipped our toe into this area.
Jim: Another principle you mentioned is the fact that not everything has to be monetary. It’s an age-old conversation between rightsholders and sponsors about figuring out where the value is that makes sense for both organizations.
Sharon: Obviously, dollars are very important. But, for example, with the Orlando Magic, it wasn’t about money. It was about creating a bigger vision around how we could extend the lifetime of the athlete on the court. Bringing our unique abilities and services and building a different roadmap to high-performance athlete care working very closely with their team and recruiting some of the best in the country to be part of this journey with us.
It’s exciting work and we want to take those learnings and translate those to people who are facing other conditions, like cancer. We can learn a lot from athletes and how they perform.
We still have a traditional partnership, where we have signage and those types of things, including just taking naming rights for the Magic’s new training center. But the other piece, the building of this structure and destination program that will be a real catalyst for recruiting is just huge.
Jim: After 31 years, it’s quite remarkable that you signed the naming rights deal and felt that you wanted to take the relationship to another level.
Sharon: We are always pushing the envelope! I have a philosophy that just because we did something one way last year, that isn’t necessarily the way we should do it in the future. Always looking at where is the consumer? Where are we as an organization? What are our goals and objectives?
We felt that training center could create a place where not only the Magic could train, but also where consumers, no matter whether they are based here or fly in from across the country, could get some of the best care and take advantage of the protocols and best practices that we’re developing with the Magic. We have named the practice facility as well as the training center now.
Jim: AdventHealth has some significant entertainment partnerships as well as your sports affiliations, including Walt Disney World resort and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. What do those relationships accomplish for you that are different than your sports objectives?
Sharon: There are a lot of similarities, but we have found a lot of creativity and innovation in the entertainment segment, probably because they don’t have some of the restrictions that the NBA or other leagues have.
Walt Disney World is such an exciting example. There are so many people who come to Walt Disney World wanting to have the most magical vacation on earth, but the reality is you don’t leave your health conditions at home. So we have created a whole-health ecosystem for Disney guests that we call the AdventHealth World of Wellness. This makes it easier for them to travel and have the best vacation they can with their families and feel whole. If they get sick while on vacation or they have pre-existing health conditions of disabilities, we’re able to plan for and with them and their doctors.
On site at Disney, we have everything from first-aid stations to virtual care that allows any guest to access care from a clinician right from their phone or tablet. We have urgent care on site and we’re even building a new emergency room.
Jim: In terms of evaluating how your sponsorships are performing against their objectives, I would imagine that the metrics you use as a healthcare system are quite different that a packaged goods company or many other types of sponsors. Can you share with us how AdventHealth determines whether your sponsorships are delivering the results you need?
Sharon: Absolutely. We have gotten a lot better around this. About 10 years ago, we started looking at how we could be more disciplined around our sports and entertainment partnerships. We have major investments not only in what is contractual, but in amplifying, such as when we talk about building this ecosystem. All of that takes resources.
We have to understand what is moving the needle. We worked with our C-suite to start. We spent a lot of time discussing with them, as well as advisors, what success looks like. We determined a type of scorecard. We take every partner we talk to through that scorecard and ensure that they are aligned with what we are trying to accomplish. That’s the starting point. We then use that as a basis to evaluate at different intervals.
Additionally, twice a year we conduct really in-depth research to understand what the consumer is saying about our involvement. Is the partner a good fit with our brand? Are they seeing us as an expert? And we are also doing our own return on investment reports. All of that information gets fed in to ensure that we are having the right conversations, that we have the right portfolio mix, that we’re making the right adjustments, that we have the right channels in our contracts, that our brand and marketing campaigns are working and whether we should be launching new strategies.
Jim: It’s so valuable to have those conversations up front about expectations. There may be some rights holders who are intimidated by that, but hopefully they are embracing it.
Sharon: We have found that everyone has been very receptive. They find it helpful. We get to a better spot in terms of how we might need to change or modify or even build a partnership, so I would recommend it for any organization.
Jim: Is there a piece of advice you would give an organization that is seeking a healthcare sponsor in terms of what they should understand about the industry in order to be a good partner?
Sharon: You have to understand the marketplace they are in. Do they have local objectives, regional objectives, national objectives and how does your partnership fit within what they are trying to accomplish. That’s probably universal for sponsors; healthcare is not different in that regard.
Because healthcare is such a competitive space now, you do have a lot of blurring of the lines. A lot of what we now deliver is also delivered by Walgreens, or CVS, or start-up companies like Headspace and other apps. We need to understand how all those different players play within a portfolio. Is a healthcare provider okay with that or do they want exclusivity?
Jim: From AdventHealth’s perspective, do you seek exclusivity to lock out some of those competitors?
Sharon: It depends on the partnership, the region, the property and what we’re trying to accomplish, but we have found that if you don’t have exclusivity there can be a lot of mixed messages. We want the property to be able to reach their goals, so one of the areas we have been open to is healthcare insurance. That isn’t our sweet spot, so definitely go out and find a great partner that aligns to both of us.