TicketManager | Jury Still Out Regarding Diabetes Drugs’ Sponsorship Potential

With as much attention as diabetes/weight-loss medications are getting these days, it’s only natural for sponsorship sellers to view brands such as Ozempic, Jardiance and Mounjaro as high-value partner prospects—especially given that their manufacturers spent over $100 million each on advertising them last year.

Indeed, a Sports Business Journal column last week raised the possibility that the category could be “the next ‘it’ category for sponsorship,” while also noting that regulatory issues always lurk as a limiting factor on non-traditional pharmaceutical marketing.

As is typical whenever the subject of drug-makers and sponsorship is raised, the SBJ piece references the explosion in sponsorship activity that occurred in the early 2000s to promote the use of then-new erectile dysfunction medications.

But there is a clear distinction between the two categories of drugs that should make a fundamental difference in the new medications’ interest in sports and entertainment partnerships.

Before we get to that distinction, it’s also important to note something that the diabetes and ED drugs have in common: Advertising and media buzz (traditional and social) has made the brands household names. They do not need sponsorship to drive awareness or visibility.

But Viagra, Cialis and Levitra needed two crucial things that sports partnerships could deliver better than any other medium: an adult male audience and experiential platforms that provided a safe space to discuss an uncomfortable topic and its treatment options. Sponsorships of MLB and NASCAR (Viagra), the PGA Tour (Cialis) and the NFL (Levitra) helped destigmatize ED and brought medical information and advice to patients too embarrassed to seek it out.

That is not the case for the diabetes/weight loss medications, so sponsorship sellers would have to identify objectives apart from educating a reluctant target market or generating brand awareness.

Given the number of competing products in the category, there is clearly a need for individual brands to differentiate themselves. Thus, properties could pitch an exclusive association with a fan-favorite organization as a way for prospective brand partners to set themselves apart.

However, showcasing more detailed information about unique product attributes and benefits would be limited by pharma marketing regulations, as was the case when Jardiance dipped its toe into sports marketing in November 2015 with a one-race primary sponsorship of an RFK Racing NASCAR Cup Series entry driven by Greg Biffle. The car featured the brand name, but not the condition it treats, because promoting medical conditions would have necessitated product disclaimers.

So while sponsorship on behalf of the hot pharma brands of the moment certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility, neither is it likely to become as ubiquitous as partnerships from the new drugs on the block were two decades ago.