On the Chinese zodiac, the year of the horse was last year. For University of Colorado Health, it arrived this year.
The public relations fireworks came with the announcement July 30 that UCHealth and the Denver Broncos had finalized a partnership agreement that includes naming the team’s 115,000-square-foot Englewood training facility the “UCHealth Training Center.” The structures at the facility, formerly known as Dove Valley, are now emblazoned with the UCHealth logo.
Terms of the agreement were not announced, but UCHealth President and CEO Liz Concordia said in her July video update to employees and physicians that “this agreement will generate regional and national exposure for the UCHealth brand and the advanced care we provide, and it opens up an entirely new audience for us.”
At a press conference announcing the deal at the newly named facility, both Concordia and Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis said the agreement was built on a mutual desire to help build healthier communities.
“Our partnership will encourage and improve the health and wellness of Denver Broncos fans throughout the Rocky Mountain region,” Ellis told reporters.
More than a name
Concordia called the partnership “an opportunity for us to really improve the care of the patients, fans, and residents” of the state and region. “If you think about how does one do that – with education, awareness and early detection, we really can make a difference in the lives of the people that we love and touch each and every day,” she said.
The partners quickly announced plans for their first major project. They will join with 9News in sponsoring a free Health and Wellness Expo Sept. 5-6 under an 1,800-square-foot tent on a concourse at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. About a dozen services and specialties from UCHealth are slated to host exhibits focused on maintaining and improving health and preventing disease and injury. The Pink Life Saver, UCHealth’s mobile mammography unit, will also be parked outside the stadium, ready to provide breast cancer screenings.
The Expo is a prominent example of the underlying goal of the partnership, said Manny Rodriguez, chief marketing officer for UCHealth.
“The deal is structured to create awareness of being healthy and staying fit,” he said. “It’s a platform for encouraging prevention, which is always the best cure.”
Rodriguez said UCHealth and the Broncos will have regular conversations in the weeks and months ahead about other community awareness projects that involve Broncos players, cheerleaders, and mascots. October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, will also be a point of focus. The Pink Life Saver will again serve as a high-profile ambassador during the month, with frequent trips to the community to offer screenings, he said.
Path to prevention
Richard Schulick, MD, chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, underscored the prevention message at the press conference.
Schulick, a cancer specialist, stressed the difference in “finding a cancer at a very early stage where you know you can cure that patient versus finding a cancer in a very late stage, where all you can do is put off the inevitable.” He noted the availability of screening tests for the major cancer killers, lung, breast, prostate, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. “If we adequately use these screening programs, we can save hundreds of thousands of lives,” Schulick said.
The educational openings also include a sports-page staple: the team’s injury report, which UCHealth will sponsor. Rodriguez said the system plans to use the report to provide people with additional insight into what an injury like an anterior cruciate ligament sprain means.
“Our goal will be to create education and translate the information to the lives of average people,” he said. “We’re an active state, but with activity comes injury, and we can help people learn what to do to prevent injury.”
Run at recognition
The partnership goes far beyond simply putting UCHealth’s logo on a wall or building, Rodriguez said, but he stressed the importance of improving the system’s brand recognition.
He pointed out that all four UCHealth hospitals were among the top 10 in the state in the most recent U.S. News and World Report “Best Hospitals” rankings, and 11 specialties were among the top 50 nationally. Yet a survey showed that Broncos fans’ recognition of the UCHealth name lagged far behind that of other hospitals.
“We’re probably the best-kept secret in the state,” Rodriguez said. “We need to let people know they have a great medical resource available to them if they need it.” It’s also important from an organizational perspective, because greater awareness of the organization means greater recognition of the 15,000 UCHealth employees as well as academic and community physicians who provide the care, he said.
At least in the short run the announcement generated a good deal of interest, both locally and nationally. The initial news of the agreement came out in a tweet by Adam Schefter, a former Denver Post sportswriter who is now a national football correspondent for ESPN. Schefter has close to 4 million Twitter followers.
The Broncos also pushed out the news on their website and Facebook page, which has 3.7 million followers. The team’s Facebook posts featured videos of the training facility with the UCHealth logo prominently displayed. The post announcing the partnership had garnered nearly 2,000 “likes” and more than 250 “shares” just a few days after the press conference.
Meanwhile, video of the press conference posted on the Facebook page for University of Colorado Hospital got nearly 25,000 views by Aug. 4. Posts that featured Broncos cheerleaders visiting a 10-year-old cancer patient at Memorial Hospital generated hundreds of “likes” on the hospital’s Facebook page.
Each of the UCHealth hospitals hosted events July 31 to celebrate the partnership and the system’s success in the U.S. News rankings. Employees received thousands of t-shirts featuring the words “UCHealth Training Center,” along with both organizations’ logos. Broncos cheerleaders also visited each of the regions. At UCH, employees posed for photos with trophies commemorating the team’s two Super Bowl wins and with Miles, the team mascot.
The enthusiasm was not a surprise to Rodriguez, who has brokered such arrangements in Houston and other markets during his health care career.
“There is an amazing passion around sports, and the NFL takes that to another level,” he said. “That gives UCHealth an opportunity to form a relationship with fans, consumers, and the team that is unparalleled. It’s a way for us to form a connection with that passion and for fans to form a connection with our brand and our passion for disease awareness and detection. It’s a win for everybody.”
That win promises to extend far beyond the Denver area, Rodriguez added, as the Broncos’ fan base spreads across several states.
“The Broncos are ‘it’ for hundreds of miles,” he said. “This partnership allows us to leverage our brand across state lines.”
Without specifying the length of the partnership, Rodriguez said it is a “long-term” arrangement that was based on “a meeting of minds and a mutual desire to do the same thing.”
That squared with comments from Ellis at the press conference. He said the team had discussed the issue of finding a naming-rights partner for the facility for 10 years. “We finally found one,” he said. Now the work begins to build substantive projects that will improve the health of the community, he added, reiterating the importance of increasing public health awareness.
“You’ll see that those [programs] will start to unfold as this takes shape here over the next year and beyond. It’s a long term partnership, so we hope to solidify that for a long period of time,” Ellis said.