A Powerful Partnership Focuses on Fan Health

    • Varsity Partners brings together sports fans with some of the country’s most recognizable brands.
    • In a partnership with Atrium Health, Varsity is delivering messages of health and wellness—along with vaccines and sunscreen—to some of the area’s top sporting venues.

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At the recent Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, fan focus was clearly on the PGA players. But Atrium Health, the Official Healthcare Provider of the event, saw a need to think about the fans, too, particularly when it came to being their health ally. At areas around the course, Atrium Health placed much-needed sunscreen dispensers and signs with healthy walking tips—as well as instructions on how fans could win a chance to go “inside the ropes” with the top groups on Saturday and Sunday.

Atrium Health is a nationally recognized leader in healthcare, serving patients at 40 hospitals and at more than 1,400 care locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. Like the communities it serves, it is also devoted to its local sports teams and their fans, with creative and committed sponsorships within the PGA, the NFL, the NCAA, MiLB and NASCAR. Atrium Health wanted to bring tips on how to stay healthy and well to the local sports fans where they were: in the stadiums and ballparks and golf courses. But how?

Six years ago, Atrium Health partnered with Charlotte-based Varsity Partners to find engaging and innovative ways to integrate its message of good health into the fan experience. At Atrium Health Ballpark, home of the minor league baseball team the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, fans can burn some calories walking the stadium’s branded track, which circles the entire park. Fans of the Carolina Panthers can find health tips from Atrium Health sports medicine physicians that correlate to various players’ routines through social content. Topics from stretching to hydration keep the fan, and athlete, at their best.  At Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atrium Health placed signs with helpful walking tips—“wear comfortable lace shoes,” “walk heel to toe”—all around the venue.

The connection with fans didn’t stop when COVID-19 hit. In the midst of the pandemic, Atrium Health worked with the Panthers and with Charlotte Motor Speedway to transform Bank of America Stadium and the racetrack into mass vaccination sites, with tens of thousands of patients (and fans!) vaccinated in a single weekend. At a time of great need, Atrium Health was one of the first health providers in the country to team up with their local professional sports leaders in this way. 

“We are very pleased with the success of the event, thanks to strong partnerships and a community that wasn’t bothered by a little cold and rain,” says Dr. Scott Rissmiller, executive vice president and chief physician executive for Atrium Health. “The reviews from those who came to the event continually mentioned the smooth process and welcoming, friendly Atrium Health teammates. I’m grateful to everyone who made this possible, from our partners to our teammates who gave their time to support the effort. It takes a lot of behind-the-scenes effort and many hands to deliver this for our community, and I have never been more proud to be a part of Atrium Health.”

The goal for Atrium Health and Varsity Partners is twofold: look for opportunities to provide functional and health benefits to fans, while creating and fostering an emotional connection with the Atrium Health brand. In many ways, engaging with the fans at the sports venues just made sense.

“People are passionate about their sports teams,” says Sarah Garrison, senior manager of sports marketing and corporate events for Atrium Health. “We try to transfer that passion to their health and meet them where they are: at the ballpark, track or field, with everyday health messages to help them along the way.”

As fans continue to return to the stadiums and the games they love, Atrium Health will be there with them, providing hand sanitizers and masks along with helpful tips on keeping healthy and active.

“I think now, more than ever, health and safety is priority number one for families going back to games,” says Tim Rebich, CEO of Varsity Partners.

Atrium Health also teamed up with the Panthers to launch “InspiHER,” a female-driven podcast focusing on women who have made transformative impacts in their careers and communities,and have stadium events in the works focusing on healthy living.

“It’s all about creating a relevant experience and providing relevant information for the fans,” Rebich says. “And it doesn’t have to be anything as involved as tracking your BPMs (beats per minute), or retaining detailed health knowledge on the spot. It’s those everyday health tips that you can keep reiterating over time, in order to elevate healthy habits for the individual fan and for the community as a whole.”