Creating a Winning Campaign with Help from a Team of Key Partners

By Guest Blogger

This post was written by Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative Education Fund.

Across the airwaves, people throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area are being encouraged to call 2-1-1 to find out if they are eligible for free or low-cost health insurance. Launched by the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative Education Fund, the new television and radio advertising campaign will help connect people with the appropriate health insurance program in their state. With the Affordable Care Act, millions of people are eligible for new health insurance options. Enroll America’s research shows that 75 percent of them want help enrolling, which is why it is important that people know they can call 2-1-1 for more information.

The ads feature professional linebacker London Fletcher and former player, now sports commentator Rick “Doc” Walker who tell listeners and viewers that dialing 2-1-1 is a winning call. Fletcher and Walker were both present at a press conference on November 19 to kick-off the campaign and preview the ads for local media. They were joined by supporters including Lieutenant Governor of Maryland Anthony Brown; Anton Gunn, director of External Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; our host, Colenthia Malloy, chief executive officer of Greater Baden Medical Services; and Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA.

The entire campaign was built around the success of our 2008 public education campaign featuring players from the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins, who informed Marylanders about new health care coverage available under a major Medicaid expansion enacted in Maryland in 2007. Initially, officials estimated that 25,000 Marylanders would gain coverage, but our campaigns in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas helped to ultimately enroll four times as many people—100,000 parents from across the state.

From that experience, we learned that featuring local football celebrities had broad appeal across demographic groups. It is our hope that our next campaign will be just as successful—if not more.

We are fortunate to have strong working relationships with local foundations, health organizations, and advocacy groups that we could reach out to for help. We put out a call to numerous organizations for their support and in total, 10 organizations—ranging from foundations and other nonprofits, to health plans devoted their time and resources to jumpstart the campaign.

This doesn’t have to be a campaign specific to Maryland, DC, or Virginia. We encourage other states to use 2-1-1 and replicate our success. Here are some tips that may help in your own outreach if you are thinking about doing a similar campaign:

  • Have a plan in place. We knew going in that we wanted to partner with United Way to use 2-1-1. After that, we mapped out which people would be best suited to get our message out, who our audiences were, and specific tactics to reach them—advertising, press conference, etc. It is important to sketch everything out and have a thorough plan in place. 
  • Have a commitment from celebrities at the onset. If you’re using celebrities to get your message out to people, have their commitment in place first, before reaching out to any organizations to seek their involvement. Having that firm commitment from your celebrity endorser will increase your chances of getting organizations on board.
  • Tap into your Network. Think through all your leads. No matter how big or small the lead, it is important to examine every organization that you have relationships with because you never know what commitments will come out of it. Explore existing and potential new partners who can help you identify resources.
  • Make it memorable. 2-1-1 is an easy number for people to remember which is why we wanted to utilize it in our campaigns. We weren’t trying to push people to a long website URL or call a 1-800 number. Just three numbers.
  • Consultants. Having good consultants to help create the ads and get the message out about them can help. The ones we used were terrific including Strategic Campaign Initiatives who created our ads.
  • Funding. Think carefully and creatively about foundations, businesses, organizations and individuals who may want to contribute to the effort and work hard to reach them.

More information about our campaign can be found at

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