#StateOfEnrollment: Mateen Cleaves, A Cheerleader for Coverage

By Shawn Dhanak

Strategy: Engaging a local celebrity to move the message to young adults

Where it was used: Michigan 

Notable metrics:

  • Four radio interviews including one with a statewide radio distribution service
  • Two Public Service Announcements that ran multiple times on four radio outlets: WXYT (CBS Sports Detroit), WBBL (Michigan sports talk, simulcast in five lower peninsula media markets), WIDR (Western Michigan University student-run radio), WDBM (Michigan State University student-run radio)   

Best practices to replicate: Work with hometown celebrities that reach your target audience. Don’t be afraid to approach these local heroes to get involved in your outreach efforts. They may be more than willing to record a PSA, speak at an event or otherwise use their influence to get the word out in ways you never expected.

It can be argued that young adults benefit the most from new health coverage options because of the financial help made possible by the Affordable Care Act. Case in point: Andreea Prundeanu. Andreea is a 29-year-old whom one of our volunteers in Michigan contacted. She told us she had been uninsured for three years after being dropped from her parents’ coverage. Because she was just starting her career and not making much money, she qualified for financial assistance through the Marketplace, which brought her monthly premium to just under $6.

Like most young adults, Andreea understands the importance of having quality health insurance but just couldn’t ever really afford it until the Marketplace opened. As she put it during a recent radio interview, “Our health is our most important asset, and it needs to be something that we are proactive about and something we protect. Now is the time; we have this great opportunity.”

Back in February, we noticed that most young adults were still in the dark about the financial help available to help them afford a quality plan. In the Get Covered America team in Michigan, we thought to ourselves, How can we can we get the word out to young adults about this amazing and historic chance to score health coverage?

The answer dawned on us almost immediately: Hall of Fame Michigan State University hoops star Mateen Cleaves.  Michiganders — sports fans, non-sports fans, Spartans and Wolverines — hold a certain reverence for the Flint native who delivered the Spartans’ most recent National Championship in 2000.

A firm believer in social responsibility and community engagement, Cleaves has launched two charitable organizations in recent years, One Goal, One Passion, and The Mateen Cleaves Foundation. So, we were confident that getting Mateen Cleaves to help spread the word about health coverage to young Michiganders would be far from a half-court shot.

Within hours of initially reaching out to Cleaves and explaining the mission and our need for a high-profile voice to resonate with 18-34 year-olds, he was game to help. He wanted the ball in his hands.

His assist led to a slam dunk.

Within a week, we had him on sports radio shows across the state communicating to young adults about the historic opportunity to get covered. We then recorded a series of public service announcements which received consistent air time up and down the state in the final months of open enrollment.

In late March (which can be considered March Madness season, both for college basketball and for health coverage enrollment), a 27-year-old, uninsured acquaintance of mine sent me a note on Facebook. The message read, “I heard a Mateen Cleaves radio ad yesterday about health care. Did you have anything to do with that? If so, totally cool! I’m definitely going to check out healthcare.gov now.”

It’s incredibly gratifying to hear anecdotes like that which indicate our creative outreach to consumers has had a real impact. Through our efforts, young adults are getting the message that they, too, can get a great deal like Andreea did.

For more ideas on how to take your outreach and enrollment efforts to the next level in the coming months, register today for our national conference, State of Enrollment: Getting America Covered, in Washington, D.C., June 16-18. 

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