White House taps March Madness fans for healthcare.gov

McClatchy Washington BureauMarch 17, 2014 

Anxious to get more young people to sign up for health care insurance, the Obama administration is tapping President Barack Obama's passion for basketball in an effort to lure in March Madness fans.

The campaign will include online videos from athletes and coaches, "social media blitzes" and sports radio interviews.

There's also a chance to get a heads-up on Obama's 2014 NCAA bracket as it's released on Wednesday. The White House today unveiled a webpage -- “16 Sweetest Reasons to Get Covered” -- including a video of two college basketball coaches talking about the importance of getting health insurance as well as a bracket of reasons to sign up for health insurance.

Viewers are encouraged to vote on their favorite reasons -- which White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer noted are illustrated "with animated GIFs of cute animals, because the Internet loves GIFs of cute animals."

The release of Obama's bracket last year got over 280,000 views, and was the most popular blog of the year on WhiteHouse.gov. Also, this week, a new ad featuring LeBron James will begin airing during March Madness games, as part of the agency’s existing ad rotation running on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBA-TV. It will join similar 30 second spots airing with Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning.

The White House says HHS and Healthcare.gov social media channels will promote enrollment by joining online conversations during the NCAA tournament with graphics, posts and paid promotion targeted to basketball fans.

And HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, "a college basketball fan herself," will tweeting about the tournament, the White House says, "especially about her Kansas Jayhawks." Obama was to do an interview with Univision Radio’s Locura Deportiva, or Sports Madness and ESPN Deportes network will air an interview with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on its syndicated network of stations, including Miami, Houston, Dallas, and Phoenix. ESPN Deportes also will release a PSA featuring Labor Secretary Tom Perez that will air 25 times each week between now and the March 31st enrollment deadline.

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