The case of St. Louis CITY SC and Centene Corporation
In the world of corporate partnerships, alignment between core values and ownership and brand characteristics is crucial in identifying the best partnerships.
Enter St. Louis CITY SC and Centene Corporation.
In mid-February, Centene Corporation, a Fortune 25 healthcare company headquartered in St. Louis, and St. Louis CITY SC, the 28th Major League Soccer (MLS) club to begin play in 2023 , announced a 15-year naming right. partnership that will name the club’s new downtown stadium Centene Stadium.
SHARED COMMITMENT TO THE COMMUNITY
When the Taylor family saved St. Louis’ bid to join MLS in 2018/2019, their commitment to build a largely privately funded football stadium on the west end of downtown St. Louis not only ticked 2 main boxes for MLS – who typically prefer their teams to play at soccer-specific downtown venues – but it also reiterated the family and club’s desire to invest in revitalization downtown.
“Centene is not only one of the fastest growing companies in the country, but it’s also a St. Louis-built company that cares about St. Louis as much as we do,” said Carolyn Kindle Betz. , President and CEO of SC of the City of St. Louis. “We wanted a naming rights partner who was willing to invest in the continued growth of our region, and we certainly have that with Centene.”
The fact that Centene shares a commitment to further revitalizing St. Louis is a key factor in why they chose to partner with CITY.
“Centene is pleased to invest in Centene Stadium as part of its long-standing commitment to the St. Louis area. We are committed to this community and the people who live there,” said Marcela Manjarrez, Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer of Centene. “St. Louis is our home, and we are so proud that Centene Stadium is the home of St. Louis CITY SC.
COMMON CHARACTERISTIC OF STRONG FEMALE LEADERSHIP
While not the deciding or dominating factor why MLS ultimately invited St. Louis to expand in August 2019, the fact that CITY SC’s ownership group is predominantly female helps further differentiate the franchise of his peers… not just in MLS, but across the North American sports landscape.
Similarly, Centene’s workforce and leadership positions are also dominated by women. According to Manjarrez, of Centene’s 74,000 employees, 76% are women and 65% of management positions are held by women. Centene’s broader commitment to diversity is also compelling, with 48% of its employees identifying as people of color and 16% as Hispanic.
In short, this shared commitment to equality and diversity in the workforce is another important reason why this “fit” partnership is strong.
A SHARED COMMITMENT TO WELL-BEING
According to a 2019 Sports Business Journal article that examined which product categories were most important among naming rights deals, healthcare providers ranked second among college sports venues and minor league sports venues. .
That healthcare providers have targeted such events makes sense given the higher percentage of young fans attending these events, with the strategy of creating a brand impression among young demos in the hopes of bolstering the brand awareness and eventually brand loyalty to build a lifetime customer relationship.
But we are gradually seeing various companies in the health sector taking an increasing interest in sports partnerships with direct or indirect links with professional sport. For example, Kaiser Permanente is the naming partner of the Golden State Warriors G-League team in Santa Cruz. In Denver, UC Health has partnership agreements with all professional and academic athletic entities within the greater Denver sports scene.
The psychology of it makes perfect sense. After all, if a given health organization is good enough for top athletes, then surely it should be good enough for me.
And especially when you consider that MLS fans tend to be much younger and more active, it’s all the more reason why Centene’s new partnership with CITY SC is another example of shared value when it comes to community health and well-being.
“Health and wellness is one of the fundamental pillars of our club,” said Khalia Collier, vice president of community relations for St. Louis CITY SC. “This partnership will help give each organization more opportunities and resources to implement innovative, sports-focused, community-based health and wellness programs in the St. Louis area.
Sarah London, vice chair of Centene’s board, echoed those sentiments. “As a healthcare company committed to helping people live healthier lives, Centene’s heart and soul are tied to the health of the communities we serve. Over the past three decades, the company has worked tirelessly to meet health care needs and help more people and achieve our goal of transforming community health, one person at a time.
In sum and upon reflection, the partnership between St. Louis CITY SC and Centene has the potential to be a perfect match because the alignment of goals and values between the two organizations is strong.
Combine this fact with the common characteristic of strong female leadership and an overall commitment to diversity, I suspect the property and brand will derive enormous short- and long-term value from this commitment.
For CITY SC, aligning with a Fortune 25 company lends stability and gravity to the aura of an expansion franchise.
For Centene, aligning with a professional sports team further expands its national recognition while simultaneously demonstrating its commitment to its home market.