As predicted by IEG SR, U.S. health care reform is prompting new sponsorship activity on behalf of health insurance companies and other players in the health care industry.

Already active sponsors, health insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are increasingly putting more focus on the marketing medium to build their brands and capture new business from the millions of consumers who will be required to purchase health insurance by 2014, when the majority of the law goes into effect.

In one of the most recent examples, Northeast Delta Dental this year expanded its long-running partnership with minor league baseball’s Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats with a multi-year naming rights deal. The former MerchantsAuto.com Stadium is now the Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

Northeast Delta Dental—one of 39 independently-operated companies in in the Delta Dental Plans Assn.—expanded the partnership as a result of health care reform and the expected changes in how health insurance will be purchased. The primary driver: Health care purchases shifting from employers to consumers.

“With group benefits, everything goes through employers. But with health care reform, we’re probably going to see a shift to more health care being delivered on a retail basis,” said Tom Raffio, president and CEO of Northeast Delta Dental, which insures 725,000 consumers in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.

The need for top-of-mind awareness under the new system is expected to be driven by the establishment of state-based exchanges through which consumers can purchase health insurance, said Raffio, noting that the exchanges are expected to be up and running by 2014.

“Northeast Delta Dental Stadium will help get our oral health message to the 3.2 million people living in New Hampshire.”

The company will activate the tie by distributing Fisher Cats tickets to local dentists. The dentists will then distribute the tickets to children that practice proper dental care, Raffio said.

In addition to the Fisher Cats, Northeast Delta Dental sponsors several other minor league teams including the AHL Manchester Monarchs and baseball’s Portland Sea Dogs and Vermont Lake Monsters. It also sponsors a handful of running events including New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Road Race.

Sponsorships from other Delta Dental affiliates range from pro sports teams to community events. Ties include the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl, the Mall of America and the NBA Boston Celtics.