What started off as a small sponsorship between Humana Inc. and the Taste of Chicago six years ago has become one of the food festival’s healthiest partnerships.

Humana, which aligned with the festival in 2006 to support its health and wellness positioning, has expanded the sponsorship with new programming, activation platforms and strategic tie-ins.  

Case in point: The health insurer this year activated the festival with the Humana Well-Being Tour, an interactive experience that offered body mass screenings and other health education activities.

Other new elements of the July 11-15 festival included a partnership with Shedd Aquarium, a Facebook promotion and a tie-in with HumanaVitality, a corporate loyalty wellness program. HumanaVitality is a joint venture between Humana and Johannesburg, South Africa-based Discovery Holdings, Inc.

Those efforts paid off in the following five ways:

  • Seven sales of dental insurance and three sales of life insurance
  • 175 leads for Humana Medicare Advantage plans
  • 84 media placements totaling more than 15.9 million impressions
  • 190 social media placements totaling more than 704,000 impressions
  • A 15 percent increase in the number of “likes” on the Humana Taste of Chicago Facebook page

Below, the six primary components of the partnership:

Humana Healthier Choices. Humana partnered with the Taste of Chicago to promote healthy food options under the Healthier Choices banner. The company invites restaurants to participate in the program, with each establishment submitting a menu item for review. The items are then evaluated based on calories, sodium levels and other criteria by an outside panel of physicians.

Items that pass muster receive a Green Apple sticker for the restaurant’s on-site menu board.

Humana uses the program to promote healthy food options, not to take the “taste” out of the Taste of Chicago, said Andrew Reinbold, Humana’s regional sponsorship consultant, who oversees the company’s sponsorships and strategic partnerships in Illinois.

“We’d be foolish to think people will only eat healthy choices at a food festival, but we want them to know they can be responsible.”

Fifteen restaurants participated in the program in 2012, offering a record 27 Healthier Choices menu items.

Humana promotes the restaurants and menu items in a guidebook distributed at the festival as well as a dedicated Taste of Chicago Facebook page. The City of Chicago also highlights the food options on the Taste of Chicago Web site.

Humana Dining Pavilion. Humana uses an on-site pavilion to offer free dance classes, health and wellness programs and other activities. The goal: promote physical activity among Medicare-eligible seniors.

Humana this year used the pavilion to host the Biondi Boomer Bash, a three-hour sock hop that featured legendary Chicago DJ Dick Biondi. WLS-FM promoted the event through radio spots and on-air mentions.

The insurance company this year dropped the word “Senior” from the name of the pavilion to draw younger consumers, said Lindsey Minella, Humana’s regional corporate communications specialist. 

“We wanted to get in front of seniors and engage younger people who are aging into Medicare products.”

Well-Being Tour. Humana this year activated the festival with the Well-Being Tour, an experiential mobile marketing program. The company rolled out the program in January at the Humana Challenge PGA tournament.

More than 3,200 attendees visited the exhibit, with 2,370 registering for a program that measures how far they walk at the festival.

Apple Man Street Team. Looking to boost distribution of the Healthier Choices guide and gain more consumer touchpoints, Humana in 2010 employed a street team to interact with consumers.

The street team includes Apple Man, a costumed character who engages consumers at restaurants that offer Healthier Choices items.

Humana this year used Apple Man to drive traffic to its Facebook page. Brand ambassadors used tablet computers to take photos of consumers posing with Apple Man; attendees retrieved the photos at the Facebook page.

The brand ambassadors also used the tablets to collect data for HumanaVitality. The ambassadors asked each consumer that posed with Apple Man five questions including whether or not their employer offers incentives for healthy lifestyle habits and their familiarity with HumanaVitality.

The survey had a 45 percent completion rate, said Reinbold.

Cooking Demo with Shedd Aquarium. Humana this year teamed with Shedd Aquarium on a cooking demonstration on healthy and sustainable fish recipes. The demo supported the aquarium’s Right Bite community outreach program.

Humana Race to Taste 5K. Humana also titles a 5K run to promote physical activity and its health and wellness positioning.

Humana activates the event by sampling Healthier Choices items.  

“Consumers love free food, Humana loves the food, restaurants are paid extra for the promotion and the city is able to provide runners a unique offering. It’s a win all around,” said Neal Heitz, corporate sponsorship coordinator with the City of Chicago’s Dept. of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.