HumanaVitality, LLC is sponsoring endurance sports and other types of events to promote its eponymous wellness loyalty program.

The 14-month-old joint venture between Humana Inc. and South Africa-based Discovery Holdings, Ltd. kicked off the initiative with a tie to the April 27 Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon. HumanaVitality will co-present the event in 2013.  

The company also will present the Sept. 19-22 IdeaFestival in Louisville, Ky. and the Nov. 3 Louisville Sports Commission Half Marathon.

And additional deals are in the works.  

“We’re actively assessing opportunities,” said Bria Day, HumanaVitality’s marketing & communications strategist.  

HumanaVitality is designed to reduce health care costs by rewarding consumers that participate in healthy activities. Members that receive preventative screenings, exercise on a regular basis and participate in other healthy activities can earn Vitality Points, which can be redeemed for Vitality Bucks. Vitality Bucks can be spent on movie tickets, discounts on hotel rooms and a host of other items.

The program is marketed to Humana customers and self-funded employer groups. The program currently has more than 1.5 million members.

“The companies that are excited about the program are those that truly believe in a culture of wellness and health and are looking to implement a broader health strategy in the marketplace,” said Day.

A growing number of companies are rolling out wellness programs. Forty-one percent of large firms and 10 percent of small firms offer financial incentives to employees who participate in a wellness program, according to a survey released this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

A recent Harvard University study found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs.

HumanaVitality kicked off the sponsorship push at Humana-sponsored events in Louisville, the location of Humana’s corporate headquarters.

“There is a lot of overlap between Humana and HumanaVitality, so it made sense to develop our strategy together,” said Day.

HumanaVitality activated the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon by offering Vitality Points to members that participated in the race.

“It was a great opportunity to earn Vitality Points,” said Day, noting that members had to use an iPhone app, pedometer or heart rate monitor to verify their participation in the event. 

HumanaVitality aligned with IdeaFestival to promote its product to forward-thinking employers. The event is titled by Humana.

The company in November will sponsor a Crain’s Chicago Business award that acknowledges companies with healthy employees.

“Like the IdeaFestival, the award recognizes employers that are building a culture of health in their organization,” said Day.

HumanaVitality also sponsored the Taste of Chicago in conjunction with Humana, the latter of which used the tie to promote its Medicare product.

In addition to Kentucky and Illinois, HumanaVitality plans to sponsor events in Florida and Texas, both of which are key Humana markets. The Chicago-based company will sponsor events with Humana as well as on its own, said Day.

“We’re talking to best-in-class properties where we have a large presence.”

HumanaVitality accepts proposals through