This Saturday, November 23, the 35th annual Florida Classic will be played at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the largest football game and rivalry in the country between two historically black colleges: Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University.
Florida Blue, the oldest and largest health insurer in the state, is sponsoring this historic matchup. I recently spoke with Tony Jenkins, Florida Blue’s Market President for Central Florida, about his company’s involvement in the event and why they felt it would be beneficial for his company to become the title sponsor of the event, not only from a business perspective, but also from the perspective of educating and providing information about health services in their area.
Here’s some additional background on the game happening this weekend. According to Tony, this event is arguably one of the largest athletic events in the state. He estimates 55,000 to 65,000 fans attending the game, and an additional 40,000 to 60,000 other people being in town to participate in the other activities around the game.
This brings us to Florida Blue’s sponsorship. “Our involvement started out in 2006 as just a sponsor. Two years ago we stepped up our partnership and our sponsorship with Florida Central sports to the level where currently we are the title sponsor for the entire weekends’ events,” Tony said. “This gives us the platform to direct people to our different channels to where they can get further information about health. So they can better understand how to get access to health.”
Specifically, Tony mentioned as a whole they needed a way to reach the African American population in Central Florida. His solution to reaching them in the best way was to become the key sponsor of the largest sporting event for African Americans in the region; especially with the majority of the alumni from these schools still living in the state of Florida – their target demographic.
So far, Tony says the event has been a huge success for spreading health awareness and the importance of family time, so much so that their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed in the African American community.
Perhaps the best part about this event and Florida Blue’s sponsorship is that from this one game the majority of their entire football budget for the whole year is generated and helps to support student athlete scholarships. “This has a huge impact of supporting future scholarships and the dollars,” Tony said. “Florida Citrus sports, who puts on the game for the event, doesn’t charge the full fee that they could because they know where the money is going to support. We also will do our best to engage other businesses to support this endeavor which is going to a good cause.” In this way, the game is supporting to future education of African American students, benefiting their community and helping to continue the tradition of the Florida Classic.
The game is Saturday, November 23, but events are running throughout the weekend. For more information about the game, visit floridaclassic.org.