Smart Growth: T-Mobile and Humana Expand Their Sponsorship Horizons

November 8, 2023 Smart Growth: T-Mobile and Humana Expand Their Sponsorship Horizons

Two major brands announced new partnership programs this week and both deserve credit for expanding their use of the medium in strategic ways that other marketers would be wise to emulate.

T-Mobile announced it was becoming the “official 5G innovation partner” of the PGA of America in a four-year deal designed to boost its B2B products and services. That’s a departure for the wireless provider, which up until now has used sports and entertainment sponsorships almost exclusively to promote its consumer business.

Diverting from its focus on providing perks to T-Mobile subscribers through deals with MLB, Live Nation, the Seattle Mariners, Las Vegas Golden Knights and others, the company’s business group will showcase what its tech can do for enterprise customers by building out 5G capabilities at PGA facilities and events, including the association’s home office in Frisco, Texas. According to sources quoted by Sports Business Journal, the PGA of America headquarters will receive “a ‘broadcasting and content innovation hub’ designed to allow ‘data-rich broadcasts using real-time data and analytics sources.’”

On one hand, T-Mobile is following in the footsteps of many other B2B companies in using a partnership with a prominent sports rights holder to demonstrate what it can do for other customers and prospects. But two aspects make the deal exemplary:

  1. Partnering with a membership organization such as the PGA of America gives T-Mobile extensive reach across the PGA’s 29,000 golf professionals and their facilities, as well as marquee events such as the PGA Championship. That adds exponentially to the benefits it would have secured through sponsorship of a single event or venue.


  1. Corporations can be extremely siloed, often to the point that if one part of the company is having great success with a practice, others will not adopt it because the idea didn’t originate with them. The T-Mobile Business Group avoided that irrational thinking and tapped the expertise of the company’s senior director/head of sponsorships Amy Azzi and others in hopes of emulating the consumer unit’s positive results.


On the same day, Humana Inc. announced sponsorship agreements with four pickleball properties: the Association of Pickleball Players, U.S. Senior Pickleball, Professional Pickleball Association Tour and Major League Pickleball’s D.C. Pickleball Team.

Three aspects of the deal are noteworthy:

  1. Compared to many of its largest competitors in the health insurance space, Humana has been more of a dabbler than a consistent practitioner. The commitment to the sport of pickleball, alongside the September announcement that the company would step up its role with U.S. Figure Skating to become title sponsor of the ISU Grand Prix Skate America event, signals that the company recognizes the potential impact that sponsorship can have on its business.


  1. The four pickleball deals demonstrate Humana’s recognition of the fact that pickleball is still in the early stages of its development and there is not a single organization that has emerged in a dominant leadership position. The company is both covering its bases with the multiple agreements, as well as locking out key opportunities for competitors to create confusion and take away from Humana’s efforts to be the sport’s true champion in the category.


  1. With its emphasis on the senior population, Humana is ensuring that all of the deals are activated in a way that is relevant to those 65 and older. As its announcement states “Humana’s new pickleball sponsorships go beyond traditional advertising and branding opportunities, to also include senior-focused tournaments and clinics in celebration of those who have popularized the sport, as well as community impact projects to create more access to the game.”