How Aflac and Deion Sanders are helping close the medical debt gap

Countryside: Fill the gap
Company: Aflac
Agency partners: Spark Foundry (paid media and streaming); Allison+Partners (earned media and public relations); XP Agency (film production); dagger (social media); and Aflac Studio (creative assets and first production)
Duration: January 19, 2022 — ongoing

Aflac wants to help Americans affected by medical debt. Former NFL and MLB star Deion Sanders is helping the supplemental insurance company do just that with its Close the Gap initiative.


Aflac announced in October that it would provide $1 million in grants throughout 2022 to families, individuals and organizations who have been overwhelmed by unexpected medical events.

Meanwhile, Sanders was hospitalized that month due to complications from foot surgery. He missed three games, lost almost 40 pounds and was warned he might need to have his leg amputated, based on a documentary on the team.

“Luckily I was able to focus on my recovery and not worry about the cost,” Sanders said in a Press release to close the gap. “However, too many Americans, especially those of color, lack the same peace of mind and are one step away from a medical incident that could easily lead to financial ruin. I have a shared commitment with Aflac to help close the gap for those without a voice and to raise awareness about the medical debt disparity in America.

Shannon Watkins, director of brand and marketing at Aflac, said the company partnered with Sanders because “we wanted to choose people – not just talent – ​​but people who shared an alignment with our vision for this work, and it was to highlight the fact that yes, many Americans across this country have health insurance, but there will be a gap, and that’s where Aflac comes in.

Nicknamed “Prime Time” during his playing career due to his athletic ability and flashy personality, Sanders is now garnering attention due to his accomplishments as the head football coach of the historically Black University. (HBCU) Jackson State University in Mississippi.

Most notably, he landed the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2022, which would be impressive for any school, let alone a relatively unknown school.

Aflac took note of Sanders’ impact on football; fellow African Americans; and the HBCU and decided to hire him as a brand ambassador.


In October, Aflac published a video testimonials featuring his clients discussing the benefits of supplemental insurance for expenses not covered by health insurance. The company encouraged people to submit their stories of an unexpected medical expense that sidelined them. The company produced the videos through its internal agency and released multiple versions of particular testimony, Watkins said.

“We found that very direct storytelling was critically important, Watkins said. “It’s about defining the problem, defining the solution Aflac can provide and ending with a clear call to action to learn more, and this can be done via the website or by filling out a form. of contact to speak to an agent.”

In January, the company distributed 20 grants of $5,000 to some of those individuals and plans to distribute the remaining $1 million throughout 2022, Watkins said.

The company also produced an animated short, The park benchabout a young girl upset by her father’s diagnosis of sickle cell disease until she finds a new friend: the Aflac duck.

Rob Edwards, Disney Writer The princess and the Frog, wrote and directed the film, and hip-hop icon Nas provided musical direction. The company planned to premiere the film at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, but when organizers moved it to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aflac had to adapt as well.

“We absolutely had to pivot our approach from a focus on media activation to a focus on consumer activation through digital,” Watkins said.

On January 22, the company used live streaming platform Twitch to showcase the film and a live panel including Watkins, Sanders and Edwards.


The paid social campaign on Facebook received 2.3 million completed videos.

The livestreamed panel and premiere of the initiative on Aflac’s Twitch channel generated over 137,000 views; 302,000 minutes watched; and 11,000 maximum concurrent connected users.

The park bench received over 2 million video views on Hulu, Roku and Amazon in nine days.

News outlets such as the New York Post, Forbes, Gasoline and KTLA covered the countryside.

This article originally appeared in United States.

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