Sports Sponsorships: Making A Difference In The Community With Patrick Sommers of Northwell Health
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Sports sponsorships offer more than just a marketing opportunity. They also provide a chance to make a difference in the community. Corporate social responsibility is a key part of any business, and sponsorships are an excellent way to give back. By partnering with a local sports team or event, businesses can show their support for the community and make a positive impact. In this episode, Patrick Sommers, the AVP in Sponsorships and Events at Northwell Health, speaks about the impact of playing sports on your career, the potential of sponsorships, and how to evaluate the right opportunities. He also highlights the power of sports sponsorships in making a difference in the community.
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Sports Sponsorships: Making A Difference In The Community With Patrick Sommers
We welcome Patrick Sommers onto the show. Patrick is an Emmy Award-Winning Marketing Executive and the AVP of Sponsorships and Events at Northwell Health. Let’s get into it.
Patrick, how are you?
I’m doing well, Evan. Thank you for having me.
Thank you so much for coming to the show. I am particularly excited about chatting with you, being a Long Island Native. A fun fact, my brother and sister-in-law are both doctors, and they used to live on the former North Shore Campus. They had a great apartment on that.
We have a large expansive footprint. That doesn’t surprise me, seeing how Northwell is pretty much everywhere, but that is a fun tidbit.
We’re recording this on June 6th, 2022. The Rangers are winning 2-1 in their series against the Lightning. Northwell is a sponsor of the Rangers. Will you be at game five?
I will be at game five. In fact, I will be supporting the team at the viewing party that they are throwing at Bryant Park. We’re all in on the Rangers now. We have the good fortune of sponsoring both the Islanders and the Rangers as the official healthcare partner. In the past few years, the Islanders have not had good luck facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hopefully, the Rangers can make it the third time the charm for our sponsor teams and hopefully, bring a cut back to New York, which we’re all excited about.
I’ll be in New York. I’m trying to see if I could somehow figure out how to get to the game. I’m jealous, to say the least.
With one of their other partners, Chase, they have a huge activation outside of MSG like a fan zone with some viewing party stuff. If you can’t get a ticket to the game, that might be another alternative.
I am pumped to dive into sponsorships specifically all the amazing things that you’re working on at Northwell. First, why don’t I go back in time a little bit? You’re from Long Island originally?
Yes, born and raised in a small little beach community called Long Beach, New York, one of its barrier islands. For your audience, it’s about 25 miles to the South East of Midtown Manhattan. It’s a small barrier island to the South of Long Island proper. We’re most famous for our legendary beaches and our world-famous boardwalk. Unfortunately, also well-known for the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy. As a lifelong resident who made his way back, I can say the town is back on its feet and better than ever.
I can second that. Long Beach is going strong. You were a big athlete growing up, right?
I’ve had the good fortune to play every sport under the sun, football, basketball, running track, played soccer, lacrosse, everything. My parent’s idea was, “Let’s throw this kid into all the sports and see what sticks.” For whatever reason, I don’t know how it happened, good genetics or something, I was fast. It’s not something I ever thought about. I never wanted to run track. I don’t like running if I’m being totally candid and honest with you.
During the spring in high school, I never played a spring sport. The football coach said, “You need to do something for spring,” when football and basketball aren’t happening. I started running track and field and lo and behold, I ended up getting a track scholarship. I had the good fortune of attending the University of Southern California out West. Fight on, Trojans. I ran track for a short period of time and realized I wasn’t going to the Olympics. I still had access to the weight room.
Working out one day, some guys on the rugby team, which is also a varsity sport at USC, said, “You’re a pretty big guy and you’re fast or so we were told. Do you want to play rugby?” I was like, “I’ve never played before.” They said, “Did you ever play football?” I said, “I played in high school.” They’re like, “Come to the practice and see if you like it.” I fell in love with it and ended up getting my varsity collegiate letter in rugby. It’s hanging up on my wall in my living room.
Sponsorship, as a whole, is one piece of the marketing mix. How can we get out the message of who we are, what our mission is, the community that we serve, and the services that we offer?
How do you feel about Lincoln Riley coming to USC?
It’s huge. Talk about a coup. I don’t think anyone who was on the radar of anybody. Everyone in the Trojan family was thinking, “James Franklin or the Coach at Baylor were the two main targets.” All of a sudden, they put an offer out. It was the saying that you missed 100% of the shots you don’t take. He was looking to move on. Oklahoma’s bad fortune is our good fortune. It’s energized and elevated the fan base, number one transfer class coming in with Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison amongst others coming in.
What was looking like it can be extensive rebuild is quickly turned around into hopefully, back to our glory days. I graduated in 2005. When I was at the school, Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, and Matt Leinart were there. Hopefully, we’re back to that. All the negative feelings that they’re trying to pit the Oklahoma fans against the USC fans. I went to the Orange Bowl in 2004 when USC won the National Championship against Oklahoma coincidently.
The Oklahoma fans they interact with are the nicest people in the world. They are salt of the earth, good people. They only want to have a good football game. I’d say the social media is probably amplified and put emphasis on some of the trolls out there, for lack of a better term. The majority of the fans of both sides are good people. We may even face them in the playoffs. Who knows?
I’m a Longhorn. I couldn’t be more excited about Lincoln Riley leaving. I love that sports were a big part of your childhood. How do you feel growing up playing sports contributed to the professional you are now?
It was immensely helpful. It supports the foundation for a lot of what we do in the professional work world. When you’re an athlete, you play a team sport. It’s all working together towards a common goal and that’s part and parcel of what the professional world is, especially in the business world and the marketing world. You’re working on these cross-functional teams and you all need to band together toward one common goal. Whether it’s a small task or some large overarching task or even if you think ahead of 30,000 or 50,000 square foot Mac review, and what the organizational goals are.
Everyone is working together towards something. Sport was a foundation for that. It’s also about time management, which is a key skill. You pick up from playing sports and balancing your responsibilities as a student, as an individual, whether you have chores at home or responsibilities, you’ve got a girlfriend or a boyfriend, from whatever it may be, to your friends, to “How do I find myself to find time to spend on my craft?”
Again, time management, big scale, teamwork, and then how do you push yourself? It’s like adversity. When you face adversity as an athlete, do you respond? Do you overcome? Do you wither in the face of it? You’re challenged every day in the business world. The stakes are different but they’re equally as important.
You ended up in a dream job for a sports fan from New York. You’re running sponsorships, getting the sponsor on a lot of the teams that you loved growing up.
What’s the saying? “Falling backward into the entrance.” I’ll say it nicely. It is a dream come true to work for an organization like Northwell. I’m a member of this community. Our mission as a healthcare organization is to improve the lives of the members of our community. I’m not a clinician. I’m not saving lives by any means. I get to work alongside the best nurses and doctors in the world who are saving the lives of people, whether it’s globally. We’re doing a lot of work in Ukraine now that a lot of people aren’t aware of.
There’s a forthcoming advertising campaign. Within our community in New York, we’re trying to improve the lives of everyone whether it’s addressing the disparities in economics and healthcare that came to light during COVID or even being a tip of the spirit in COVID. Most people don’t realize Northwell treated the most patients in the United States during COVID and probably up there in the world. The first vaccine recipient was a Northwell employee. Her name was Sandra Lindsay. Not only are we treating the people, but we’re also putting ourselves out there as leaders saying, “We’re willing to do whatever we’re asking everyone else to do.”
Speaking of COVID, I see you joined Northwell in March of 2020 to come run sponsorships and events as the world was shutting down or the United States in particular. What was that like?
It’s not what I envisioned when I transitioned to healthcare. It wasn’t planned. I was approached by a recruiter in December of 2019 about the potential of joining Northwell. It wasn’t positioned as Northwell. “We represent a healthcare organization, looking for somebody who has a background in sponsorships and events. Your background seems to align with that for my previous work on the agency side, supporting the NFL, Ford and other clients. I said, “I’m interested.” I went through the interview process. I remember one of the final interviews, I was meeting with our chief executive emergency medicine officer at the time. He was 40 minutes late for our interview.
I was sitting outside his office and everyone was busy. He comes in and he goes, “I’m sorry. I was stuck in a meeting talking to some folks via teleconference from China about this Coronavirus thing.” I’m like, “I’m hearing a lot about that in the news.” This is like late December or early January. It wasn’t well known what was happening. Come late January, I received the offer and my first day was March 9th, 2020, then March 10th is when the world fell apart and businesses started closing. We went 100% remote.
My training was all canceled. I was doing these online modules. I met my team in passing for about twenty minutes. I met my boss in the interview process but we didn’t have a chance to sit down. It was an extreme example of being thrown into the deep end and learning to swim very quickly under difficult trying times. Not only for someone being new within an organization that I had no background in being healthcare but what’s happening in the world and specifically sponsorships because sports stopped.
We’re going down a path of, “The team is going to Playoffs and there are fans in the stands.” None of that was happening. The fortunate part of it was I got to dig deep into our contracts and what do we have, what’s being fulfilled, and what can we reimagine? During contract negotiations, force majeure is an afterthought of a clause in the contract but that’s front and center. Now, I’m super well-versed in Force Majeure language and the application. Although I feel like during COVID, I got a mini law school education, dealing with all this contractual stuff.
For the audience that did not have to dig into the contracts during COVID, Force Majeure means essentially, if an unexpected event happens that stops an event from happening, what happens with that?
What are the remedies? The actual term is like, “If an act of God occurs, whether it’s war, terrorism, or pandemic.” who would have thought we would be dealing with these things in the United States? Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in as a global interconnected community. This happened. It’s no longer an afterthought. It’s at the forefront of how we address certain contracts, contractual assets, and the “what if.” In events and sponsors, if you play that what if game like, “What if this happens? What if this person doesn’t show? What if we tweak something slightly?” It’s not the extreme of, “What if there are no fans in the stands? What if seasons it canceled, postponed, shortened, or whatever it may be?”
You mentioned that interview with the chief executive emergency medicine officer. Why is that person involved in the interview process for the AVP of sponsorships and events?
We’re a large matrix organization. Back up a little bit about Northwell, we are the largest healthcare provider in New York State and the largest private employer but because we’re so large, there are many things that are interconnected with each other. This particular gentleman is more operations, as well as emergency medicine services.
That goes part and parcel with some of the work that we do. From an operational standpoint and from the event medicine side, he’s one of the stakeholders that I have to interact with some of the larger events that we throw via our sponsorships without getting too much into the weeds about some of our contractual assets. The ability to host events at certain properties. He had a vested interest in making sure that the person that was brought on for this role is well-versed in understanding what the rules are for activating essentially.
Patrick, in your words, what’s the power of sports sponsorships?
Sports sponsorships or sponsorship in general, because we don’t just sponsor sports at Northwell. We have a large portfolio. I’ll be at sports but at the university level, VR relationship with Hofstra University, sponsorships at the community level sponsoring different events, whether they are gatherings like 5K’s or whether there are community gatherings of the Puerto Rican Day Parade that happened out in North Port. We sponsor that.
There are those and then we have an entertainment angle with our sponsorship of Jones Beach Amphitheater via Live Nation. We look at sponsorship as a whole as one piece of the marketing mix. How can we get out the message of who Northville is, what our mission is, the community that we serve, and the services that we offer? How do we do it in a compelling, organic, and storytelling manner? I can throw logos and spend money to do that but is that authentic? The other end of the spectrum specific to healthcare is people don’t think about healthcare unless they have a health incident.
You can probably rattle off some hospitals at the top of your head but do you understand the robust series of services that any of these hospitals offer? I’d say, 9 out of 10 people don’t. How can we use the megaphone that are these properties, whether it be sports entertainments or community properties, and put out the Northwell message of who we are, what we do, what our mission is, and some of the services that we offer both from hard surfaces? “We’re the official healthcare partner of the Rangers.” If the Rangers, the Islanders, or whoever gets hurt, they’re going to get their shoulder fixed, their knee fixed by our doctors.
That’s a one-to-one thing. Some people may think about that but more about, “Can we use the platforms to push out messaging about COVID? Go to this location so you can get information about how to be tested, how to receive your vaccine, or get screened for cancer services.” We have a vested interest in serving the members of our community. We can do that in a more efficient manner by using these partnerships and their platforms. It’s like a megaphone.
I find that interesting, especially speaking to sponsorships and partnerships as an opportunity. It’s not just to put your logo on something but to engage with that passionate community and fans of whatever that entity is. Can you talk us through an example of what one of your partnerships looks like? How are you leveraging that sponsorship to be a megaphone to educate people in the community?
I’ll use two examples here. On the Ranger side, we are the first-ever partner that they’ve had to have our logo appear on their practice jerseys and helmets. It’s the first-ever deal they have ever done. It’s the first-ever deal in the NHL. It’s not so much the patches but the platform behind it. We created this practice/platform that starts with training camp entitlements where you get the introduction to us being on the practice patch and why we’re doing so. We have specific patch programs where we link it to whether it’s first responders or hockey fights cancer, which is a league-wide initiative. We have another pillar called around youth health and wellness. At different touch points throughout the year, we’ll have a whole campaign around the players wearing the patches.
People don’t think about healthcare unless they have a health incident.
We’ll do some video and storytelling about the rationale behind it. We want a player ambassador who has a vested interest in this and why they care about certain things. Whether it’s a player who has some connection to cancer in their family, themselves, personally, or to first responders. Jacob Trouba’s wife is going to be a resident at Northwell at Lenox Hill Hospital coming up.
He’s someone who could speak about someone who’s a first responder. He cares about it. Talk about some of the work that we do. We use more deck storytelling around it. We can raise money around it too by selling these patches and player-worn practice jerseys to fans to raise money for some of the work that we do because Northwell’s technically a non-profit.
We’re always looking to raise money to put back in. The idea is no margin, no mission. We can’t service people and the community without the margin there. Every little dollar counts. We’re getting a little bit back from the sponsorship. You use this to educate the consumers on all the stuff that we can do. That’s a specific avenue around the actual patch platform versus a logo slap using storytelling, some actual results.
I’ll go to the Islanders. We had this program called Play It Forward because we care about the community so much. It’s about to be announced but it’s in progress for a while. I keep reiterating community. We have this Learn to Play or Learn to Skate Hockey Program. A lot of different clubs do this but we’ve got to take it one step further because hockey is an expensive sport for people to play, especially the youth.
COVID opened up these disparities in healthcare from the socioeconomic lens of how communities were impacted. If you have communities that we service and promote the Islanders and our services to them but none of these communities can play hockey, that’s not fair. We targeted these underserved communities and provided them with the opportunity for them to learn to skate. We’re giving away scholarships to certain individuals who apply for and showed this like grit and determination. They wanted to continue on with the game of hockey. They just didn’t have the means. We didn’t want that to be a thing.
This Play It Forward Program is going to fund a few kids to play hockey over the next few years, private lessons, pay for all the equipment, pay for their club dues, and pay for their travel. It can be a small pipeline that will continue to do these Learn to Play Clinics. From these clinics, in these underserved communities, we’ll try to identify individuals who want to continue on. Can we afford them scholarships via our partnership? Can we follow them on the path? The path isn’t learning to play hockey, trying to become a professional hockey player, or getting a scholarship. Can we open up avenues of things that they probably didn’t think about from sport?
It could be working something within the Islanders, hockey operations, advertising, media, front office, or guest relations. It could be a myriad of things or within the Northwell world. Can we introduce you to Sports Medicine, EMS, or Nursing? There are different touch points or even marketing for that instance. Can we introduce these youth to the different avenues that sports can play? Not just by playing sport but by opening up the entire portfolio of things that happen both within the Islanders organization as well as the Northwell organization.
There are a lot of people that are going to be reading this that are probably thinking, “I’ve got an event or an organization that I need sponsors for. I’ve been trying to reach Patrick forever.” One, what’s the most effective way to get through all the noise to get their message in front of you? Two, how are you evaluating different opportunities? What are you looking for as the right opportunities for Northwell?
We are a regional New York-based healthcare system. If someone’s reaching out to us for an opportunity to do something in Florida, Virginia, or Texas, obviously that doesn’t make sense. We’ll kindly say, “Thank you but unfortunately, that’s not something that we’re going to entertain at this time based on our geography.” We try to look at things like what’s the net benefit for the health system, the community, and our end-user? Does it align with our goals of what we’re trying to accomplish, using these sponsorships as a megaphone to reach out to different communities within our footprint? Is it going to be an effective means of doing so?
Not everything falls under my team’s purview. I’m one of close to 80,000 team members now. I have other colleagues who help us evaluate some of the other things. My role is strictly around our corporate sponsorships. I partner with some of our folks in the community and population health side that managed some of our smaller sponsorships within the community. Whether it’s your hometown of Jericho, they’re throwing a 5K and they’re looking for a Northwell sponsor. They would reach out.
If something came down on my desk, I would forward it to theirs because that’s frankly something that they’re going to handle. Within that specific community, we have a team of people that can do something specific, whether it’s tabling, activating, handing out information, or educating folks about that. We can partner with them on the corporate marketing side if they need assets, whether it’s logos or social media help if these organizations on the smaller side have channels that we can also activate and linked to.
Something that I find interesting is the patch sponsorship you were speaking about before. You work in an ROI component into that sponsorship where you’re selling something to raise money for the nonprofit that is Northwell. That’s one way of measuring the effectiveness of the sponsorship. What else are you looking at as you’re doing that?
We’re running studies each season around our big properties to understand what is the ROI or what we call ROO, return of objectives. We want to understand what type of brand lift we’re getting and what type of aided or unaided awareness we receive around this. That’s why we’re going down the path of doing organic and authentic storytelling and having these platforms versus doing logo slaps. You could slap a logo on anything. You can get X amount of impressions but what does that mean?
If you can connect something tangible with what you’re doing with your logo and to the larger story, that’s a much better measure of what we’re doing. We’ve seen lifts in our unaided awareness based on a lot of these programs running. Are you aware Northwell is a sponsor of the team? Yes. Are you aware that Northwell does X, Y, and Z? Yes, I am. Are you aware because of this program? Yes, I am. There’s a correlation between some of the storytelling, platforms, and programs that you run to that unaided awareness.
That will pay dividends when people have health events. They will give us consideration. I’m not seeking out health care services because I’m not having a health event. Once I have a health event, I’m going to think, “I need to go somewhere. Northwell is the official healthcare partner of the Islanders, the Rangers, or their name is on Jones Beach. They’re doing a lot of stuff in the community. They’re wonderful and authentic. I’m going to go see them.”
You mentioned before that sponsorship is one part of the media marketing mix. How closely do the different marketing teams at Northwell work with one another?
We’re fortunate. We had this great CMO, Ramon Soto, who’s our leader and sets the tone and the overall strategy of what we’re trying to accomplish. I had the good fortune of being on our integrated marketing team. I work hand-in-hand with our folks that work in advertising media to ensure that our efforts are aligned. I work closely with our clinical marketing folks to understand what they’re doing in the marketplace and what their priorities are, whether it’s pushing, cardiac, oncology, or orthopedics. Whatever the service line objectives may be, understanding what they’re doing. Is there a way for them to push their message through our sponsor channels and vice versa?
If there’s a retail being like the doctor’s office that does orthopedics. Can we partner with them so they can ensure that they can let people know that, “We’re the official doctors of the Islanders? Go get your shoulder fixed by the same place you did some player of the team.” I’m not saying that he had this done. Let’s say, for instance, Matt Morrissey had a bum shoulder. He went and saw Dr. -and-. He goes to the same doctor. That bar is up. We try to work with them on that one-to-one level, an integrated level, and even across our PR efforts.
Two offices down from mine is our Head of PR. She and I are constantly engaged with each other to ensure that anything that we’re doing, “Is there a PR angle?” From the top-down leadership, they’re encouraging and putting us all in the same room to ensure that we all know what’s going on in each other’s world. How can we amplify and help each other out? At the end of the day, it goes back to the teamwork conversation. We’re all working as a team towards one common goal and that’s, how can we make Northwell top of mind for consumers and educate them on what good work we’re doing in the community?
We’re shifting gears a little bit. This is the last question I have for you before we get into our lightning round. I saw that you’re an Emmy Award-Winning marketer but I couldn’t find anything on how you won this Emmy. Tell us.
My team has the good fortune of helping manage and run a platform that we started years ago, we being Northwell called Side by Side, a celebration of service. It originated in 2019. Northwell is one of the largest employers of veterans in New York State. We have Military Liaison Services dedicated to working with our active-duty warfighters as well as our veterans to help navigate the healthcare system, whether it’s the VA or our hospital healthcare system.
How can we put an emphasis on all that work that our Military Liaison Services emphasize our close working relationship with the Department of Defense? How can we raise money for this? It’s a noble cause. We do this all-around Memorial Day, being a very some-day to honor all those who gave their last full measure of devotion defense of our country.
In 2019, we threw an experiential activation at 30 Rock where we had an outdoor music festival performance in conjunction with the Navy during Fleet Week. We had some military equipment there. We had twenty-plus thousand passersby go through the activation space, interact with the tanks, do some pull-ups with the Marines, and had karaoke for the Navy. We had Carlton AKA Alfonso Ribeiro, who was our MC for the day. Boyz II Men and Gavin DeGraw performed.
We use music as a form of connecting with the larger community and the draw people in. We have cast of Broadway to give the troops and the sailors in town for Fleet Week of a true New York experience. That whole thing ended and we went to Radio City Music Hall. This is prior to my time. I’m speaking as we. My team did it but I wasn’t a part of the team at the time. We threw a big concert at Radio City with Imagine Dragons.
No healthcare system has ever done something like this. It raised a ton of money. Hundreds of the proceeds went to our Military Liaison Services, which directly works with our active-duty warfighters and our veteran community to provide services. Let’s replicate that in 2020. We’re going to do it bigger and better, do something at Bryant Park, have a big concert in Radio City again. We had alias talent lined up. COVID happens. This is where force majeure comes in. Act of God, we can’t have in-person gatherings. We can’t throw an 8,000-person concert. We can’t have twenty-plus thousand people gather in New York City, albeit outdoors.
No one knew about COVID at the time. We pivoted in March of 2020, right when it started. Instead of producing our events, we did a series of three streaming concerts or performances, if you will. We did a television special on NBC. That’s where the Emmy came from. We worked in conjunction with Al Roker Entertainment and we produced a 60-minute special aired on NBC. Instead of talking about our commitment to standing Side by Side with the military and our veteran community, it talked about our partnership with the Navy when COVID was happening and working with the relief ships that came into New York Harbor and how we’re the tip of the spirit or COVID. We emphasize what our first responders are going through.
If you recall back the early days of COVID at 7:00, everyone was banging pots and pans to thank our first responders. We wanted to thank our first responders as well as our military folks who were in town helping with the response. We put a 60-minute television special on NBC to talk about this and ended up winning an Emmy. Never in my life that I think I’d win an Emmy. I jokingly put it on my LinkedIn saying, “I have an Emmy Award-Winning Marketer,” but it’s true. I’m proud of that work.
I come from a military family. My dad did 33 years in the Marine Corps as a pilot. My nephew serves. Serving the military has always been part and parcel, so the opportunity to do so and continue to do so was great. The platform is carried on 2021. Fortunately, because of COVID, we were more hybrid. We have some smaller in-person stuff going on but not the full shebang like we had in 2019. For Memorial Day, we went back to our roots. Instead of a 1-day event, we had a 2-day event.
Sports is always about teammates and those experiences together.
We had a one-day block party at Flatiron Plaza in the middle of a Lower Manhattan. We took over the North and South Plaza, Flatiron at 23rd and Broadway. We had the military out there, different specific military activations. We had gratitude mailboxes, gratitude walls, and a gratitude video booth so people can record, write, or display messages of thanks to not only our first responders but more importantly, our active-duty military and our veterans. At the South Plaza, we had a big huge stage and military tank set up, pose for photos then watch a performance.
Alfonso’s back as our MC. We had Broadway back out there. Northwell Health has a nurse choir, which my team also has the good fortune of helping to manage. They were finalists on America’s Got Talent in 2021. They made it down to the finals and won the Golden Buzzer from Howie. They performed and then we ended everything with the DJ Set from DJ Questlove, which is awesome. The next day, with our partners, the Islanders, and our friends at UBS Arena, we threw a big huge Memorial Day concert. We had a big tailgate outside incorporating a lot of the elements we had at the block party followed by having this huge concert and a big, active-duty presence.
We had over 1,000 troops in the front rows. Jason Derulo was our opener. He’s a very high-energy guy. He did a great job. We displayed some videos talking about some of the spotlight vignettes on two different veterans. One veteran that we employed post-service and provided him with that opportunity he did. He stopped an active shooter at one of our locations a few years back, so we highlighted him. Our headliner was John Legend, a phenomenal person. Before he came on, we dedicated Side by Side 2022 to a Marine named Justin Constantine who unfortunately passed away.
He suffered a wound. He was basically shot in the face by a sniper in Iraq. The team at Northwell did reconstructive surgery on his face. He’s able to use his jaw and eat solid food again because he was on basically drinking smoothies for years. They fixed his jaw. He was able to take a bite of a sandwich. It was the greatest thing ever. He became a motivational speaker. He’s a solid inspirational guy. All of a sudden, he had stage four pancreatic cancer right before Side by Side happened. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it. We dedicated Side by Side 2022 to him after we showed his video. We have 13,000 people in the arena. There was not a dry eye in the place when his wife came on stage to say thank you.
Usually, in the opener, you’re going to be pumped up.
It’s a labor of love. It is the biggest brand act that Northwell does every year to showcase our commitment to the military. We’re so thankful for all that they do and all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. The least we can do is give back to the community by connecting our first responders, the large community, and the military altogether, so we can celebrate them. In 2023, we’ll take a breather. We’ll take a beat for a second and start going into 2023 planning relatively shortly because this is a big platform for us.
The last part of the show is the lightning round. It’s four questions. You got two minutes to answer all four, so the first thing that comes to mind. First question, what is your favorite youth sports memory?
For whatever reason, it’s like top of mind. I went to Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville. Shout out, Titans. I remember my sophomore year. In the playoffs, we advanced to the sectional championships but that game was a torrential downpour. You dream of playing like a Mud Bowl. This was like a torrential Mud Bowl. After the game was over, for whatever reason, we all decided to slide across the field, full pads on in the mud. I do slip and slide after it was all over because we won. It seems like a minor thing but that is a happy moment. It’s like the epitome of comradery with your teammates, that idea of, “the Man of the arena.” Your blood, sweat and tears together towards a common goal.
The worst of it, you fail but at least you failed greatly. If you achieve, you achieve greatly. It translates together. It was like a fun thing to do. It sticks out of my mind. It’s like one of my best memories. You can sit here and say, “I won this race. I won this game. I hit the game-winning shot,” and that’s all great. For me, sports is always about my teammates and those experiences together. Any athlete you talk to, I don’t care what level it is, whether it’s the professional superstars to somebody who’s had the opportunity to play youth or high school sports. It’s a comradery in the locker room with your teammates. That’s the thing you miss when it’s all over.
Second question, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be like my dad. My dad was a Pilot in the Marines. I wanted nothing more than to go into the Marines and be a pilot like my dad. In the last rugby game of my collegiate career, I went into a tackle. My teammates tried to ruck over me and keep the pile going but my leg was pinned between two people on the ground. My upper body kept going but my ankle got stuck in a place. It popped. I tore the ligaments and tendons in my right ankle. I had to get reconstructive surgery. I have two pins in my ankle.
When I went to MIPS, which is the medical induction for the Marines because that was my plan post-college, I got red flags. They said, “You have reconstructed ankle. You can’t do anything. You can’t be a pilot. You can’t go into the infantry. You could sit behind a desk. You can do logistics.” I was like, “I don’t want to do that.” I talked to my dad and my dad’s like, “Go in the real world and do this. I know what you want to do but go get paid real money to do something. I know you want to service. No one questions your patriotism. Unfortunately, your ankle didn’t cooperate.” The funny thing is my surgically repaired ankle is ten times stronger than my non-surgical repaired one.
Through Side By Side, you’re supporting our troops.
This, and then I’ve had an opportunity to do some stuff with wounded warriors in the past in my past agency life. Any opportunity I have to work with the military, I jumped at it.
What does a brand whose marketing you admire most?
I’ll stick with the military theme. I’ll just say Under Armour, the fact that they aligned themselves with the wounded warriors and the military. They give money back. They’re not doing a ton with it anymore but like it sticks out top of mind. It’s more of a partnership than anything.
Finally, what is your go-to cause to support?
Anything military-related. It’s easy to give to the military, and there’s a myriad of charities that we can support. One of the near and dear to my heart is not so much military-focused. It’s the Stephen Siller Foundation. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it. Stephen Siller was a firefighter who ultimately gave his life on 9/11, left a tour, driving through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel on his way home. He saw the plaintiff at the tower and tried to turn it back around to respond. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get through the tunnel. He parked his car, threw all his bunker gear, ran for the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel in full-on bunker gear, including oxygen mask, oxygen tank, responded to the towers and never made it back alive.
I have a bunch of friends who were SDNY and NYPD First Responders. That organization gives back whether it’s to veterans or fallen first responders, firefighters, or police who fall in the line of duty. They pay off mortgages, build houses, and do so much for the community. I run the Tunnels to Tower Race every single year where 20,000 people recreate that run. The cause is near and dear to my heart.
Patrick, thank you so much for coming on the show. This was awesome.
Thank you. I appreciate the invite. You can tell I’m passionate about what I do. I’m fortunate to do what I do. If I can spread the word and evangelize one more person with this, then it’s a win.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for reading this episode of the Win-grin with Patrick Sommers. As a recap, we discussed the impact of playing sports on your career, the impact of sponsorships, how to evaluate the right opportunities, and how to effectively impact the community while sharing your brand message.
- Patrick Sommers — LinkedIn
- Northwell Health
- Ramon Soto — LinkedIn
- Alfonso Ribeiro — Instagram
- Al Roker Entertainment
- Play It Forward
- Stephen Siller Foundation
About Patrick Sommers
Patrick is an emmy-award winning marketing executive with a history of leading teams, negotiating, securing and managing corporate sponsorships and partnerships as well as creating and executing promotional marketing strategies and experiential marketing activations. He is currently the AVP, Sponsorships and Events and Northwell Health, New York’s State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, 830+ ambulatory facilities and more than 78,000 team members.
Northwell’s sponsorship portfolio includes the NY Islanders, NY Mets, NY Rangers, Live Nation and Hofstra Athletics amongst others. Prior to joining Northwell Patrick was a Vice President at Civic Entertainment Group servicing clients including the NFL, NFL Network, Google, Ford, eBay and TBS. Patrick earned his BS in Business Administration from the University of Southern California and his MBA from Fordham University. He currently resides on Long Island with his wife, two young children and their black labrador retriever Daisy.