'CNN Heroes' Draws Cause-Marketing Crowd

Annual Telecast Serves as Platform for Empowerment

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For Thanksgiving, CNN is offering up an appetizer of celebrities such as Halle Berry, Demi Moore and Bon Jovi, with entrees of real-life heroes, including the Chilean miners, for a healthy serving of cause marketing. "CNN Heroes," running at 8 p.m. (ET) Thursday, is marking its fourth year as a sold-out telecast in the ad community, welcoming returning sponsors Procter & Gamble Co.'s Tide, Johnson & Johnson, Subaru of America and Humana health insurance as well as new sponsor Genworth Financial.

Greg D'Alba
Greg D'Alba
"Heroes" has been a decent ratings success for CNN, debuting to 5.7 million viewers in 2007, rising to 6.03 million viewers in 2008 and tapering off to 3.9 million viewers in 2009. But Greg D'Alba, CNN's exec VP-chief operating officer, ad sales and marketing, says the awards show has become more of a platform for companies to showcase and expand their cause-marketing efforts than a ratings destination.

" 'CNN Heroes' is about a movement—a place where inspiring stories and people come to life—and advertisers have seen it as a destination for their marketing platforms on-air, online and on-site since its launch," Mr. D'Alba says.

Sponsors will be featured throughout the program on customized billboards and will promote their association with "Heroes" through tagged tune-in ads on CNN, HLN and CNN Airport Network. Subaru has signed up as a sponsor of "CNN Heroes"-specific online and mobile coverage, while other sponsors have bought co-branded banners, display ads and video prerolls on "Heroes" web pages, features and videos.

Mike Rosen, president-activation at Publicis Groupe's Starcom Worldwide (which does not have any clients participating as lead sponsors of "CNN Heroes" this year), says "Heroes" has become a destination for certain advertisers because of its unique editorial focus.

"When it comes to journalism, I think they see their role as not only being the traditional watchdog but also as a place to celebrate the human achievement part of being a journalist in society," he says. "It's good for marketers to get involved in the conversation to empower people to be able to support causes and do something about them."

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