Unilever sponsors Cartoon Network children's day in India

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BOMBAY -- Continuing its drive to rack up viewership and loyalty to its channel in India, Cartoon Network has roped in Unilever's Bangalore, Karnataka-based Indo-Nissin Foods to celebrate Children's Day on November 14 with kids and their families in the eastern city of Calcutta.

Characters dressed up as Tom & Jerry, the cat and mouse duo who are the most popular toons on the TNT & Cartoon Network channel beamed out of Hong Kong to parts of Asia-Pacific, will greet children and pose for photographs at Calcutta's Nicco Park. Special prizes will also be offered on the day, which commemorates the 108th birth anniversary of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was fond of kids.

Indo-Nissin hopes its sponsorship will gain share for its Top Ramen Smoodles brand in the quick-to-cook noodles market dominated by New Delhi-based Nestle India's Maggi noodles. Both brands target kids as their primary consumers.

"The Children's Day special sponsored by Top Ramen Smoodles is one among a series of customized promotions on Cartoon Network since we split the feed on PanAmSat-4 [satellite] earlier this year to better serve the Indian audience," says Carl Meyer, senior vice president for Asia-Pacific at Turner Broadcasting Sales in Hong Kong.

Kids living outside Calcutta and unable to make it to the amusement park venue will be asked to send in a special Children's Day message addressed to Tom & Jerry. The first 500 entries received will win goodies from the channel and Indo-Nissin.

Time Warner, Turner Broadcasting System's parent, recently split TNT & Cartoon Network into three feeds for South Asia, Taiwan and Australasia. According to a senior ad sales executive, India leads the region in viewership and ad spend on the channel, though he declined to disclose financial details. It reaches six million cabled homes in India.

The channel debuted with equal time for TNT's Hollywood classics and cartoons from Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. and MGM. But the growing popularity of cartoons saw the TNT segment reduced to only eight hours of late-night movies.

Cartoon Network recently forged an alliance with the ATP Tour, the governing body of men's professional tennis, to create toon tennis. The Cartoon Network SMASH Tennis program involves staged entertainment, cartoon character appearances, contests and tennis clinics in a bid to popularize both toons and tennis with children. Earlier this year, Colgate-Palmolive (India) sponsored a pilot program in the southern city of Madras, Tamil Nadu.

This event will travel January through October next year to six cities, one each in Australia, India, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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