Big Turnout by Sponsors For Midterm Elections

Cisco takes CNN app; Hershey’s votes for Colbert

Presidential elections are like
the Super Bowl for TV news, except
they only happen every four years.
But with interest especially high for this year’s
midterm elections, sponsors are flocking to
campaign coverage in record numbers.

CNN, for example, says it has signed up
sponsors for its election coverage on TV, online
and on mobile. Cisco is integrated on all
three platforms and is sponsoring a new CNN
Election Center app that works on iPhones,
Blackberrys and Android.

Other sponsors for CNN include Exxon
Mobil, the American Coalition for Clean Coal
Energy on TV and online, General Motors on
TV and Nissan and the AARP online.

CNN declined to say how much it was getting
for its campaign packages, which in past presidential
years have cost an estimated $5 million.

Greg D’Alba, chief operating officer of CNN
Advertising Sales, says it’s not fair to compare
sponsorship revenue for a midyear election to a
presidential election cycle, because the volume
of ad spending is usually much higher in a presidential
election year. And during those years,
CNN sells election packages to more advertisers.

“Is it as much in volume as the 2008 election
year? No. However, is it greater than any
other midterm year? Yes,” D’Alba says. “And is
it setting us up for our [presidential] election
coverage, which will actually start in 2011, to
be more than in 2008? Absolutely.”

MSNBC says it has two “anchor sponsors”
for its midterm coverage, one of which is a
cross-platform sponsor. The network also has
three “supporting sponsors.” According to an
MSNBC spokesman, “compared to the 2006
midterms, we will have five times the revenue
with our 2010 election sales.” (Calls to Fox
News Channel were not returned.)

And it’s not only the cable news networks that
are cashing in. Comedy Central has signed up
Hershey’s, AT&T and Volkswagen as the main
sponsors of its Indecision 2010 midyear election coverage. The network estimates
that Indecision generates
about $50 million in
incremental revenue for The
Daily Show
and The Colbert
in a presidential year,
and will bring in about the
same amount during this
year’s midterms.

The sponsorship packages
include a week of The
Daily Show
in Washington
the week before the election,
live election-night
programs for both Daily
and Colbert, plus
sponsorship of the rallies
Jon Stewart and Stephen
Colbert are holding in
Washington. Colbert has
already integrated Hershey’s
Reese’s brand into his show.

“We are very fortunate
that we have great sponsors
that are part of our Indecision coverage when it’s
a presidential year, but also that we have them as
part of our Indecision coverage in midterm elections,”
says Jeff Lucas, executive VP, advertising
sales, MTV Networks Entertainment Group.

Election-night coverage is attractive to sponsors
because “it is the one night that covers
all of the parties” and brings in hard-to-reach
light television viewers,” says Harry Keeshan,
head of national broadcast at media agency
PHD. “This year in particular, with the excitement
of what’s going to happen with the balance
of power in Washington, you’re going to
get some real interest, more so than in the past
in a non-presidential year.”

The broadcast networks are still lining up
their election-night sponsors. CBS says it is
discussing packages with key clients, and buyers
say ABC had meetings last week to present
packages that featured digital coverage, including iPad applications.


The drama of this
year’s contests is helping
all news programmers,
D’Alba says. “Come on.
I’d be a fool if I didn’t
say it benefited everyone.
Of course it does.
It’s a groundswell for
every news network
out there. You have
three different players
that are going to cover
it differently, but our advantage
is that we cover
more of it.”


CNN’s election sponsors
get custom integrated
billboards during
coverage, co-branded
online banners on, tagged tunein
spots, and in some
cases, tagged print ads.


CNN’s Election Center content will be available
online, via mobile and through a free app.
The app provides updated reporting on state
and local races, analysis and results, and polling
information. It can be localized, using a
ZIP code, and personalized. It can also be used
to upload content into CNN’s iReport function.


D’Alba says mobile is becoming increasingly
important. “Our ability to reach more consumers
on more platforms outside the home is
certainly our friend, and that’s going to be an
advantage that we have,” he says. “I know it’s
not a huge business for everybody today, but
it’s the fastest-growing business. And when
you look at the way revenue is growing compared
to other launches in the history in our
media, it’s incomparable.”


E-mail comments to and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette