Business has been tough for cable news channels in this post election year, but CNN this year has attracted new advertisers to its feel-good Heroes platform.
Exxon Mobile and Konica Minolta have joined the ranks of sponsors, many of whom run special ads celebrating their own public service activities. Johnson & Johnson, Subaru, and Geico return as sponsors of CNN Heroes.
The highlight of the program is CNN: Heroes: An All-Star Tribute, which airs Sunday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. ET and will be simulcast on CNNI and CNN Espanol. But the special is just a part of a year round platform that will include two Anderson Cooper documentaries, and digital and social media extensions.
As part of the sponsorship, advertisers get integrated billboard, co-branded banners, tagged tune-in spots and signage and recognition at events.
Through Heroes, CNN highlights individual from around the world who make extraordinary efforts to serve others. "When we first came up with this, it was entirely to do something good with our news capability," says Greg D'Alba, president of CNN News Networks & Turner Digital Ad Sales and Marketing. "And lo and behold, we had advertisers jump in and sell it out. This is one platform out there worldwide that puts the great attributes of our advertising partners forefront. And it's their opportunity to really push what they do well throughout the world."
A spot Subaru will air as part of its Heroes sponsorship features Eric Robbins, director of Camp Twin Lakes, a camp for children with serious disabilities and illnesses. (Robbins is a three-time Subaru owner). Subaru is also matching dollar for dollar donations made towards the CNN Heroes.
Johnson & Johnson's spots highlight its Campaign for Nursing Future. Exxon Mobile ads focus on awareness for education and energy literacy.
CNN will have several online extensions as part of its Heroes platform.
Elements include a special report main page with each Hero's story, an archive for all the CNN Heroes featured on air and online and video essays and extras that tell more about Heroes and the people they help.
The site also features links that allow viewers to make contributions to the non-profit organization of the CNN Heroes who inspire them and issue oriented articles.
"It reminds you that we not only cover news events," D'Alba says. "We're connecting events and people to make it a better world. That's when you feel really proud about walking into the building."
In an online vote, Chad Pregracke of East Moline, Ill., was selected as CNN Hero of the Year for his work cleaning up the Mississippi River.
The top 10 Heroes each received $50,000 in recognition for their work and Pregracke's non-profit group, Living Lands and Waters, receives an additional $250,000 grant.
The All Star Tribute was taped Nov. 19 at the American Museum of Natural History. The event was hosted by Cooper and Heroes were introduced by Sarah Silverman, Kelly Ripa, Michael Strahan, Mariska Hargitay, Alan Cumming, Allison Williams, Shay Mitchell, Jason Biggs, Jeffrey Wright, Josh Lucas, and Ne-Yo. Singer Sarah Bareilles and comedian Jim Gaffigan performed.