CNN strategy: branding via event marketing

Updated: Oct 9 2006, 05:30am hrs
CNN is seeking to bring its brand to life beyond the TV, PC and cell phone screens by forming a division devoted to event marketing.

The new CNN Events division, under the auspices of the advertising sales department, will put on panels, conferences and meetings on newsmaking and newsworthy subjects. Although the events will not be televised on CNN, the networks reporters and anchors will serve as speakers and moderators.

The events will be sponsored by CNN advertisers, who will be acknowledged on invitations and at the conferences. But CNN executives say sponsors will have no control over the content of the events.

The initial effort of CNN Events, called the CNN Inspire Summit will be held at the Time Warner Center. The event, sponsored by the LOreal Paris brand sold by the American unit of LOreal, will salute women for achievements in fields like politics, medicine and philanthropy.

At the event, LOreal Paris plans to announce the first recipients of an honor the company is sponsoring: the Women of Worth Awards.

A second CNN event, planned for next month, will focus on small business and will be sponsored by United Parcel Service. Awards will also be presented, as part of a United Parcel campaign that carries the theme Out of the box.

The startup of CNN Events is indicative of the growing popularity of experiential marketing, giving brands tangible form to help them forge closer, more emotional ties with consumers.

Consumption of media is changing as we speak, said Greg DAlba, chief operating officer at the advertising sales and marketing unit of CNN in New York, part of the Turner Broadcasting System division of Time Warner.

Digital media, over the past year, has extended the relevancy of our television brand, DAlba said, referring to initiatives like podcasts and video-on-demand. Event marketing is giving us an opportunity to extend the breadth of the brand.

Marketers have sponsored newscasts since the early days of radio and television. Some consumers still recall when NBC Nightly News was known as the Camel News Caravan, or when the Gulf Oil logo appeared on the desks of news anchors covering space shots and political conventions.

Today, The News Hour With Jim Lehrer on PBS receives financing from Archer Daniels Midland, an agricultural conglomerate, and radio newscasters like Paul Harvey and Charles Osgood continue to read commercials. Also, many news organisations, including the New York Times, have marketing divisions that offer events sponsored by advertisers.

Nevertheless, the practice of inviting marketers to take partfor a pricein events produced by the news media raises some eyebrows. Its a slippery slope, said Todd Gitlin, a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

NY Times / Stuart Elliott