Microsoft Joins as New Sponsor of CNN’s ‘Heroes’

Microsoft has signed on as a new sponsor of CNN’s Heroes program, which celebrates everyday people having a positive impact on their world.

In addition to Microsoft, the ninth annual edition of Heroes is sponsored by Subaru, in its eight year, and GEICO and Humana, each in their fourth year.
Katrina Cukaj, executive VP for CNN ad sales, says Heroes is a “significant revenue driver” for CNN, and that this year revenues are up for the program, as they are for the news network as a whole.

“It continues to be one of our most important tentpoles, highlighting what good in the world at a time when there’s not that much good going on,” Cukaj says. “It’s always been an uplifting, good-feeling platform for our partners to be involved in and we’re lucky to have partners who have been around for
many years and new partners that have come on board.”

This year, CNN’s new branded content studio, Courageous, has been creating video for Heroes sponsors. With Courageous, “we were able to provide some brand storytelling for our partners’ initiatives,” she said. “The custom videos are just beautiful and moving and really get their corporate responsibility and philanthropy messages out.”

The Heroes special was recorded on Nov. 17 and will air Dec. 6. The platform also includes online, mobile and social components.

Microsoft in integrated into the television broadcast with host Anderson Cooper using the company’s Surface device to call for social interaction. Its Skype service is also used to show heroes’ families and colleagues cheering for them.

Courageous has produced two custom 30-minute videos around heroes who use Microsoft product as part of their inspiring initiatives.

Subaru president Tom Doll appears on the broadcast to discuss how the Heroes program connects to Subaru’s Share the Love campaign. The automaker will match up to $500,000 in donations towards the heroes program, up from $250,000 last year. Custom videos for Subaru will run on TV and on

Doll, who didn't attend this year’s event live because of the Los Angeles International Auto Show, where Subaru unveiled its new Impreza sedan concept vehicle, says Heroes is a great fit for its brand.

The company has its own Share the Love program, in which Subaru’s local dealers select a home-town charity and Subaru contributes $250 per vehicle sold between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.

“We partnered with CNN because we believe these individual heroes that are selected to win the award are indicative of what we’re trying to do in each one of our local communities with our retailers,” Doll said. This year a record 615 of Subaru’s 625 local retailers are participating in Share the Love.

Doll declined to say how much Subaru pays to be part of the Heroes program.

“We believe it’s worth our investment in the show,” he said. “We’re not overtly selling during this program. What we’re trying to say is we want to inspire people to help the local communities in which they live and work and that Subaru is a brand that we like to believe is more than a business that will sell you something.”

Subaru will air three custom spots created by Courageous that highlight past Heroe winners during the show.

Courageous created a 30-second video for GEICO featuring an interview with retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Sam Parrish, founder of GEICO’s Military Service Awards Program. The piece aired during the gala and will runs on linear.

CNN is already getting geared up for the 10th anniversary edition of Heroes and Cukaj says two of the four sponsors have already committed to returning. Doll says Subaru will be back “if CNN will have us.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.